College: Expect the unexpected

From the desk of Celia Tucker, Academic College Counselor:

This past week I was fortunate to be invited to attend a Counselor Conference at Mississippi State University. I visited and networked with counselors from Tennessee, Mississippi, Texas, Georgia, and Alabama as we talked about similarities and differences between our campuses. It is the networking that I just love when I attend events—I am always amazed by the tidbits of information and the people that I meet. Now, I have to tell you that I do not love walking into a room and having conversation with people I do not know. To me, that is the most uncomfortable part of any conference that I go to. It is not until I realize that almost everyone in the room feels the same way that I can relax and just be myself. It never fails, though– having to step out of my comfort zone and feel a little uncomfortable (a lot uncomfortable), and to be pretty much forced to have dialogue with strangers , always ends up positive and provides me with new friends and colleagues. One new friend I met commented about what a small world we live in. As we were talking she said, “You know what I have found out over the years? I found out that the longer I visit with someone the more likely I am to find out that we are somehow related!” Expect the unexpected.

Visiting Mississippi State made me realize that although virtual tours are very helpful, actually stepping foot on the campus and meeting the students, faculty, and administrators, is the only way to truly get a feel for the “personality” of the university. Touring Mississippi College, Millsaps, and Belhaven, provided the same experience for me. Pictures on the pamphlets are wonderful and give me a preview of what to expect, but going in the back entrance of the campus instead of the front and walking slowly and seeing students in their normal everyday life is the best experience ever. Expect the unexpected.

As I journeyed to Mississippi State, of course putting my trust in my GPS, I began to question and doubt the technological advancements that come with listening to a little lady tour guide telling me where to go instead of whipping out my old tried and true paper map of the dark ages and reading the directions  myself. I just knew Mrs. GPS had messed up when in the state of Louisiana I saw a “Bear Crossing” sign on I-20. Not a deer crossing sign or an alligator crossing sign but a “Bear Crossing” sign with flashing lights and a picture of a big bear. Well, naturally I called on my friends in North Louisiana, called on Google, and found out that my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me. I just know you want to know what I found out:  Based on data collected during 2006-08, there were approximately 300 bears in the 100,000 acre area (Tensas subpopulation) that was sampled during that time period.  This represents a population density of 1.7 bears per square mile, which is a very high density.  Low and behold, I was on the right road. Expect the unexpected.

So I say all of this to remind you that your college experience is going to be eye opening and mind boggling at times. You are going to have to step out of your comfort zone and meet new people; you are going to call your campus and its’ personality your home away from home for several years; and you are going to sometimes wonder if you are on the right road and if it is where you are really supposed to be. Life is going to become super real and as one of our insightful former graduates said, “College is really more high school except in a different place where the expectations and the responsibilities are magnified”.

Work hard. Give it all you’ve got. Relax. Many times your plans aren’t God’s plans and the wonderful thing is that you are not in it alone. Expect the unexpected.