When I applied to the Hicks Honors College, I didn’t really know what to expect. Being the first in my family to attend a university, my knowledge of academia was limited. After submitting my application, I had accepted my fate of high water pants, all-nighters and Klingon in exchange for advanced classes, early registration and a bomb resume.
Obviously, I was wrong about the Honors College, and in more ways than one. But cut me some slack. We’ve all been 18, and I am not alone in having these misconceptions. Here’s what Honors is: a community that emphasizes a global perspective and critical thought. When you get down to it, we’re a group of students who want an interdisciplinary approach to our studies to better understand current and future issues across multiple fields. And Honors isn’t a conglomerate of eggheads – the program is pretty diverse with regard to interests, background and culture. Much to my surprise, I found a group for me and have made some lifelong friendships through the program. I have also formed relationships with many Honors faculty members who have been understanding and willing to assist with my undergraduate endeavors.
Reflecting back on my experiences in Honors, I don’t think I would be in the same place I am today without it. Through Honors, I was able to take unique courses which offered multi-faceted approaches to crucial questions in philosophy, literature and even cell biology. These classes were often much smaller than their non-Honors counterparts and allowed for a more discussion-based approach to learning. The courses weren’t necessarily harder, just different, and I think I learned a lot more from them than had they been structured differently. The ways that Honors has shaped my collegiate experience, however, go far beyond academics.
The most important lesson that Honors has taught me is the value in empathy. For six weeks, I partook in an Honors-sponsored study abroad to Athens, Greece. Adapting to another culture made me call into question some of the norms and patterns of my own, and really investigate why I perceived things the way I did. Having to adjust quickly to new surroundings makes you realize what you take for granted, puts you out of your comfort zone and makes you question what drives certain cultures and actions. Not only did this experience aid in my flexibility, but also my ability to divorce myself from my own prejudices and perspective in order to better understand others. And it doesn’t hurt to have life lessons interspersed with rock beaches and tzatziki, either. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this if it were not for Honors supporting me with a travel grant.
Being in Honors also presented me with the opportunity to serve as an undergraduate teaching assistant for two years. As a teaching assistant, I was able to build skills in speaking and relaying complex ideas in a relatively informal, low-stress setting. I started out timid but soon found myself confident speaking in front of groups. Understanding various undergraduate perspectives allowed me to make lectures interesting and immersive for students of different backgrounds. With teaching, I also gained assertiveness, often facilitating heated discussion and attempting to find the roots of issues to resolve a conflict. Last year, I even requested to work in a faculty laboratory on campus, which for me was a huge step. I have been conducting and presenting research since.
Needless to say, my life in the Hicks Honors College has panned out much differently than I anticipated. I’ve learned a lot beyond the realm of academia and I’ve gotten so much out of my college experience. I am about to graduate, I have been accepted to pursue my doctorate in Biochemistry at Ohio State, and I’m not even all that nervous for the big move. I’m much more equipped and confident than I was at the beginning of my studies. I am ready to handle any challenges in store. I attribute my undergraduate success, not to my course work, but my time outside of the classroom that forced me to grow and develop personally. I owe a lot of that to the Hicks Honors College.
Molecular Biology student