Learning and Changing: My College Experience (Part 10)
Editor’s Note: While numerous academic advisers and administrators have written about the advising endeavor, the voice of the student is often missing in the academic literature.
In September 2009, The Mentor began publishing a series of articles by Taryn Noll, a Penn State undergraduate student who volunteered to share her thoughts, observations, challenges, and strategies while navigating the University, making decisions, and experiencing educational opportunities. Below is Taryn’s tenth journal entry, which marks the beginning of her senior year. Part 9 in this series of articles was published on May 5, 2011.
I have never been someone who likes to practice. I played intramural soccer from a young age and danced for fifteen years of my life. I was a high school student focused on academics and also love getting involved in various clubs and organizations. But I never looked forward to soccer practice, and I dreaded coming home to a big pile of homework. Instead, I could not wait for my dance recital every May or the big fundraiser my club had been planning to take place. Needless to say, I was focusing on the big picture, which can be important to do at times, but I was forgetting about all the hard work and effort that you must put in, in order to make the end result a success. I wasn’t realizing that practice is as important, if not more important than the final product.
I have embarked on my final academic year at Penn State, and I cannot help but reflect on all I have accomplished and experienced. I started my own breast cancer awareness organization on campus. I spent two years being a Rules and Regulations committee member for the Penn State Dance Marathon. I dedicated my busiest year yet, junior year, to being a Rules and Regulations Captain. I have made it through classes that challenged me and also learned to love subjects I never thought I would. I have had an internship that showed me a field of work that I hated, and I just spent a summer at an internship that encompasses everything I have ever wanted.
When I think back on all of the experiences I have had at Penn State, I realize something that would surprise my high school self. College is practice, and I can without a doubt say I have loved the practice. Many people say that college can be a transitional period in a person’s life. You are considered an adult, but you are still learning so much about yourself and your aspirations in life. I have practiced being a leader with the organization I founded, The Power of Pink. I have practiced writing papers and studying hard, in order to reach my academic potential in all my classes. I have practiced good decision making, as I evaluated if my internship last summer was the right fit for me to continue into the school year. I have practiced being organized. I have practiced time management. I have practiced how to handle my personal demeanor in many situations. Unbeknownst to my practice-hating self, I have done nothing but practice at Penn State for the past three years, and it was not until my internship this summer that I realized it.
My mother is a breast cancer survivor and because of this, I have a passion to give back to the breast cancer community. I was fortunate to have an internship this past summer with the Philadelphia Affiliate of Susan G. Komen For the Cure, a non-profit organization that is fighting for breast cancer awareness and for a cure. The weeks were very busy, but every day on my train ride home, I reflected on all I had accomplished throughout the day. I was in charge of countless projects, some big and some small. As an events coordinator intern, I prepared for events that would take place during the fall semester, after I had returned to school for senior year. I had to be clear and concise with my work, pay attention to details, and read people well. I had to use clues around me and also study all aspects of the organization in order to do my best work. It was not until last summer that I realized these are all fundamental tasks I have been perfecting throughout my career at Penn State. Whether it was paying attention to details as I planned the Power of Pink 5k or understanding the type of personality one of my professors had, I was practicing skills I would use in the work place. From learning how to listen well to taking projects (be it tests, group work, or homework) one at a time. I have been practicing for the real world all throughout college and I, the little girl who hated soccer practice, love every second of it.
Practice is an important skill to, well, practice. It is important to prepare yourself for the future, and Penn State has an academic and extracurricular structure that helps its student’s practice, without even knowing it. Because I have become involved in so many activities and was inspired so much by the school to become a leader in many of these activities, I have gained even more practice outside of the classroom setting. I knew my internship this past summer would mean a lot to me, because of my strong ties to the breast cancer community, but I had no idea I would be lucky enough to have this epiphany as well. Realizing how well Penn State has prepared me for the workforce, I am anxious to experience senior year. I cannot wait to practice more of my real-world skills on campus, and I hope that my practice will reflect well on me as I apply for jobs in the spring. Practice makes perfect, and now I am a firm believer in that.
About the Author(s)
Taryn Noll is a Penn State graduate preparing for a two-year commitment with Teach for America. She is additionally the president and founder of The Power of Pink at Penn State. Taryn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.