Where should I go to college? Student stories, University of Maryland

November 30, 2015
University of Maryland (Courtesy of Hillel Steinberg via Flickr/Creative Commons)

University of Maryland (Courtesy of Hillel Steinberg via Flickr/Creative Commons)

Anna Yang is a pre-med/business major at the University of Maryland. (Photo courtesy of Anna Yang)

Anna Yang is a pre-med/business major at the University of Maryland. (Photo courtesy of Anna Yang)

By Anna Yang

To those who join every single student group, I see you.

To those who try to meet every single person in their class, I see you.

To those who are not satisfied until “free time” is no longer possible, I see you.

To those who do it all, I’m one of you.

One of the hardest challenges I’ve had to face as a Maryland student is the huge amount of opportunities available, in terms of student groups, research, internships and classes. The list is huge. As soon as I got to UMD, I had a list of the things I wanted to do, so I did.

I joined as many music groups as I could, became a Senator and tour guide, got a job at the Maryland Medical Center, and started my premed/business major. I’m also looking into volunteering at a hospital and just recently made major improvements to my current side baking business called The Baking Spoon, which has allowed me the honor to make creative desserts for a number of UMD events, including the celebration of UMD’s Big Ten Football announcement, honors college events, and a number of alumni celebrations.

What I learned the most from my first semester of college is that the key to a successful college experience is not doing it all — it’s doing whatever you love the most and doing that right. There are a million things out there, things you love, things you’ve never heard of, and maybe even things that you dislike but would possibly look good on a resume. By my standards, I take advantage of those opportunities as much as I humanly can.

But before taking new chances and taking a step forward, you have to be acquaint yourself with school culture, academic atmosphere and personal liberties.

One of Maryland’s best attributes is its location. The campus is conveniently located between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, both of which are only a quick Metro train ride or car ride away. While being a heartbeat away from the nation’s capitol, the metropolitan areas provide many great opportunities to intern, to access free world-class museums and facilities (the Smithsonian, the National Gallery of Art and the Baltimore aquarium, to name a few), and to eat at top-rated restaurants.

Some opportunities that are unique to the proximity of the nation’s capitol include participation in government and historical activities, which would be of particular interest to journalists, political science students or aspiring lawyers.

Within the College Park city, businesses seem to shuffle constantly in and out, but a few off-campus favorites have survived the decades. College Park has some of the best staple off-campus cuisines, a fair amount of pizza places (shout-out to Blaze Pizza!), the best Chipotle and Starbucks anywhere, and a plethora of student discounts and affordable pricing.

The campus provides many living-learning communities that have set the standard for universities across the nation. By connecting students by interests, classes, activities and residence units, UMD has become a model for how to make a large university feel smaller and more intimate. In addition, there are a plethora of classes to choose from to fulfill general education requirements – literally everything you can imagine, ranging from “Communication In the Age of Youtube” in journalism to “How Not to Miss Great Opportunities Life Throws At You” in the business sector.

The range branches out to all different kinds of interests. Every semester provides options for a “signature series” of classes that help round out your education.

The biggest tradition of UMD is rubbing Testudo’s nose. Testudo is the official school mascot of Maryland, and we have a few bronze statues of him lying around campus. The most-rubbed status is probably the one in front of our biggest library, McKeldin Library. Before an important exam, a job interview or even a nerve-wracking date, people will rub his nose for good luck. People often leave offerings to him for an extra kick of good fortune, whether it’s a half-eaten candy bar or a 10-foot-tall lamp post (a student has actually offered this). So when you find yourself walking past the famed Testudo statue in front of McKeldin Library, give his nose a solid rub for good luck!

After acquainting yourself with the school’s culture, there are now four parameters you must establish for yourself to determine what to do and how to do it:

1. Diversify. It’s very easy to get wrapped up on an area that you love, like research, extracurriculars or classes. Yet limiting yourself to only one field of activities will also limit your perspective as a student. One of the best parts about my college experience is that it has allowed me to broaden my horizons through the very diverse people I’ve met, since most of my activities don’t correlate at all.

2. iCalendar. Write everything in your calendar. Write your workouts, study times, classes, meetings, lunches, write all of it. The only way to stay responsible on every single activity is to have them all in the same place and know which time to dedicate to each one. It’s also useful to make sure none of them conflict with each other. If they do, I’ve learned that reaching out and asking for help can do wonders.

3. Know your limit. This is the most important one. The toughest challenge I’ve had to face is admitting that I can’t take on anything else, that I’m simply too busy. There’s a point where you simply can’t keep going and still achieve of your goals. Do you have time to eat? Do you have time to sleep? Do you have time to study efficiently? When any of those answers turn into a “no,” it’s time to do less.

4. Prioritize. Stay clear on what your priorities are. Where do you have the most responsibilities? Where are you going to thrive the most? What makes you the happiest? And finally, which one do you love the most? It’s important, for your success and mental health, to always do the things you love. Of course, keeping in mind that as students, our academics should be top priority.

At least, that’s how I do it. The opportunities I’ve been granted so far have been incredible, and I can’t wait to see what Maryland has in store for me for the next two years!


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