Niels Van den Burg is a senior Management of Information Systems major at the University of Oklahoma and an intern for OU Housing and Food’s Marketing and Communications department. He is an international student from Mbabane, Swaziland and though his time at OU is coming to an end, he has reflected on the last four years and what he would tell future Sooners.
I finally reached that surreal point in college that I’ve seen all of my friends go through. After four years of laughs, tears, breakdowns and successes, my big graduation week is finally here. All this time I’ve been learning how most students do: stumbling my way through until you learn enough to not fall anymore. In these four years, I have had role models. I imagine what it would be like if I had myself as a mentor when I started.
Looking back at my freshman self, I would first tell him to get rid of inhibitions and join new organizations out of his comfort zone. There are so many societies and clubs on campus that I could have thrown some extra time into. It seems like I missed a lot of the opportunities to connect with these communities. But, that is the beauty of OU’s large amount of organizations. Since there are so many, there really is one for everyone. Join the OU Gaming Club, the OU Anime Club, a politically organized group or the environmentalists that organize sustainability week. There are countless opportunities. All of these are great groups and a testament to OU’s spirit of involvement. It actually isn’t all about free pizza (even though that’s a big plus, believe me). After the free pizza, stay behind and learn about someone else’s experience at OU so far, especially since they’re already interested in the same things as you.
Without a doubt, I would tell my freshman self that while alone-time is great and all, it can be overrated. A little bit a week can be refreshing (and is needed), but when will be the next time you will have all your best friends together? The Office and Brooklyn Nine-9 aren’t going away, but your college days eventually will. You should cherish these moments as much as you can and make more memories! Even getting extra sleep can wait. Unless you have Calculus at 8 a.m. the next morning, staying up an extra hour here and there to hang out with your friends won’t hurt.
Get ready for this one: saving money is not overrated! It never has and never will be! I wish I could tell my freshman self that saving a few bucks here and there will do wonders for you by the time you graduate. Get that free pizza, cook at home instead, wait a few weeks before buying those sneakers, etc. You will thank me when you’re on a sandy beach, snowy peak or obscure city on a trip that you saved for throughout your time at OU. Open a savings account, dude! It works. Not to mention, OU has money coaches that will help you create a financial plan, as well as teach you how to save while paying back student loans.
In the end, your number one job while in college is to explore new knowledge and learn.