This is now the third year in a row that I have written a blog post directed at new students. Like last year, these five thoughts will be different than before. The first year I focused on spiritual goods. The second year I focused on academic goods. This time I want to address personal goods. As my circumstances have changed over the last few years, so has my perspective.
When I wrote that first post, I was just beginning my senior year of college. The second post was written as I began graduate school. This post comes, however, at an altogether different time in my life.
Yes, I am beginning the final year of my master’s and, in that sense, my life is similar to previous years: I am still in school. However, my life is a bit different as well. For one thing, I will be writing my thesis over the course of the next two semesters. Of course, I am married now as well. Amanda and I have had a great first few months together. Moreover, I am uncertain about my immediate future: I will be applying both to teaching jobs and PhD programs.
But, in addition to schoolwork and my thesis (which, despite the depth and breadth of such a project, is at least of the same kind as the work I’ve done before), I will begin my professional career this semester. And I am kind of terrified, but extremely excited.
First, I will continue my job in ACU’s Center for Christian Service and Leadership as a graduate assistant. This past year, working for the CCSL, I was primarily a receptionist. However, I have shifted to working directly with Bob Strader, the director of Ministry and Service. Alongside him I will help supervise, guide, and give vision to the Isaiah 58 project. I will also be working with the various student service organizations. I am very excited about this opportunity to mentor, guide, and learn from undergraduates!
Second, and (to me) the most exciting, I will be teaching a section of Freshman English! This class is entitled Composition and Rhetoric and is focused on teaching new college students how to create persuasive academic discourse. It is a required class for every major and it, alongside the second semester class Composition and Research, is designed to be the foundation upon which disciplinary knowledge is built.
So, this year, I feel less like a student and more like a professional. I am now on the other side of the desk, at least most of the time. And I have something new to say to all of the incoming students.
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First, take your time. I mean this as generally as possible. You will be tempted to get involved right now, but I would resist the urge. This applies to student organizations, service organizations, churches, bible studies, and lots of other good things. Take the time to figure out what you truly want, need, and have to contribute . . . and then go do it! I jumped in way too quickly to a church when I first came to Abilene and have, on the whole, regretted that decision.
Second, do service in the community. This matters a lot, actually. I wrote in last year’s post that you should get off campus and see how the non-college residents of Abilene live. That’s definitely true. Additionally, you should find a program, organization, or something more organic with which you could do service in the community. Abilene (I’m sorry to get specific here, but Abilene is where I live) is not like Dallas or Houston or wherever it is you come from. It’s not like your suburb back home. It’s not bad, just different. Realize that your presence here is not just at ACU, but is in Abilene and in Taylor County. And this applies, of course, to non-ACU, non-Abilene folk as well. If you are an ACU person, and you do want to get involved in the community, you can check out my office.
Third, waste time. Really. Seriously. Take time and do nothing. It is a rare, once you are an upperclassman and higher, to get the chance to stop moving. Enjoy it. Learn the value of not having to be busy. Watch that movie you’ve always wanted to watch. Go to a park and walk or play soccer. Read a book. Sleep. Challenge your hallmates to a game of monopoly. Enjoy life and don’t take yourself too seriously.
Fourth, live simply. You will probably be living in a tiny dorm room with another human, so it’s likely that you will be forced to live more simply than you are used to. But live simply as a rule. You really don’t need as much as you think you do. And having tons of stuff can create barriers between you and the other. Live simply with the food you eat and the stuff you drink. Don’t eat processed crap. Be picky in the school cafeteria. Stop drinking soda. Don’t smoke cigarettes (or anything, if you are underage). Don’t drink alcohol in excess (or at all until you’re 21). Use Facebook, your iPhone, your tablet, your laptop, Instagram, Twitter, and all the rest in moderation or not at all. Make real connections with real people. Treat yourself like you matter, others like they matter, and enjoy the environment you inhabit.
Fifth, stay in town. Don’t go home every weekend. When the summer rolls around, find a job in your college town. You will be where you are for at least four years. Get to know the place. Get to know the people. Live there. You will make better friends, have better experiences, and enjoy yourself more if you treat yourself like you are an independent grownup instead of a kid in the thirteenth grade.
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May God bless you and keep you and make is face to shine upon you and give you peace this year.