Once you’ve made it to school in the United States, it’s easy to focus on schoolwork at the expense of other opportunities. And while getting good grades in college is important, U.S. universities have a wealth of other resources to enrich a student’s experience, help them develop diverse skills, and build their resume.
As someone studying politics and interested in journalism, I wanted to go to the Republican Convention in Cleveland, Ohio to see one of the most important events in U.S. politics and get a sense of what it’s like to report on a big event.
The Republican National Convention nominates its candidate to run for the office of President of the United States. The other major party – the Democratic Party – met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
First, I needed a press pass to attend the event. Security was very tight, and you can’t enter without credentials. My college newspaper — The Carletonian – sponsored me and I worked with reporters from Voice of America while at the event.
Beside getting a unique look at American politics, I learned a few key lessons that would help any student who wants to have unique and new experiences.
First, take initiative.
Rarely will a great experience fall in your lap. You have to get out there and seek them yourself. Doing that can be scary, especially if you’re not used to putting yourself out there to seek these kinds of opportunities. Talk to people, figure out how you can achieve your goals, and push yourself to try new things. People are usually willing to help a student once they see your interest, but you have to articulate your need or want.
Second, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
No one expects a student to have all the answers. From the beginning to the end of the convention, I worked with experienced people who wanted to help me. When I first got the idea to go to the convention, I emailed the staff to figure out how to get a press pass. Despite being total strangers with nothing invested in my success, they were helpful and walked me through each step of the accreditation process.
Similarly, random people I met in Cleveland at the convention would often give me directions or keep me up to date about events in the city. Most of the people around you, especially staff, faculty, and students at your college, will be very willing to help with any questions or difficulties you have. Speak up. Just ask.
Third, use all available resources.
One of the first things to do when you’re in a new place or trying to accomplish a new objective is to figure out what resources you have to help. At a U.S. university, you’re surrounded by a community that wants you to succeed, whatever your goal.
When I was trying to figure out how to get to the convention, I looked to the resources my college provides, and figured out which I could best use to get to Cleveland.
I needed a press pass, so I asked the editor of the college newspaper if she could sponsor me to go to the convention. In exchange, I’d write an article for the paper when I returned to school in the fall. I went to the Career Center, which connects Carleton students with alumni, or former students, who might provide housing while I was in Cleveland. These, and other services, are provided free. Making full use of all the cards in your hand will make achieving your goals possible.