By Dana Chamberlain.
College was hard for me. I came in not really knowing what I wanted to do and am graduating still not fully knowing what’s next for me. But if there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the past four years at UConn, it’s that success isn’t linear. Some people enter college knowing exactly what they want to do, never change their mind, and end up happy in a successful career. Other people spend many years trying to figure out who they are and what they want to do, trying out a bunch of different paths until stumbling upon something they love. So, all of this is to say, you don’t need to know exactly who you are and what you want to do at 18 or even at 22. The most important thing is that you never stop learning or growing. Things will hopefully fall into place when you are honest with yourself about what you want in life and put in the work to get it.
As I reflect on my time here at UConn, there are a few things I wish I fully understood earlier on. To the incoming first-year class, here are some things I wish I knew my first year:
Mental health above all
I am no stranger to depression and anxiety. I know how hard it can be to get out of bed when all you want to do is sleep the day away or to work on an assignment when your mind is elsewhere. Trying to stay on top of your academics while maintaining friendships, participating in extracurricular activities, and worrying about your future can be really overwhelming and stressful.
At the end of the day, you are not a robot and can only do so much. It is so unbelievably important to put your mental wellbeing first. Take time each day to care for yourself and rest. Set boundaries when you can. If you have a ton of assignments all due on the same day and know you won’t be able to finish it all without depriving yourself of sleep, reach out to your professors to see if you can get a deadline extension. Or if you agreed to hang out with a friend on the weekend but are feeling drained after a particularly hard week, text them to see if you can hang out another time. Most people will understand as long as you communicate with them and are honest about when you think you can get things done.
UConn has quite a few resources to help you out too. You can reach out to SHaW-Mental Health for counseling services, the Dean of Students Office to receive extra academic support, and the Center for Student Disabilities to receive housing and/or academic accommodations to support any learning differences or different abilities you might be have. And don’t underestimate the value of a friend who is a good listener! You’re not alone and you will get through this!
Grades are important, but not as important as you might think
Grades are important, so you should try to attend all class sessions, develop good study habits, go to office hours, make friends with your classmates, form study groups, and reach out to your professor with any concerns you might have. However, your grades don’t define you, and one bad grade isn’t the end of the world. It’s more important that you continue to improve throughout the semester and your college career and develop good relationships with your professors.
If you’re worried about future jobs or graduate school, you can always explain why you received the grade you did in a cover letter or interview (whether it’s because you were attending to a personal issue or math just isn’t your strong suit, for example.) Also, having formed good relationships with your professor means that they can vouch for you when you need it. Ultimately, letters of recommendation speak louder than grades.
I know that everyone says this, but it’s so important to get involved. College is supposed to be fun! Go to the Involvement Fair each semester and sign up for any and all clubs that interest you. I met so many cool people through attending club meetings and events. Getting involved helps you make friends, learn more about your interests, and feel connected to your campus.
I didn’t really understand how important networking was until my junior year. Job hunting can be rough. Sometimes a familiar face is all you need to get your foot in the door. So, develop good relationships with your professors, TAs, advisors, mentors, classmates, coworkers, etc. You never know who might know of a great opportunity for you or who can speak highly of you in spaces you don’t have access to.
Be open to trying new things and take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. I applied to a summer research program for undergraduates (REU) my freshman year on a whim and got in. Now, I’ve been doing research for three years, have had so many doors opened for me, and am planning on a career in research. You never know what could come from saying “yes!”
UConn has a lot to offer. Reading “The Daily Digest” every day is a great way to find out about what’s happening on campus.
Be your own advocate
Last but not least, it’s important to be your own advocate. With so many students on campus, sometimes your professor or advisor won’t notice that you’re struggling. Ask for what you need. Reach out. Remember: closed mouths don’t get fed.
