Being great on campus is a matter of individuality

Being great on campus is a matter of individuality

A fellow classmate turned towards me, frantically asking me for advice about last-minute involvement opportunities that could help supplement her resume for law school. I chuckled to myself because I was probably the last person she needed to be consulting, seeing as I don’t even have my own life together and couldn’t tell you where I’m going to be a year from now. 

While our conversation flowed from one question about potential careers and jobs to the next, her last question and earnest curiosity caught me off guard: How does someone be great on campus? 

My mouth went dry, and I immediately felt vulnerable and insecure. How could I define greatness? I managed to squeak out the most basic and cliché phrase ever — “Just be yourself.” But on the inside, I was trying to determine what my own personal definition of greatness was. Much less what is considered “great” on this campus with nearly 36,000 students. 

While I was disappointed in myself for not giving a more eloquent answer, I’m not sure if there is one. I do believe the only way to ever achieve the quality of greatness is by in fact being yourself. By following your heart, your intuition and choosing to stand up for what you believe is right. Greatness is not defined by the approval of the others around you, nor is it dependent upon the success of your peers. 

You don’t have to be the smartest, have the most money or come from a certain family to distinguish yourself from those that follow the status quo. You don’t have to be a member of certain student group, SGA or honor society. There are no requirements you must meet that allow you to chase your ambitions and do extraordinary things on this campus. It’s all about making the decisions you feel are just, and choosing to use or not use the powerful voice you’ve been given.

What I’ve come to realize — and what I wish I would’ve told my classmate — is that there is no formula for greatness. There’s no path and there’s no direction or guidance anyone can truly offer to achieve it. The individuals that I have met at this institution that I deem “great” are people that continue to selflessly serve others and not give up on their dreams. They have decided to serve extremely rural areas of Alabama or Mississippi, or move to Bulgaria to teach children. They are leaders that invest in the people around them, and they radiate love and passion.

Am I great? I don’t believe so. 

I still feel like I haven’t accomplished all that I’ve wanted to at this University. I often question whether I’ve truly made an impact on students here at the University, or have made any lasting impressions on our campus. I obsess over what I could have done differently, or what could have been. I think back to all the people I’ve probably failed along the way or could’ve helped more and didn’t. But one thing is for sure, I’ll continue to be true to myself and the people I feel I’ve been called to serve and represent. 

Alex Smith is a senior majoring in political science and journalism. Her column runs biweekly. 

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