Like most first-year students, I can honestly say that my life has changed in drastic ways in just eight months of being on campus. It’s insane to think that I have known everyone here for less than a year considering just how quickly we became a community together. There is very little in my life that has been kept constant since September. I have developed a love for tea, I’ve grown spiritually in countless ways, I have a tentative plan for my future now, I care less about what people think of my appearance, and I have proved the freshman-fifteen myth to be true. This is all to say that I have experienced so much more than I thought imaginable when I walked in through the doors of Couzens Hall for the first time.
If I could go back to that move-in day, I would tell myself that “the next eights months of your life are gonna be packed with the craziest, most challenging, and laughter-filled moments you’ve ever had, so be present for them. Stop scrolling through Instagram when you’re with your friends, you don’t need to document every cool thing you do on your Snapchat story, that text can wait for ten minutes after you finish your meeting, and that email will still be in your inbox after dinner, so live with your head up and not in a screen.”
Through these past months, I have come to see that when I have chosen to be present instead of on my phone, I can appreciate the small details in my life I would have otherwise missed. I know that I am never going to regret investing myself in a conversation with a friend instead of watching a video of a pitbull on Facebook, or smiling at a stranger passing on the street instead of checking my texts. I have wasted so much time on my phone, and I’m not gonna lie, I still do. I just wish I could have realized earlier how pointless all of it is. Social media doesn’t have to, and shouldn’t dictate my life. Weaning myself off of it has been hard, yes, but also incredibly refreshing and freeing. I’m glad that even though it took me a long time to recognize my unhealthy addiction to my phone, I did eventually see that it was a problem that needed to be fixed. Life wasn’t meant to be experienced within the confines of a screen, so lift your chin up, be present, and live.
Carrie’s lecture on global health reminded me of an article I just read that criticized service trips that were really “self-fulfillment” trips. It was an interesting read on how the “white saviour” complex is so prevalent in service projects. But through Carrie’s personal narratives, it was surprising to learn ways in which even someone with the best intentions may not be doing what is best for the local community. Her recount of the research she did in Durban, South Africa was what really made me realize how there is “always something more to learn from a culture,” as Carrie said. Nothing came of all that research she did about the correlation between school connection and violence because the interventions she proposed were not applicable solutions in regards to the local community.
The times in which the first question she was asked was “Do you have a gun?” was also an interesting point, in my opinion. It just really shows how easy generalizations are made based off first impressions, media, and stereotypes surrounding a culture or population. This is also a crucial reason to remember that how you present yourself in a different community or area is so important because you are representing so much more than just yourself, but also all the identities you are a part of.
Cultural sensitivity and the ethics of global health work is incredibly important to maintain. In order to do so, research about the culture and community that the work is taking place is undoubtedly a key component. And no matter how much you try and learn about a specific community, never assume you know everything. It’s usually hard to swallow your pride and admit your naivety, but the respect that should be held for another culture should be more important than your ego.
And with that, I challenge you with the questions: What do you think is a plausible way to ensure that instead of “self-fulfillment” trips, actual service trips are taken? Would there be institutional regulation and screening for individuals going on the trip? Or, is there no way of preventing “self-fulfillment” trips?
It is hard to imagine that I am one week away from finishing my first semester here at Michigan. My life has changed drastically, and in ways I never thought imaginable. For example, before coming to campus, I never even considered joining a church or doing anything spiritual. But through some weird coincidences, I have reaffirmed my faith through New Life and it still is weird for me to think that I am voluntarily going to church now, whereas before, I dreaded even the thought of it. I mentioned in the letter I wrote to myself that I wanted to start meditating again and track the effects of it on my life. While this form of spiritual growth that occurred was not what I had in mind, it has impacted my life in countless ways and the relationships I have developed within the church have led to the most fulfilling experiences I’ve had on this campus thus far.
Before coming to Michigan, I had no clear direction for my career goals. But through all the exposure guest speakers and information sessions on health care and public health, I believe that I will pursue an undergraduate major in Movement Science and a master’s degree in Nutritional Sciences.
Though quitting is usually seen as a failure, my proudest moment this semester was when I quit rowing. I had to seriously reconsider my priorities in life and analyze what I valued most. It was possibly the hardest decision I have ever had to make before, but my quitting this sport, I am now able to prioritize my schoolwork, relationships in HSSP, and my faith as most important now.
While I have definitely learned a lot about time management this semester, next semester, I want to utilize my time more efficiently. I have learned which ways of studying work and don’t work for me, but I have a really bad habit of procrastinating. If I don’t have a close deadline hovering over my head, I can rarely find the motivation to do the work. As is evident with the timestamp of this blog post. However, I think this method of trial and error or study habits is something I will just have to learn through experience, and mostly failures.
There are two conflicting stories everyone always hear. One, is that grades matter. Good grades and test scores are what impress colleges and employers and anything less than the best is not good enough. And then the second is that grades aren’t everything, happiness and satisfaction with your work is the main priority. However, the latter is much harder to believe, especially in a university culture where there always seems to be competition to be the best, to be the most involved in extracurriculars, and to have everything figured out. But in Joyce’s presentation and the panel of graduate students, it was shocking to hear that the majority of them had failed or almost failed a class, retaken the class, and still did poorly in it, but they still had success in their post-undergraduate pursuits. The personal stories they shared on their failures were incredibly reassuring, in my opinion, because it showed that it is okay to fall short of success sometimes and it what you do after the failure that has the biggest influence on your life.
I believe that this lesson is incredibly important to hold onto throughout college and into our careers. Nobody plans to fail, but when it happens, there are two things you can do: let it consume you, or let the failure teach you perseverance. In order to accept failure, I am going to have to let myself trust that things will work out, even if they are not what I had planned.
The experiences the panel shared really emphasized the truth that grades, test scores, and GPAs are just letters and numbers, they are not indicative of the work ethic, personality, or character of the person, which is what schools and employers are interested in. While I do think good grades still do matter and should be strived for, I’ve learned that grades do not have to control your life and that failure should not be something to be ashamed of, but rather learned from.
How have your thoughts on failure changed after this panel discussion, and how do you think it is going to influence your perspective throughout college/your career? Do you think the consequences of failure are the same for everyone, or was it just pure luck that all the graduate students had everything work out, despite their failures?