By Matthew Barrios
As far back as I can remember, all I knew was that I had to push myself always to be the best. Not for myself, nor my friends or loved ones, but for my parents. Even though it may sound like a cliche, my parents have always been my heroes. They were immigrants who came to this country with nothing more than a 6th-grade education, an identification that only worked in Guatemala, and fifty dollars in their pockets. Since then, both of them were able to groom four children: my older sister (who is now a fully registered nurse in one of the best hospitals in New England), my 17-year-old little brother (who is already in line to get scouted by colleges), and my 12-year-old sister (who is becoming a prodigy in gymnastics). Lastly, there is me: the first child to ever move away from home, live at a major state university, and gain a spot in one of their most competitive majors on record. All of us wish to make our parents and loved ones proud, but one thing I learned while attending UConn was that I was scared to fail.
Becoming a part of the class of 2022 at UConn Storrs was a whole game changer. High school was too comfortable for me. UConn challenged me to jump out of my comfort zone. It was a bumpy transition into the common college student life, but eventually I got the hang of it. Still. I had this lingering fear of failing. Every semester got more challenging. Every class got more difficult and kept asking more of me bit by bit. Every night kept getting shorter, I started to run out of time to study and began to miss assignments. Freshman year, I wasn’t that scared because I had enough time on my hands that I could take multiple jobs and still get outstanding grades in my classes, yet it was always that fear of failing that kept crawling up my neck and taking over my body slowly, like a virus. One thing that I learned from attending UConn for the past two and a half years is that you shouldn’t be scared to fail.
Failure teaches you where your errors happened and how you can become better next time. Failure shouldn’t be our worst enemy; rather, it should be our teacher. Our teacher tells us to always pick ourselves up and prepare to tackle the problems ahead. We always mistake failure for the end, when in reality it’s giving up that takes away our second chance. We may fall, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re down for the count. There is still time to get back up and reach the finish line or score that goal or knock out that last study session to ace the final.
The most important lesson that I have learned, and am still currently learning, is that it’s okay to fail. It’s okay to get an unpleasant grade because, at the end of the day, it fuels your motivation for a second chance to correct it. A soccer player doesn’t get better by just practicing one free-kick; they get better by constantly missing until they finally find the right angle to make a goal 10/10 times. Because of failure, I am now within my third year of the four-year Landscape Architecture program with a promising internship while holding employment as a student tour guide at the Lodewick Visitor Center on campus as well as a Club Sports manager for one of my favorite sports, soccer. The university offers so many opportunities to discover who you wish to be or possibly become. I found myself more comfortable at one of the five culture centers on campus, the Puerto Rican Latin American Culture Center. There I became part of a community that later became my home away from home along with some other groups that gave me memories that I will never forget.
by Krysten Rose Holland
Attending a large university was a great change for me, coming from a small all-girls high school. There were so many new opportunities available to me at UConn, particularly in the College of Agriculture, Health & Natural Resources (CAHNR), which is a smaller college within the very large university with a lot of academic and extracurricular support. Starting off pre-veterinary in animal science, I knew that I would have nothing short of excellent academic and professional preparation. Outside of the classroom, I decided to join a professional agriculturally-based sorority, Sigma Alpha. Through this organization, I became connected with many other students and was able to enhance my journey as a first-year university student in a field that I knew little about but wanted to explore–agriculture! Through the encouragement of my peers and advisors, I was able to try new things and discover different opportunities within the college. For example, I was encouraged to try participating in the annual Dairy Show and learn about dairy showmanship. To my surprise, I placed top in my showman class and among the top overall for fitting, which includes presentation of the animal!
Before entering college, I thought I was certain in what I wanted to do and what I wanted to study: animal science. My freshman year was a difficult transition, however, and I knew I wanted to explore my options. Through one of the Sigma Alpha sisters who was heavily involved in CAHNR activities, I was directed to talk to different academic advisors, one of which was Dr. Sandra Bushmich in Pathobiology and Veterinary Sciences (PVS). I wanted to switch my major to something that would involve laboratory preparation and focus on disease studies in order to broaden my experience in case I decided not to go into veterinary medicine. I learned that in studying PVS, I could change my concentration if I my interests changed and stay on track to graduate.
