As an older student, with a large family, I missed out on the typical college life during my undergraduate education. There was no rush week for me, no pledging, and few student organizations. Aside from being well above the mean age of most other students, I simply did not have the time to devote to extra-curricular activities, after class, homework and feeding and caring for five children.
When I began graduate school, I gradually became more involved in student life. My children are older now, which has freed up some time on my schedule. Acting as a student ambassador has been a great experience and has supplemented my doctoral education in ways I could not have anticipated.
As a student, we are often wrapped up in homework and deadlines, and we often neglect to develop our professional identity in other ways. Rarely does college, (not even graduate), prepare us fully to go directly into our fields and have the knowledge, experience, and confidence to be fully-fledged professionals. So we have to supplement our education in other ways.
You may or may not have heard the phrase, “you only get out what you put in.” This common advice given when one is entering graduate school and many of you may have heard this without giving it a second thought.
As graduate students, our schedules are beyond filled. We have classes, internships, study-groups, just to name a few. We do not, however, learn everything we need to learn on campus, or in classrooms. We accepted the challenge of an advanced education, but our classes and internships cannot possibly complete our education. We need to go beyond our classrooms and challenge ourselves to do more, to supplement our learning experiences.
Although we could stick to our set schedules, we will be doing so much more as professional social workers and academics, and it is completely up to us to seek out opportunities to enhance our learning and growth.
Working as a student ambassador is a way to not only build a resume, but also helps fill in the gaps in learning, by developing interpersonal and communication skills, and preparing me for work I will be doing outside of my institution. It has given me the opportunity to meet others, both on campus and off, and has given me the opportunity to travel to professional conferences, as a representative of our college. Collaboration, and communication, whether between individuals or organizations, is an important part of our profession and it is essential for our success as students, and as professionals. Moreover, these experiences are essential to success and continued growth.