Rose Simon, a 2017 family social science graduate, was a keynote speaker at this year’s New Student Convocation, the U o f M’s welcome event for the incoming first-year class. Simon was encouraged to apply for the opportunity by her undergraduate student services adviser, Carole Anne Broad. A transcript of her speech is below, and view the event on YouTube. Simon’s speech begins around the 1 hour mark.
Welcome Class of 2021 and may I be one of many to congratulate you on this huge accomplishment. You are now officially a college student and you have certainly overcome numerous barriers to be here today and you should be very proud of yourselves. I am sure you are thrilled and eager to start classes and most importantly, for the “all you can eat” ice cream in the dining halls. However, before we get too far into your college days, I’m here to share a few of my own experiences and tips to help you along the way: and my first one to you is, don’t eat too much ice cream.
When I look back at my past four years of college, I can’t help but smile. I have done some pretty amazing things, but I was still surprised when I was asked to speak to you today. Surely, there was someone more qualified than I with a more picturesque college experience. What you heard in my bio is fairly impressive and I certainly worked hard these past four years but what you don’t hear about are the many challenges I faced throughout college. You don’t hear about the mental health issues I faced, or the time I was affected by a terrorist attack when I studied abroad, or the classes that I almost failed. These challenges became part of my journey and I realized that I DID have a perfect experience, just in a different manner that can’t be compared to any other college experience. It was perfect because I was challenged academically, mentally, emotionally and physically, and eventually I realized that I walked away with greater insight about myself and my potential.
So, I’m not here to tell you my life story, but I am here to share a few tips from my own journey through college. I have four tips for you that I hope will guide you in overcoming and succeeding when faced with your diverse challenges; whether your challenges are small or mighty.
Tip #1 Find your passion – whatever that is, and follow it, and do NOT let doubt overtake your confidence.
I love French, but boy did I struggle. When I was failing a French course my freshman year, it was difficult to remember how much I loved languages and connecting with other cultures when society was telling me that I should do something more practical, something that makes money. But my heart was telling me otherwise. When I made the wise choice to follow my passion by declaring my French major, I was able to live abroad in France for an entire year learning and challenging myself in a new space and culture. So find your passion, and stick with it, because some things are just meant to be.
# 2; Ask for help. There will be times when you feel overwhelmed and you need to know that the entire U of M community has your back. Asking for help, whether it’s going to your professor’s office hours and asking for homework help, asking your mentor, friend, advisor or coach for advice, or seeing a Boynton therapist – it will be the best way for you to find support when you face tough challenges. I personally have asked for help from all of those resources and I can attest to how much it helped me. So when faced with challenges, small or mighty, ask for help.
#3: Connect with your community on campus, and you will find your home and your second family where you will only receive love, support, and connection. Find your sport team if that’s what you’re into, join a fraternity or sorority, surround yourself with those that share pride in your culture by joining a cultural group, find support through programs like the Multicultural Center of Academic Excellence, TRIO or the President’s Emerging Scholars Program. I found my niche with the University of Minnesota women’s rugby team and my President’s Emerging Scholars family, and those two groups showed me nothing but love and support and as a result, I always felt like coming to campus was coming home.
And my final tip for you…
#4; Seek challenges and step out of your comfort zone. No doubt, this will happen without choice, but there are many ways that you can deliberately step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself with new experiences. Show up at a club meeting even if you don’t know anyone, study abroad in a different country, volunteer with a community you have never worked with, learn about a new culture. From studying abroad I learned that taking a step beyond what I was used to or comfortable with was an amazing way for me to learn beyond the classroom, and I don’t regret any of the challenges that I placed upon myself.
I know this is not the first time you have faced a challenge, and for many, you have faced bigger challenges then most can even imagine. When your faced with these new challenges, remember you’ve earned your place at the U of M and in four years you will be holding a diploma instead of a tassel and looking back at your challenges and honoring your successes, for teaching you so many life lessons.
I hope that when you look back on your college career four years from now, that you will have found your passion and followed it, found a community and embraced it, asked for guidance and given it, and challenged yourself, but most importantly, I hope you can look back and can’t help but smile. Best of luck on your journey and congratulations!