During my sophomore year, I decided to look into careers in human healthcare and public health. Although a veterinary path could be enormously rewarding, I did not necessarily know if I wanted to commit a large portion of my life and finances to a professional program when I did not know enough about the profession. Veterinary schools are among the most competitive graduate programs to get into, so the preparation in pre-veterinary studies requires a lot of dedication. I already faced a lot of stress adjusting to a new environment out of my home state.
Ultimately, I decided to pursue human healthcare. For that, I would need patient care experience. I enrolled in certified nurse’s aide programs in Massachusetts in the Greater Boston area and took night classes to earn a certificate to gain experience and make some money. Although during that time I considered myself on a pre-physician assistant route, I discovered that I loved the nursing model! From there, I decided to look into ABSN programs. Throughout the journey of navigating the healthcare field, I have worked in a wide variety of environments such as zebrafish research in Longwood Medical Center, personal care in client homes as a personal aide, managing medications at an assisted living facility, assisting doctors in facilitating patient appointments at a globally-renowned hospital, and then being promoted to a medical assistant in a private practice. Although my experience in the field were out-of-state by my own initiation and ambition, my classes in PVS (and Allied Health Sciences [AHS], another department within CAHNR) put my experiences into perspective. I took a diagnostic medical techniques class within PVS where we extracted DNA and RNA and processed diagnostic tests, histological structure and function, which is basically anatomy and physiology based on slides, and a seminar in which various guest speakers from all over the world presented their research. In AHS, courses in medical terminology and counseling and teaching for the health professions helped enhance my knowledge and further my skills.
Pathobiology and Veterinary Science is a small, close-knit department and has a variety of classes and opportunities for research for undergraduates. Due to the variety of interests that PVS can accommodate and great academic advisors willing to help me navigate the unknowns of career preparation, I did not fall behind in my studies and fulfilled requirements for programs that I explored throughout the my years as a PVS major.
by Moises Hernandez-Rivera
Disbelief, that is the first thing that I think of on most mornings. As I face the rising sun, I am reminded that I live in a fairytale. Everything is scenic here, from the fall foliage framed perfectly by my window, to the rolling hills beside the farm fields. This place has it all, trails, thickets, pine stands, spring and rivers. Spring Valley Student Farm is my home.
We are a great community, eleven-strong, we work here, we play here, and most importantly, we live here. When it’s hot and sunny, cool or muggy, snowing or raining, it is always perfect here. This place grows on you.
I moved here in January of 2018; that spring I saw my very first chipmunk, first owl and spent the rest of that year with a group of amazing people. Each of us was brought here for a different reason, some could set up solar panels, some were expert gardeners, and some were community healers–all of us tied up in a perfect union. My job was fish. I studied at a vocational high school for four years training on aquaponics, the fusion of growing plants and fish for consumption.
Everyone here wears many hats: neighbor, roommate, housemate, workmate, we all do our part. The system of weights, however, works different here. Our tasks and weeks are very fluid; one day you’re leading tours; sometimes you’re mulching, weeding, or picking. We’re often manning the farm stand selling our produce on Fairfield Way, giving away plants, or delivering food to the Bistro, Towers, or Whitney. We run a very productive and demanding agricultural operation. We count and pick our next year’s seeds, we plant and weed our fields and tend to our own farm projects. Even the harsh Storrs winters are no trouble, with hundreds of thirsty little plants in our greenhouses, seed planning meetings and plenty of snow and ice to clear from our solar panels; we’re busy all year long.
The primary focus of the farm is education. You don’t need to be from a major in the College of Agriculture, Health & Natural Resources to be here. You don’t even have to know how to water a plant. The farm is a self-selected team of very different people. What one does not know can be taught by another, and what no one knows can be taught by our farm manager, Julia Cartabiano; she’s our queen bee! Everyone comes in with different skills, and the farm finds a way to weave those skills into a perfect blanket.
Our population is always changing, from semester to semester. Sometimes one person graduates; sometimes six people graduate. Spring or Fall, we’re ready. Everyone helps and teaches and ensures that when it’s our turn to go WOOF, join the Peace Corps or graduate, the farm keeps chugging.
