Lessons for the classroom and beyond

Melissa Macaya

Graduation is here and, like most seniors will say, my four years flew by. They were marked by incredible experiences and lessons inside and outside of the classroom. And that is what my column is about — lessons. Those pieces of wisdom you gather through experience and store safely in your memory. It is now, at only three weeks until I walk the stage, that I pull them out and reflect upon them. Here is a lesson for each year at UT:

1. Study what you love or at least something you find interesting .

Everyone comes to college to study something, and we learn early on that our majors can define our experience on campus. Remember you are the one sitting in the classroom — not your parents or your friends. Study something that sparks your interest and helps you discover your role in a bigger process. I learned early on that my passion was to report about Hispanics and the Latin American region. I left certain majors to pursue others, and trust me, I never regretted it. Once you pinpoint what your passion is, go for it.

2. See the world.

College is the perfect time for adventure. Traveling is a global classroom that provides you with unparalleled lessons. You can study about culture, history and politics in a textbook, but it never compares to actually seeing it with your own eyes. UT has great study abroad opportunities for its students and if you search and apply, there is funding for you to participate. It was my study abroad experiences in Spain, Cuba and Israel that broadened my perspective and taught me lessons I never would have gotten in the classroom. Traveling also helps you come back to campus with a greater sense of purpose and a thirst to see more of the world. Don’t keep pushing back the date to hop on an airplane; if not now, then when?

3. Get involved.

With more than 900 organizations on campus, there is no excuse to not get involved at UT. From frisbee to cooking, there is a place for you. Organizations help you build a mini community and, in some cases, further mold your career plans. If you are the stable kind, get involved in a few and stick with them. If you like to dabble in different experiences, then sign up for many organizations. In the process, you will make long-lasting friendships and learn more about your community.

4. Dream big.

For many, college is the first time they are on their own and get to define the person they are and will become. Nothing is more instrumental to that identity than your dreams and aspirations. UT offers a multitude of opportunities that are sitting right at your doorstep. Only the limitations you put on yourself can stop you from going after them. For me, participating in the Archer Program in Washington, D.C., helped me expand my aspirations. I was surrounded by so many inspiring people who were doing amazing things that I, too, lifted the bar of what my dreams were. Don’t limit your thinking — dream big. Achieving your dreams really is much more possible than you think.

My four years at UT have truly been amazing, and this is in large part to the incredible people I met along the way. I was blessed to have extraordinary professors, staff members and friends who motivated me to always dream big, reach for opportunities and maximize my potential. Being a columnist for The Daily Texan had been on my bucket list since freshman year. It has been a joy to get to write for this publication and give my two cents on this campus and the world. May you also leave UT with memorable lessons you can cherish years after you leave the 40 Acres.

Macaya, a journalism and Latin American studies senior, worked as a columnist in the spring.