It has only been about a week since I left my ACUHO-i internship and I have finally been able to sit down and really reflect on the whole experience. It really was a wonderful opportunity for me and going all the way to Oklahoma really allowed for growth both personally and professionally. I wanted to share my experiences and hope others can learn from it. Below are the top 3 things I learned at my ACUHO-i internship:
Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
I had never lived outside New York, let alone ever thought I would live somewhere that was 18 hours away in the middle of America. When I decided to take the offer to go that far from home, I knew it would be a challenge and way outside my comfort zone. I wasn’t sure I was even prepared to go that far up until the moment I finally got there! After getting settled and making some friends, I saw how good it was to up and move — challenging myself to find ways to meet new people. As someone who doesn’t like social settings, especially with strangers, I did my best.
I try to step outside of my comfort zone as much as possible, but this was one of the biggest steps I had ever taken. I had to challenge almost every aspect of myself to make sure I made this experience the best that I could. Not only did moving to a new place offer me a chance to work on my skills, but it allowed me to explore other areas of Student Affairs.
I learned some things about myself and those areas…
Big Events…Not My Thing
For my internship at Oklahoma State University, I was tasked with developing this year’s leadership conference for new incoming students. I have never been a big events person, but I was really excited to try planning my first big event through this internship. It was wonderful to plan an opportunity for new students to become better leaders on campus and provide a great experience for them.
I did find it hard for me to plan the same thing day after day. As an RA, I was used to planning small events where I was collaborating with someone I knew or had worked with before. It would be a simple few days planning, the event happens, and then I move on to the next part of my job. This was not the case with my internship.
I realized that interacting with so many different people on one large project was draining for me. Big events mean lots of people. I learned quickly that I needed to leave work at work and take time for myself. If I kept working or talking about work at home or after hours, I noticed I became more short with friends or my coworkers. I knew I needed time away to relax and decompress from a long day of almost being an extrovert.
Next time I need to plan a big event, I already have the tools needed to get through it. While big events may not be my cup of tea, I will not stop trying to expand myself and work on a few when required or even when I am asked as a favor.
Stand in Solidarity, No Matter Where You Are
There have been many tragic events recently and so much has happened in the past few months. During my internship, I had the chance to visit Dallas, Texas. My visit happened to be the day after the shootings in downtown Dallas. After talking with my co-worker who was taking the trip with me, we both decided to go despite the events that took place. Initially, we had planned to stay away from the downtown area, but instead we ended up right in the heart of it. Seeing the police around and being in that area really gave me the chance to think about my part in everything that has been happening.
Last week I had the chance to attend a #blacklivesmatter panel at Oklahoma State University. The panel consisted of local community members, faculty, and a student representative. It was eye opening to hear from another community that I had only been a part of for a few weeks talk about the issues plaguing our country. I would recommend anyone who may be passing through an area or only visiting to attend any events such as this.
No matter where in America, everyone feels the impact of these tragic events. I had never felt more connected to people I had never met and to a community I had just entered than I did after that day.
As I move forward into my graduate assistantship I see these lesson as ones to build on. As Student Affairs professionals, I don’t believe we should ever say “I learned X from Y experience” and put that lesson away. We should take every lesson, build on it, and share our lessons for others. I am doing just that and I hope others can learn from my experience or share it with others, too.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Stacy Oliver-Sikorski on Professional Development