As students we maintain our growth through interaction with the greater UConn community, from EcoHouse to the many clubs and cohorts, our different majors and approaches keep our gates open to any and all. From Farm Fridays to Summer Bug Week, we make sure to tap into the fabric of the community and pull from all sides: campus students, parents, transfers and commuters, that’s what makes our community so resilient and strong. Around these parts, be it through the Dean or freshmen, local farmers and residents, we make ourselves known.
By Christie Kosecki
Being told to “get involved” in organizations and clubs around campus is common advice for college freshmen. How one gets involved, however, is completely up to them. University of Connecticut offers various clubs, sports and events that students can join to meet other students and staff and network throughout the college. Personally, there was a part of me that dreaded the part of college that required me to move to an entirely new area and be surrounded by people I didn’t know. I was an extremely shy and quiet child growing up, and social anxiety was a very real thing for me.
I didn’t always live in Connecticut. Growing up, I lived in a large suburb of Syracuse NY, and because I had been raised there and knew everyone in my class, I had never really had to integrate into a new school or setting before. That was, until I moved to Connecticut my freshman year of high school. Considering the type of person I was, moving away had been a hard but good thing for me. It forced me to go out of my comfort zone and meet new people. However, at that time in my life (due to some injuries, family illness and housing issues), I did not get extensively involved in the community or my schooling, other than participating in some extracurricular sports. Although slightly terrified, I saw college as an opportunity to grow and to discover my own potential. I wanted to stop living my life in fear, and so I took the leap and forced myself to go to both the involvement fair on Fairfield Way and the Ice Cream Social that the Department of Animal Science was hosting that fall for new students. It was in front of the George White Building that I had talked to some of the sisters from Sigma Alpha, a professional sorority for women in agriculture, and also to members of the equestrian team. Although I was nervous (since I had only been riding for a year at that time), I went to the equestrian team tryouts and tried out for Walk/Trot. A few days later, I was surprised to find out I had made it on the team! About a week later, I also decided to attend a recruitment week event that Sigma Alpha hosted in the East Campus dorms, and found myself joining a sorority. Within just a month of being on campus, I had found myself both on a team and joining a sorority, both of which I never would have expected of myself back in high school.
Never at that time would I have anticipated the team or the sorority to have much of an impact on my life. Being on the equestrian team helped me to befriend many great people, and through it I learned not only how to improve upon my riding and better care for horses, but also how fun horse shows can be. The lessons helped me to get into better physical shape, and gave me something to look forward to when classes became stressful. Unfortunately, due to health reasons as well as a very busy schedule, I no longer ride on the team itself, but I hope to participate in the riding practicum again this upcoming fall once I’m back in good physical shape and my schedule is freer. Although I am unable to ride this semester, I still find myself visiting the barns to see the horses and to help plan for this year’s Sigma Alpha Horse Show.
Had anyone told me back in high school that I would join a sorority, I would have laughed. When I thought of sororities back then, partying and socializing came to mind and I never really enjoyed large crowds. Sigma Alpha, however, was different in that it was a professional sorority that promoted fellowship in a way different from going to large parties. I was able to talk with many of the sisters one-on-one and realized that this organization was a good fit for me and could potentially help me achieve my goals of becoming both more involved on campus and less socially anxious (or at least better able to manage my social anxieties). So many opportunities have come my way since joining this sorority.
It all began when one sister helped me get a position on the Academic Integrity Hearing Board. The next semester, another sister had told me that Dr. Safran in the Department of Animal Science was looking for Teaching Assistants for her introductory nutrition class, so I followed-through and got a position. Then, when discussing how I needed more internship/shadowing hours at a veterinary clinic, another good friend and sister recommended I intern at North Windham Animal Hospital during the summer, which is now where I work as a Vet Tech Assistant and Receptionist. Another sister told me about the College Ambassador Program, which I likely would not have known about or applied for had I not been in Sigma Alpha and built up my confidence.
