Don’t Play it Safe: My Time at the UA
As my time at the University of Arkansas comes to an end, it’s hard to believe that this is the last issue of the Traveler to be published this year. As features editor, it has been an incredible year full of experiences both rewarding and tiring. I couldn’t have shared these experiences, though, with a more wonderful group of coworkers or been mentored by a more caring staff of professors.
It hasn’t yet sunk in that this is my last day as a UA student. I find myself continually happy with my decision to come to school here, and it’s hard to think about the fact that I won’t be living in Fayetteville, my much-beloved hometown, for much longer.
In these four years, I’ve gotten a world-class education. I’ve had the chance to study in four countries, intern in Washington, D.C., meet many wonderful people, and study under great professors in several different departments within the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. I’ve loved working with the Traveler, felt the pride that comes with finishing an 80-page honors thesis, and made the most of my college friendships.
Throughout these past few years, I’ve learned something important that I intend to carry on throughout the rest of my life: never play it too safe.
While it is important to pay the bills and uphold responsibilities, it remains even more important to continue growing and challenging oneself. My most rewarding, life-changing experiences have come from the times when I’ve taken a risk. In the past couple of years I’ve camped in the Sahara Desert, celebrated a World Cup victory in Spain, hiked in Patagonia and Machu Picchu, and made close friends from all over the world. I would never have experienced any of these things had I not broken out of my comfort zone, left my friends, and wisely spent some hard-earned money.
I encourage fellow students to never settle down. Always continue to pursue what brings out your creativity and seek friendships with people that intrigue you. It is easy to slip into the safety net of patterns and comfort, and I believe that it is a discipline to break out of habit. It’s undoubtedly comforting to stay in a place surrounded by family and friends, saying that you will experience life another day, but life’s real rewards come with trying something new.
In addition to seeking a productive life experience on a broader scale, I’ve found there are incredible experiences available on the UA campus itself. Though ‘getting involved’ may sometimes seem like nothing more than an empty catch phrase, I can’t emphasize how important it is to get out there and become a part of the character and fiber of what makes this campus great. Comparing those I know who are active on campus and those who have been timid to do so, the students that have been more involved have undoubtedly had a more rewarding experience during their time on campus.
This campus is home to organizations that foster creativity, volunteerism, and relationships with like-minded students. There are projects with which students can get involved that bring a sense of accomplishment and the pride of a job well done, and among the seemingly infinite resources for students are a countless number of professors who genuinely care to see their students grow and become conscious global citizens. It strikes me as almost silly to spend four years or more on the hill without taking advantage of all people and organizations that make themselves available specifically for students’ benefit.
In summary, it’s been a great run. I look back pleased upon every day of the last four years, and I look forward to the future, even though it means leaving my roots in the beautiful city of Fayetteville. I hope other students can make the most of what is available on campus and throughout the world.
Lauren Leatherby is an international relations, journalism and spanish major, and is the Features Editor.