By Troy Hudson
As my time at SMCC draws to a close this semester, I find myself marveling at how far I’ve come since my very first class in 2016, History of Mass Communication (a fitting beginning for a student destined to work so closely with the student newspaper). I came to SMCC fearing that, at 29, I would be unable to relate to my classmates and might struggle to fit in on campus. I quickly discovered that, on the contrary, I have never felt more a part of a community than I do at SMCC.
I have employed a few basic strategies since Day 1 of that first semester that have never let me down. These strategies have enabled me to get more out of my education than I ever thought possible. Rather than keeping my head down and just getting through college so I could begin enjoying my life in the future, I’ve enjoyed the benefits of my education right here, every day in the present moment. Life in the real world doesn’t begin after college — this is it!
I’ve tried to identify the reasons why I’ve had such a wonderful experience at SMCC. Was it a growth mindset? A fun major? Sitting in the first or second row in every class? Yes, it was all of these things, but there were also a couple of big ideas that I committed myself to from the beginning that I would recommend to every student, regardless of major. The following principles have contributed to my success at SMCC:
Say Yes Whenever Possible
The first time I went to college at the University of South Carolina in 2005, I was 18 years old and had no idea how to balance school, work and a social life. I didn’t join a single club or activity in my first two years, didn’t play sports and didn’t feel any deep connection to my community. It is perhaps not a coincidence that I also didn’t complete my education there.
At SMCC, I decided to try the opposite. I would say “yes” to every opportunity offered to me unless it threatened to negatively impact my studies. This is how I started acquiring freelance design jobs, a valuable experience as a marketing intern at Sodexo and the various roles I have played on The Beacon’s staff.
At first, I worried that I might be taking on too much. With multiple jobs and a full-time class load, it certainly seemed so sometimes. But remarkably, I found that when I poured my energy into something I found exciting, it generated more energy so I was always able to rise to the challenge. When we say “yes” to an opportunity, we become open and receptive to life’s surprises and we allow ourselves to freely grow. By refusing invitations out of fear or discomfort, we restrict our area of contact with the world, thus limiting our own growth. Saying “yes” is not always easy, but it gets easier with practice and is one of the bravest and most loving things we can do for ourselves.
This is almost so cliché I hesitate to mention it, except that it has made all the difference in my self-confidence and network of support. One of the greatest parts of working with The Beacon is the way it has forced me to contact people I don’t know on a weekly basis. Walking up to students and faculty, sending cold emails and interviewing strangers is something I never would have volunteered for in my first college run. This time, however, I have discovered that making these connections with others pays huge dividends in unexpected ways.
Everyone I have ever met knows things I don’t know, does something better than I can and perceives situations differently from me. Other people have the tremendous ability to change us, challenge us and inspire us to grow.
Ask any successful graduate what they gained most from college and they’ll tell you it is as much the people they met as the facts they learned. As students, many of us are currently surrounded by the most diverse population we’ve ever encountered. This is an invaluable resource! Likewise, the faculty and staff at SMCC are among the most admirable and caring people I have met anywhere. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to introduce yourselves to your professors and don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you need hard evidence, the National Center for Education Statistics has identified frequent informal interactions between students and faculty as a top predictor for academic success.
The great thing about these strategies is that they apply just as much after graduation as on the way there. After all, what’s the point of getting a great education if not to go build an amazing life? I can personally vouch for these techniques, as they have enriched my life in many unexpected ways. Of course, you will discover your own key to success and that knowledge will be far more valuable than anything you’ll ever read in a book or newspaper. I wish you all the best on your journeys. I will always be proud to be a Seawolf, and I look forward to meeting many of you on the road ahead!