This Ambassador program in turn has not only helped me to become more confident in my presentation and leadership skills but has also opened up a completely new and exciting opportunity for me. Had I not become a college ambassador, I would not have been offered the opportunity to work with Dr. Bushmich to plan a One Health seminar, which turned into a One Health Class, for which I am currently a Teaching Assistant. A few of the other ambassadors and I started up a Students for One Health Club on campus that, since its start this past semester, has gained over 50 members on UConntact! Now I have found myself becoming the vice president of a club and helping to give presentations every other Tuesday, something I never would have expected from myself in years past. Lastly, the sorority elected me to become this year’s Horse Show chair, thereby handing me the responsibility of planning and running the annual horse show. Planning for this show has not only allowed me to utilize the skills learned from previous leadership opportunities but has also taught me quite a bit about event planning, advertising and the importance of clear communication. Had I never joined this sorority, I would have never gained the skills and knowledge that I have now, and I would have never met the people who hold such an important place in my life.
Finally, there is one more club that has thoroughly changed me and my life for the better. It was in April of 2017 that I finally worked up the courage to sign up for a tandem skydive through UConn’s Skydiving Club. Skydiving had always been something I found intriguing but I was always too terrified to attempt. However, when I found out that the club hosted a tandem weekend with discounted tandem skydives, I knew that if I didn’t try it now I would probably never try it. Unlike some of my friends currently on the team, I never saw myself jumping out of airplanes for fun until I did my first tandem skydive and realized I absolutely loved the feeling of being in freefall and the views under canopy. Once I learned more about the sport of skydiving and made a second tandem skydive (just to be sure), I committed to getting my skydiving license so I was able to jump on my own and eventually jump with others competitively and for fun. Not only have I learned a lot about the sport itself, but I learned that I am capable of so much more than I ever imagined. Skydiving is not just fun to me, but also a huge confidence booster as well as a stress reliever. Through this sport I have met some of the most amazing and unique people around and have had some spectacular adventures, creating the best memories with all of them.
I write about these experiences today with the hopes that they will motivate someone with similar feelings and experiences to those I have had, to work up the courage to attend that club meeting or join that organization you may have been interested in but were either too nervous or too busy to consider at the time. Had I just said “Eh, I’m not qualified and shouldn’t even bother,” and skipped Equestrian Team tryouts that morning, I would have never made it on the team, met some of the greatest equestrians, and learned as much about good horsemanship and riding as I know now. Had I let my nervousness get the best of me and skipped that recruitment week meeting for Sigma Alpha and stayed in my dorm room that evening, I wouldn’t have formed the close ties and relationships with those in the sorority, which has given me an amazing support system as well as some unexpected and amazing opportunities to grow. Had I chickened out of doing my tandem skydive that morning, I wouldn’t have met some of my favorite people, gone on half as many adventures, or gained the confidence in myself that I have now. Had I not joined any of these three organizations, I can guarantee that I would not be the person that I am today and would not have gained the knowledge, leadership and social experiences that I now possess. It is because of these three extracurriculars that I have grown into the person I am today, and while I am far from perfect and still have a lot to learn in life, I like the person I am becoming. If you have the time or can make the time, check out that organization that has caught your attention. You never know how it may transform you and your life for the better.
Being a first-year student at UConn is a lot different from being a high school student. You make your own class schedule with classes you want to be taking, you live with peers instead of your parents, and you control what you want to do with your time. The transition to college comes with a great deal of independence that many high school students may not have had before. Here are some tips that I have come up with in order to help new college students use their new independence wisely:
Your time is valuable, be smart with it!
*When you first arrive at school, you will probably have loads of free time on your hands. Use that time to make new friends and join new clubs and organizations on campus! As the semester goes on, your free time will begin to dwindle down and you will need to manage your time. The best way to manage your time is to track when every assignment or exam is due. This could be through a paper planner and calendar, or an online calendar or study app, such as MyStudyLife. Find what works for you and make it a routine to keep it as updated as possible. This allows you to stay on top of your school work and plan for a successful semester.
