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Thursday, March 25, 2010

My College Experience

“A college experience will make you a much richer person. A college degree however, will not. As you suggest, the pursuit of knowledge is very different than the pursuit of accomplishment, and a degree can only speak to the latter.” -- Mike Rowe

Recently, I was asked what my advice is for students just starting in college who are interested in studying Ag, what would I do differently, and what am I glad that I did during my years in college. So after my four years of study and research into the topic, I think I am ready to give it a try. So all of you youngsters looking to enter or just starting college, listen up! Heck, even the college Freshmen and Sophomores out there might gain a few pointers.

Face it now, the campus does not cater to Agriculture. Campus is filled with all sorts of people with different majors and different colleges. When you go to the library for research, Ag topics will not be the first thing you will find. If you are driving a truck, parking lots will be a tight squeeze. The cafeteria will not be stocked with beef and pork like momma's fridge always was. People will think you are different when they overhear your studying for classes like Animal Nutrition and Animal Reproduction.

But it is not all bad news. Most universities with an Ag college will have researchers in the library who are dedicated to helping with Ag related research. Search these people out and utilize their services. There will be many papers in your future. Locate the writing assistance center on your campus. You will not like it at first, but seeking help from these English upperclassmen and graduate students will make those 8 to 10 page papers so much easier. Learn to navigate between the Ag related scientific journals (i.e. Journal of Animal Reproduction and Journal of Animal Science, just to name a few). There is a wealth of information out there, and indeed it can be found.

Parking will not be convenient unless you are willing to pay top dollar for the parking deck reserved spots, or you take the risk with parking in the wrong lots. The later will eventually result in numerous parking tickets. Campus police love to pass out the parking tickets, so take advantage of the gravel lot and enjoy the opportunity for the long walk. The spare time becomes rare as the years roll by.

Campus dining is more expensive than off campus. If you have a meal plan, use it and enjoy it. There are a variety of dining options on campus. Avoid eating on campus from noon till 1, that is unless you just love to wait in a forever long line. If there is no meal plan, my advice is to seek out the fast food restaurants close to campus. Keep your options open and change up the menu. Switch between sandwich joints and sit down meals. I always avoid the grease pit fast food places, because the same greasy burger gets old, quick. Just because you are at a restaurant for lunch doesn't mean you have to pig out. Go for the meal deals and cheaper options. You will want to save your money for Buffalo Wild Wings when you hang out with the crowd to watch the ball games. If your schedule provides time, take a quick trip home for lunch. Those left overs will have to be eaten eventually.

The world (Specifically Business majors) doesn't understand Agriculture courses, and Agriculture students will not always understand the world (Specifically Business majors). (Haha, I really don't have anything against business majors. They just seem like a different breed to me. All other departments can fit in here too.) The Agriculture college is a great family to be a part of. Many Ag students understand the value of hard work, having to get up early to feed the stock, and have an appreciation for all your Ag related stories (Yes, Animal Reproduction makes for some good jokes, but outside the Ag circle, people will just think they are different). GET INVOLVED, but don't stretch yourself too thin. There are intramurals, Block & Bridle, Alpha Zeta, Horseman's and Cattleman's Clubs. This list goes on and on. People will tell you employers will look for involvement. But from experience, I think it is related to the fact that the more involved one is, the more well-rounded person they will become. That is what employers are looking for. Join in the clubs and groups, take a proactive role, and aim to find your spot. Not everyone can be an officer, but everyone can take part.

Now that I have told you to soak up the Ag college, I am going to tell you to branch out. For me, the best opportunity has been the campus ministry group. Find a group outside of you Ag friends. This will help you to interact with people that are different, think differently, and will have different activities. This group that may not be familiar with Ag will have questions about it. Take advantage and use this as an opportunity to Agvocate! They may find it interesting that you know about something different.

This list has been a little different from things you have heard before. At least I hope it is. As I referenced with the quote at the top, you will gain more from your experiences in college than you will from the text books. (Do not take that as an excuse to skip out on class. You are paying for the education, take advantage of it.) This is just a glimpse of the multitude of things I could tell you about going to college as an Ag student. There are so many more things that I have learned, and I will probably share more in later posts.

If you are already in college, tell me a little about the clubs that you are involved in. What activities do you participate in and what is you advice to those getting started?