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Alexandra Cothran
Alexandra Cothran

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the unexpected path


I began college with the attitude of go to class, go home, work. And I did that... quite a bit. I was at university for me, myself, and nobody else. I did not care for the traditional student experience. I did not have the desire to make friends at university. My ego was massive.
My freshman year was boring. I have almost no memory of the year, and I somewhat detest who I was. I met people that wanted to be my friend, and I did everything I could to remove myself from situations with them. Nearing the end of the spring semester, I received an email recruiting members to a "programming" organization within the university. I thought this was a coding club. Under that false pretense, I looked into it. Rather, I fell into it head-first. I cannot tell you why I pursued this, but I applied. The organization was essentially a student council that "programmed" events at my nearby remote campus. The next thing I knew, I was plunged into making friends with people vastly different from myself.

Student Government

I actually had a lot of fun for those two sophomore semesters. We met bi-weekly to plan events, and I feel that I learned empathy. This was a skill I lacked greatly, as I actively chose not to care about others. The student population that primarily attended this remote campus were highly non-traditional (Married, 25+, and/or has kids), so even when we planned events targeted to traditional students, we found many families were in attendance. I had nothing in common with these students, but I came to understand their situations and the things they needed from the university. What did I do with this information? I campaigned for the student senate seat of the remote campus for my junior year. I was elected.

The Pros outweighed the Cons

If anything, this experience broke me out of my shell. On the student council, I had to work with ten other mostly-traditional students in various majors. As a student senator, I had to work with 20 other students looking out only for their constituents. I had to work with university administration to look out for my constituents. I am still astonished by the volume of politics within student government. Yet, as junior year neared an end and elections rolled back into the conversation, I had the toughest time letting it go. I wanted to do more, but I had been juggling school, student involvement, and internships for two years. I had to commit, and work was my priority. I know these experiences are likely to be overlooked on my resume today, but I believe the soft skills I practiced will be regarded highly by many employers. Qualities and skills like leadership, problem-solving, and interpersonal communications develop naturally for students that get involved in clubs and organizations. After sophomore year, I no longer went to class simply to get a degree. I had a new purpose, and I wanted other students to take a piece of my perspective. I made friends.
The college experience is what you make of it. Your degree is a paper to tell an employer what you can do, but your experiences express the skills you developed while working toward that paper. Check the bulletins for events, and get involved (You may also find some career fairs to connect with employers).

As almost a contradiction, I recognize Erik Finman to close this post. He's about my age, but a lot more successful, and I do not just mean monetarily. He has put his virtual wealth into advancing the world of technology, including educational purposes for programmers. He did not attend university, yet he is an influence for tech students around the world.

Thanks for reading.
Note: I still have an intense ego. Never let your ego go. Hold onto that ego like it is your first born (or pet). But stay humble ^.^

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