*Join as many clubs as you want at the beginning of the semester. By mid-semester you should know which clubs you are really interested in and which ones you wouldn’t mind missing to hang out with friends or study. Your time is valuable in college, so if you do not want to be in a club any more or can not find the extra time in your schedule for it, don’t go. Being involved on campus is very important, but be sure not to overcommit yourself to certain activities and prioritize your responsibilities.
*It’s not enough to just write down the exam and assignment due dates, actually be cognizant of them. School work is a lot more manageable and less stressful if you study a little bit everyday instead of trying to cram everything in all before your exam the next day. Go to class, ask questions, and give yourself plenty of study time before an exam in order to do well.
*No one is going to pester you to study; it is up to you to be responsible for your grades. Part of the new independence that you have gained is knowing what your responsibilities are and making them a priority.
Be comfortable being alone.
*A lot of your college experience is going to include your friends. Your friends are important to your happiness and it is important you establish connections with your peers in order for you to truly enjoy college. However, for a good portion of your college experience you will be alone as well. This may be the first time in your life when you are truly alone, but this is important because it allows you know who you are and what is important to you. Get used to every once in a while eating by yourself in the dining hall, or going to the gym or library by yourself. You may need to say no to plans with friends because you personally need to have some time to yourself. Your relationship with yourself is equally as important as your relationship with others, and college is a good time to embrace being alone.
*There are so many opportunities for you to have fun on campus, such as joining a sorority or fraternity and playing intramural sports. Make sure you allow yourself to have fun with friends while in college. It is a stress reliever and a good way to develop time maintenance strategies. College is only four years long, so make sure you are having fun and making memories!
Good luck new first year students. I hope your time at UConn is exciting and memorable!
by Elaine Wehmhoff
Throughout my college career I have been a student at three different universities, so if there’s anything I’m used to by now, it’s adjusting. I started out at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO and decided to transfer when I came home that Christmas break. Since the deadline for UConn in the Spring had passed, I took a semester at Southern CT State before attending UConn in Fall of 2017. If there was anything I learned from being a student at two large public universities, it is that you need to find yourself in your school otherwise you can feel very, very lost.
Leaving behind the country home roads I grew to master, and the people around me who made me who I am, made me feel lost upon arriving to university. I didn’t know where I was or where I was going. I didn’t know anyone around me. Everything constant had suddenly fleeted…except for one thing: me. While everything else is changing in college, the best way to plant your feet can be staying true to yourself. What can you keep the same? Not to say that change is bad, or that you won’t change in school, because you will…but what can you do to bring yourself comfort?
Answering these questions for yourself can make the university feel tenfold smaller. When I was feeling lost across the country, I knew that one thing still constant was my love for horses and riding. Knowing this, I sought out a riding program at CSU. I immediately signed up and rode once a week, maybe more if I so desired. While everything around me was changing, it felt right to have something that felt natural and felt like a little bit of home. To me, that’s what riding was. Every time I rode, I was given that connection of a horse and rider with which I was familiar and loved. It gave me something that I knew how to focus on, an outlet of sorts. When I was riding, I was able to forget for a moment, about everything that was new, daunting, and on my agenda. It gave me a place to feel at home while I was in a place with many new stressors. While signing up for one thing won’t stop you from missing your parents or pets, it will renew that sense of purpose and belonging that can feel unsteady upon arriving at a new place. When I transferred to UConn, I did the same thing and immediately looked up the riding program and found out they had several teams. I ended up joining the dressage team which as an eventer, I was already into. Now, I look back and can’t believe that a year of travels, adventures, memories, and best friends came simply out of some easy searches.
Now your next question might be, what if they don’t have what I am interested in? At Colorado State, they didn’t have an English riding team, so I ended up joining polo and trying something totally new, fun, and exciting. In addition, finding something related to your interests gives you immediate common ground with a whole new group of people. While giving this advice to a fellow student recently, he asked me, “I’m interested in beekeeping, do you think they have that?” I wondered if this would be the one that stumped me; did I have to bite my tongue? Sure enough, we looked it up, and a whole UConntact (club) page was displayed with an informative video on the UConn Beekeeping Club. So there you have it!
