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Ponnada: Getting involved early

BY SRI PONNADA | AUGUST 26, 2013 5:00 AM

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We’re all experiencing a bit of summertime sadness as the days of freedom come to an end. It’s once again time to trudge to that 8 a.m. intro-level class, chugging some java (after a long weekend of chugging other beverages). But for freshmen, the early mornings should come as exciting new beginnings.

As with anything foreign, college can be scary and even nerve-racking. For me, there were times when I wished I were back in the dark ages of high school, because at least I knew everyone and everything was familiar.

In fact, quite a few students actually do leave. The University of Iowa Registrar’s Office reported that only 86.28 percent of first-time, first-year students in the fall 2009 class returned to campus in the fall of 2010.

However, there is always a point in life when you just have to suck it up and see it through. I mean, when you’ve spent pretty much your entire life trying to get here, what’s the point of leaving (if you don’t have pressing circumstances, of course)?

I understand it can be extremely challenging at times, but I’m not lying when I tell you it gets better, a lot better. You just have to put yourself out there. That’s what helped me — someone who absolutely hated her first few months here. What did I do? I got involved.

At first, I thought joining a club was dumb. I wouldn’t even know anyone. It would just be awkward and also a huge time commitment. I didn’t feel as though it would be worth it.

I was wrong.

I started writing for The Daily Iowan during my first fall semester, and though it stressed me out at times (especially during midterms), I really enjoyed what I was doing. It was a beautiful escape from mundane general-education classes and insanely hard computer-science ones.

By the time winter break came around, my life at college was pretty much centered on writing. So, I decided to branch out (a little) and joined another group.

Two weeks into my time there, I clicked with one of my coworkers — an absolutely amazing woman from Chicago who is now one of my best friends. From that point on, life in Iowa City became more beautiful as each day went by.

The moral of this story is that there is hope. And there is hope in places where you may not be so inclined to seek refuge.

You may think your interests are too narrow, too obscure to find a relevant community, but this is a big place. The UI has more than 500 student organizations. There has to be at least one that suits your fancy; you just have to find it. Once you do, you’ll most likely meet other people who share your interests and who may just end up being your best friends.

You could even end up finding a career path.

So, if you haven’t already found an organization at the Pick One fair or elsewhere, keep looking. It’s important.

Remember, college is more than just classes and crazy parties. It’s also about growing as an individual and forming meaningful friendships that last forever. As hard as it is to believe, it’s not just something that happens in cliché teen movies. It happened to me.


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