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Hello readers! Happy Friday. Today’s post is a guest post by Linda Manganello. Linda is an Assistant Professor of Communications at Taylor University. She and her husband Tony are very good friends of mine. Linda taught me everything I know about verbal communication and learning to lovingly lead others with my language.
I am so thankful for her, and so are many young women she mentors at Taylor. I asked Linda if she would share a piece of advice for college freshman women as they head to college, leaving home and everything they know. She gave me this great piece a couple of weeks ago, and I hope you’ll be blessed by it today.
Smokestacks. I remember it like it was yesterday: my dad walking me through my schedule of classes on the sprawling state school campus. Coming from the familiarity of my well-scripted high school routine, I now found myself in foreign territory, grasping for any landmark to help me get oriented. I heard my dad’s voice, “this is your first stop tomorrow morning for Spanish 101.”
As I scanned the building, I was overcome with both anxiety and excitement. How in the world was I supposed to make the 10-minute walk from my dorm through crowded sidewalks and find this location on my own tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM?
Dad’s voice returned, “Linda what’s your landmark?” My response was one word: “Smokestacks.” He smiled as I motioned upward to the top of the building, which had two white smokestacks each with a bold red stripe that were visible for miles.
Just as physical landmarks help orient us to new geographical environments, spiritual landmarks serve as guideposts during unsteady moments in life’s journey. I realized then, and continue to now, that I need landmarks to anchor my focus, remind me where I’ve been, and point me to where I’m going.
What’s your landmark going to be in your new environment as a college student?
It’s time. Let the journey commence, ladies. The car is loaded with boxes containing all you think you will need in the upcoming weeks and you are feeling a mix of excitement, anticipation, anxiety, and curiosity. All of which have the ability to make you question all you know about the reality you are about to step into.
Freshman year is an important time; from your first steps on campus you will experience people, places, and situations that will shape your identity and threaten to redefine the value you place on your self. You will be tested not only in the classroom but also ethically and socially. Sometimes the textbook stuff seems easier because at least you have a study-guide or a table of contents to highlight the important information.
Freshman year is a time of new beginnings, which highlight an uncertainty that can cause doubt, frustration, and loss of focus. But this new beginning offers a fresh start to the next stage of your development as a woman. Many challenges await you; however, you are at the helm, in charge of which way you turn.
Your path will be marked by classic freshman decisions such as whether to attend class or sleep, if you should try drugs or just stick with coffee, or how far to go with your boyfriend. These choices will impact your mind, body, and soul. Although it has been a while since I was a freshman, permit me to offer one key piece of advice as you jump into your new surroundings…pick a landmark.
Move in weekend will be a blur, leading to the moment when you are standing on the sidewalk—waving goodbye to your primary landmark for the past 18 years. In the flurry of activity, take a moment and identify a place or a person in your new setting to serve as a reminder of who you are in that moment—your strengths, weaknesses, dreams, fears, and hopes. In the coming months, many experiences both in and out of the classroom will challenge your identity. In these moments remember your landmark.
Popular culture encourages us to find our identity in labels, celebrity gossip, or the latest “which princess are you” survey on Buzzfeed. Understanding who you are is a lifelong process and not something you can reduce to a 10-question survey. The college setting is filled with opportunities and challenges. Each new experience has the ability to build you up or shake you down. A landmark can serve as a constant, helping reduce the noise and identifying what is true and what matters.
Environments will change over time but in every new setting I experience, I return to my landmarks—steady forces ready to help, remind, and empower me.
In the days ahead you will claim your new status as a freshman woman. Go after this year with all the vigor you possess. Be vibrant, use your brain, listen to that little voice inside your head, and know you are strong. Remember: your enduring strength is not found in your looks or abilities, but in your character—the woman who knows her landmarks.