Rarefied interests aside, getting involved is seriously very important. Had it not been for my involvement these past years, my mental and physical health would have really suffered as I transitioned from place to place. Getting involved is the best possible way to make the university seem smaller. You develop a schedule, a familiarity with the people and resources for whatever you’re doing, and it really helps having something healthy and positive lining up alongside stressful academic life and classes. While going to large universities like UConn and CSU can make it hard to settle in, they also provide an immense collection of activities, clubs and organizations that appeal to the interests of every student. Even though college is an incredible experience, that will push and pull you in the best of ways, it can be hard and that is the reality of it. It isn’t natural to be absolutely deprived of everything you knew and had overnight; however, that’s what move in day feels like for some. While attending University will challenge and change you for the better, it is important to have a place where you feel “at home” or comfortable so that you have a healthy break from your stressors. While I love learning new things and being involved in my academics at UConn, I am more than just a student. In order to have a healthy balance, you need to restore a little “you” in your life at school, and the only way to do that is to engage yourself. Finishing an exam and heading up to Horsebarn Hill for my weekly lesson balances things out at a pace I can handle, a mix of new and old. Now try it for yourself!
By Noah Freeman
As the second consecutive CAHNR ambassador from the UConn Men’s Crew Team, I can’t help but feel that I have big shoes to fill. My predecessor, “Pistol” Pete Apicella, wrote a blog post about the irresistible draw of the 5am practices, which can be read here: https://collegeambassadors.uconn.edu/2018/04/26/mens-crew/ However, rowing isn’t the only club activity that encompasses the spirit of CAHNR.
While there is a whole list of clubs available on the college website (https://grow.uconn.edu/clubs/), I have found that two I most enjoyed in my time at UConn are not included in this list. Both are involved in many ways with various CAHNR majors, but are not formally linked to the college. I feel, therefore, that these clubs deserve more time in the spotlight, and I would like to pay due respect to the UConn Woodsmen team and the UConn Exercise is Medicine club, respectively.
As a rower, I spend a good amount of my winters training with my teammates in the Ratcliffe-Hicks arena, and through that time I was lucky enough to be able to catch the UConn Woodsmen in action. As a good amount of the Agriculture students have been active in 4-H clubs or simply in chores back home, there is nothing quite as rewarding as seeing some clean log cuts and neatly stacked wood. The Woodsmen excel in a wide array of different athletic feats, and were able to entice enough attention at practice to bring out several members of the UConn Men’s Crew to spectate at the spring invitational. If you are interested in learning more about the Woodsmen team, please check their RSO page here; https://uconnwoodsmen.rso.uconn.edu/
Next, the UConn Exercise is Medicine Club (EIM). In my time at UConn I have been closely involved with EIM as a member, Director of Membership, and Vice President. This club has been incredibly active in the development of new university protocol over the past two years, especially in earning UConn a gold status from the national Exercise is Medicine Council. This standing is earned by instituting campus wide initiatives such as more active daily lifestyles (walking instead of bussing to class, accomplish by the “Everybody Walk!” campaign), as well as including activity levels in the Health Center vital measurements. For any student interested in the health majors offered through CAHNR, EIM provides a great way to get hands on experience in real world policy changes. Check out the EIM UConntact page to find out more about how to get involved! https://uconntact.uconn.edu/organization/uconneim
Believe it or not, the amount of times I am sitting in a pre-med heavy course (organic chemistry, microbiology, you name it) and someone asks me why I have a CAHNR sticker on my laptop is more than I can count. People often assume that if you are considering a career in medicine, you are a PNB, MCB, or really any hard sciences major in CLAS. In reality, yes – those majors set you up for every course you need for medical school. So why on earth would I not just follow the pack?
I think this dilemma comes from a lack of understanding of two critical pieces of information. Firstly, CAHNR stands for the College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources. Allied health sciences (AHS) and its associated majors is a very real plan of study that prepares students for careers in various health professions, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, or mental health counseling. You can find out more about these and other potential career options for AHS students on The Major Experience website.
