It's more than just grades

Imagine an 8-year-old boy. Imagine that he was recently pulled away from his home and moved 8,500 miles away to a new home in the United States. His 3rd grade teacher walks into the classroom and he immediately stands up, greeting her with “Good morning Teacher,” as was customary in his home country. To his dismay, the teacher takes his hand and walks him out of the classroom. With a stern face, she makes it known that her name is in fact Mrs. VanRyn, not Teacher, and she will be addressed as such. This was the first lesson I learned in America. From then on, I have learned more lessons outside the classroom than inside.

It goes without saying that grades are absolutely crucial. A good GPA in your courses can take you far in life and are the fundamental cornerstone of a college education. However, I would argue that your extracurricular experiences would allow you to take full advantage of the stellar GPA that you have acquired. You will develop personally and professionally through these experiences. When we compare American education to other countries, our fantastic professors and focus on practical education stand out which is why we have one of best higher education systems in the world.

Those of you who know me have probably heard me say this multiple times, but about one in eight Alabamians have diabetes. I was shocked to hear about how prevalent the disease is in our state three years ago. I thought it was time for a change.

I was fortunate to have a group of friends and mentors who cared about the health of our community and had the opportunity to start an organization with them that could enact positive change. We provided resources and information to individuals in the surrounding counties and our campus in an effort to prevent and manage Diabetes.

I believe we each have opportunities, even a responsibility, to try and give back to the community that puts so much into us during our four years of college. Find your passion. Find a group of friends who share that passion. Go make a difference. I promise that you will learn more practical skills out there than in the classroom. You can and should make a difference whether you are revitalizing an old organization, assisting a university-wide campaign, starting a new group or any other service initiative. If you asked me my most memorable experiences in college, I would revert back to the late-night Tide Talks meetings filled with music and dancing, volunteering in clinics and participating in health education sessions.

I have been extremely fortunate to be surrounded by many inspiring individuals this past four years (cough David Phelps and others). That little boy in me from 12 years ago is no longer afraid of calling people by their names and it is absolutely due to the experiences that I was fortunate to have here at The University of Alabama. That’s what college is all about.

Koushik Kasanagottu was the founding president of Diabetes Education Team.

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