Engaged Students Are The Happiest, Most Successful, And The Healthiest
While the post-secondary journey can be hectic, life is too short to just hit the books and not experience anything outside of studying. To have a balanced rewarding student life, getting engaged with your own community is a great option. The engaged students are often the happiest, most successful and the healthiest bunch around. Why am I saying this? Allow me to explain through my personal undergraduate experience.
Getting involved on my campus resulted in my most rewarding and happiest undergrad experience. This past March, I started a mini initiative named “Project Orange”. I had the opportunity to work with an incredible group of student volunteers who shared the same passion as me. Their uplifting positivity and genuine smiles are unforgettable.
Project Orange was a one-day event, primarily a little “pay-it-forward” initiative on the day of my birthday. The project aimed to increase awareness about mental and general health at the University of Alberta. Since it was midterm season, I thought that it would be nice to give out oranges and compliments to students. Hopefully, this gesture would remind them of the importance of maintaining good general health, provide words of encouragement, and show that university students care for each other. At the beginning of coordinating the initiative, I was nervous. What if there aren’t enough volunteers? What if these countless hours devoted to buying oranges and writing compliments were a waste of time?
It is normal for everyone to doubt themselves. However, once you gather the courage to overcome these doubts, you realize it is not so scary. I remembered having an incredible time, walking down HUB (a student residence and shopping mall at the University of Alberta) with a friend, holding a box filled with oranges and handwritten compliments. We handed out oranges and compliments to all the passersby. While I may not remember the faces of those people who received an orange, I definitely remember those big smiles. A fellow student even came up to me and said thank you; apparently she was going through a terrible day, and the positive message and orange cheered her up.
As we grow up and mature, everything starts getting complicated. We may start believing that happiness is complex and that it requires a lot for someone to be truly happy. But this experience corrected my thinking; sometimes, the simplest thing brings the most happiness. Ever since I started getting involved, I have stressed a lot less and my outlook on life has definitely changed for the better.
Everyone perceives “success” in post-secondary education differently. Some think that receiving good grades equates to success. Others view getting into a professional program and securing a lucrative future as a type of success. Depending on how we define “success”, our perceptions vary. There are no right or wrong answers to what success is. For me, being successful is being a happily engaged student. In the past four years of my undergraduate degree, I have constantly experimented with different opportunities since I felt a bit lost. It is okay to feel lost when you are thinking about your future. In first year, only a handful of us have a clear, solid idea about our paths. But, you are not a failure for being unsure about your career path. Personally, I feel that failure occurs to those who miss out on new opportunities and never discover their passion.
I am glad that I was one of those who felt lost. If I didn’t, I would have missed out on a lot of learning opportunities. My post-secondary experience was one hell of a journey. I have made a lot of mistakes as an undergraduate, both academic and personal. I have switched in and out of at least three programs, joined and dropped out of a few student organizations and perhaps done something super wrong once or twice in my life. But those experiences – all the paths I took and decisions I made – define who I am today. Yes, it may have been a bit messy, but I was never satisfied with where I was. So I constantly searched for change, until I reached a spot where I am truly comfortable.
All of us should feel proud of ourselves, because we are all successful in our own unique way. Think of something that makes you proud everyday; there will always be something.
Health to me is awfully important, especially as a student. If we aren’t in our best shape, how do we keep up with the stress of a fast-paced environment? My personal experiences have ignited my passion for mental and general health advocacy. I have dealt with loved ones who were depressed and suicidal. These incidents made me realize that mental health issues are more prevalent in post-secondary than I would have imagined them to be. Mental wellbeing is essential not only to students, but to everybody. Unlike physical health, visible symptoms do not always manifest in mental health disorders. If you get sick or physically hurt, you can recover. But if mental health is not treated properly, there are long term consequences that may last a lifetime.
Grades are important, but in order for students to be truly happy, their mental health needs to be robust. Achieving this can be as simple as participating in campus activities such as sports, student clubs, and many more. Engaging students within their community can increase opportunities for social interactions and enhance resilience to boost mental wellbeing.
Next time you feel like you need to take a break from school work, consider dedicating some time to a cause. Sometimes, I find that I learn more valuable life lessons by engaging in and exploring the community. If you are already pretty happy, somewhat successful and decently healthy, why not be a high achiever and push yourself a little further? You might end up surprised by the results.
I hope more students will engage in their communities. I’d love to see more happy, proud and healthy students in Canada!