Personally, I am a diagnostic genetic sciences (DGS) major. So, even if people have heard of AHS, they look at me as if I have ten heads when I throw that doozy of a major out there. DGS is a professional degree program in the AHS department that students apply into their sophomore year. The program sets students up for careers as lab technologists, genetic counselors, and clinical geneticists, the latter being the one I am pursuing and which requires a medical degree. I decided on clinical genetics because I have always been interested in the genetic basis of disease; however, I have found out over time that I could not spend my whole life working in a lab. I spent a lot of time searching for a career that would meet my needs and stumbled upon clinical genetics. After some careful thought of whether medical school was for me, I decided that it was worth a shot. I enjoy engaging with people and like the fact that this is one of the few professions where you never stop learning because there are always things being discovered, so becoming a physician seemed like the right choice for me. Therefore by choosing to be in CAHNR, I made a choice to take classes more tailored to my individual interests!
Ultimately, I chose DGS because clinical genetics is a specialty I am not likely to encounter in medical school. In fact, doctors don’t typically get involved with clinical genetics until potentially the third or fourth year of residency. For me, that seemed like a long time (eight or nine years from right now) to wait and see if I was actually content with my career choice. Instead, I chose to pick an undergraduate school that gave me the opportunity to study exactly what I was interested in instead of waiting ten years and spending copious amounts of money on medical school just to find out I didn’t make the right decision. Even though I am only a few weeks into my DGS major, I am really enjoying the concepts that I am learning and am very excited to see what I learn next.
The second critical piece of information that people don’t fully understand is the one that I consider the most important: you can be ANY major and still get into medical school as long as you complete the required coursework for the schools you are applying to. So yes, being a PNB or MCB major is great because you are taking all of the typically required classes and then some, and I commend anyone who chooses to do this because they enjoy this plan of study. However, sometimes I feel as though students choose these majors because they feel as though this is what medical schools want to see rather than taking courses that genuinely spark their interests.
Truth be told, medical schools want to see a diversity of majors and interests. If you are taking only science classes and participating in solely medically-oriented organizations, you are not showing the admissions committee a diversity of interests. And, for your own sake, doesn’t taking all science classes get a little overwhelming or, some would even go as far to say, boring? Some of the most interesting courses that I have taken, like Sociology of Gender and Anglophone Literature, are not directly related to human cells or tissues, but they are intimately connected with the human condition. They sparked my interest in contemporary topics like gender fluidity and race while also providing me with a background that I wholeheartedly believe will make me a better physician.
One of my good friends, who is also pre-med and in CAHNR, works with animals and shows cows in her free time because it is something she has enjoyed doing since she was 5 years old and in FFA. She makes sure that she is accomplishing all of her medical school requirements but also sets aside time for recreational activities that truly make her who she is! Now, I don’t show cows, but that doesn’t mean I only do science. I have always seen the value in volunteering so here at UConn I made it a point to participate in community service days for Special Olympics Connecticut and for a 4-H program at an elementary school in Rockville. These activities have taught me a lot about working with diverse groups of people and how to empathize more with those who don’t share the same background as me. I also work for the cafes here on campus and for a bakery back at home, so I have been able to learn how to communicate effectively with others, especially in high-stress situations. One of the clubs I am involved in on campus has even allowed me the opportunity to volunteer at a homeless shelter, which both humbled and educated me on privilege and what it means to different people. Because of this, I can truly say that some of my most formative experiences, the ones that make a good doctor into a great one, have not been through science-related activities.
Therefore, who’s to say that a student in CAHNR majoring in environmental studies or natural resources is not qualified for medical school, especially as we increasingly recognize the intimate connections between the environment and our health? You should absolutely focus on your academics with a goal in mind, but you should also explore other areas of interest throughout your coursework and extracurricular activities that will help to shape you as a whole person. College is about doing what is most enjoyable for you, so make the most of it!