After three years at UC Davis, here are the most important lessons I’ve learned
As a fourth-year undergraduate, UC Davis is my second home because the people here are family. This school has presented me with so many opportunities for academic, athletic and professional growth, which wouldn’t be possible without the bright and welcoming people populating our campus. As I embark on my final year as an undergraduate student, I want to share with you all — especially incoming freshmen — the lessons I’ve learned from my three incredible years here.
The beauty of UC Davis being such a prominent research institute is that most of your professors actually use what they teach you. I took econometrics with Professor Taylor last spring and was nervous going in because of its reputation for being difficult. What surprised me from the first day onward was his passion and visible desire for us to understand the material. It turned out that, during the summer following our class, Taylor was going to Rwanda to measure how Syrian refugees were affecting the country’s economy, using many of the data collection principles he’d just taught us. Knowing that the skills I had learned were about to help a society of people was a very powerful moment because it helped me value my education on a higher level and made me think really hard about how I want to use my skills post-graduation to make a serious impact.
Davis is a huge campus with an even larger student body. Coming from a high school of only 750 students that took up one suburban block, I knew I was in for a culture shock. I had to find a way to make a smaller community for myself so I wouldn’t feel lost in the bustle of campus life. Thankfully, my community came from athletics and getting involved in the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. SAAC helped me break out of my comfort zone and meet people I normally wouldn’t have. I get to work with other campus organizations and people from different sports teams to improve the student-athlete experience and give back to the Davis community. I truly believe that the most important step you can take your freshman year is to get involved in smaller groups because it’s a way to bond with people who share your interests. Whether it be clubs, IM sports, Greek life or volunteering, please sign up for something this quarter, because in a 500-person lecture hall, it’s not as easy to get to know your classmates.
Speaking of 500-person lecture halls, go to office hours and discussion — they really do matter. I was struggling in one of my first statistics classes freshman year because I couldn’t get my code to run for the life of me. I didn’t do anything to fix it for the first half of the quarter, either, because it failed to stand out on my to-do list among the workload for other classes and my competition schedule. Once I finally went, it took at most two minutes for my professor to figure out that I’d been writing semicolons instead of commas in every line of code, which the program didn’t accept. Please don’t make the same mistake I did; go to office hours for any uncertainty. Your professors are there because they want to help you, and it’s a way to get quick answers to questions you can’t ask in lecture.
Lastly and most importantly, I’ve learned to have fun at Davis. I know this is the cheesiest piece of advice I could give you, and your parents probably told you the same thing when you left home, but school is hard. It’s so easy to feel crushed under the high standards we set for ourselves. Having a good time with your friends is the best way to break up trips to the library and intense study sessions. You can take a day trip to Tahoe or San Francisco, grocery shop at the farmers market, have a picnic in the arboretum — anything. When you’re on the brink of graduation like myself, those are the parts you remember, not your perfect paper from ENL 003. As I begin what I like to call my Davis “victory lap,” I can’t help but be thankful for my coaches, professors and friends that have made my time at UCD so enjoyable. I’ll be doing everything I can to make this year pass as slowly as possible, and I hope you take the time to appreciate everything our campus has to offer as well.
Written by: Aislinn Dresel
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