College education about more than just classes

Farm Forum

At a recent get-together with some friends, my wife and I were engaged in some heated discussions about the merits of college life and some of the choices we made as young adults. We all agreed that college was a time to make new and long-lasting friends, to train for a new career and find our passion, to get involved in various activities, and to get to know who we really are.

College affords young adults the opportunity to meet new people with backgrounds and experiences very diverse from our own. Today, many of my best friends are those who I met at college and those who were my college roommates. Decades later, even though my college roommates live in all parts of the country and world, we still stay in touch, even if it is only through email or social media.

Although I am not directly working in the field of my undergraduate degree, it helped prepare me for my present job. Like many kids, I wanted different occupations at different times in my life. I remember in junior high school wanting to be a private detective. Then, in high school, my musical ability blossomed, so I thought about a career in music. And I was always interested in history, so I thought of doing something related to the study of past events.

Today, I am working in my third occupation, but each prepared me for the other. Additionally, maturity and the development of interpersonal skills — especially oral and written communication skills — translated easily to other occupations.

I have always been and remain a fervent believer in getting involved in extracurricular activities. College offers myriad opportunities to get involved in a wide range of activities. Involvement means getting to know people and learning to work together to accomplish a common goal.

I tried to get involved in as many things as I could. One of the first groups I joined was the college Young Democrats. My claim to fame at that time was working for Sen. George McGovern in his re-election bid. That campaign did not go well, as McGovern was defeated by challenger Jim Abdnor.

Although it was a good experience, that was the end of my political aspirations. But I also got involved in a big campus musical event called “Strollers.” Each fraternity, sorority and an independent group worked in preparation for a musical competition. Much like the movie “Pitch Perfect,” we developed a long-lasting camaraderie. Additionally, I participated in just about every instrumental music group the university offered. I also joined a fraternity and was elected president during my junior year.

College experiences shape lives in ways we could not possibly have imagined as high school seniors. Today, I cherish all of the fond memories and enduring friendships.

Alan L. Neville is an associate professor of education at Northern State University. The views are his and do not represent NSU.