The University of Denver has been home to hundreds of thousands of people over the years, each class shaping and modeling society and the environment significantly enough for the final result to be visible. So how do we learn from our experience? What makes the University of Denver so special?
1. Clubs, teams, programs – ways of bringing people together
The first important thing that I found astonishing is the ways DU wants to help you grow as a student and a person. How much is knowledge worth if you can’t apply it, and how much is it worth if it is the only thing in your life? Those are the questions every student applying to universities should ask themselves. Choosing a college is a humongous commitment, especially for people as young as we were when we made the choice. On top of that, for a lot of us international students, it is not even possible to physically visit the university before applying to it. That is precisely why choosing somewhere with people who care about you and your well-being can make the transition so much easier.
I was one of those students not so long ago. I was doing everything I can to make an informed decision, but there is only so much you can learn from a website. That is why I was scared. I was scared of what I may find here and how it may not live up to my expectations. I was right; a website can never do justice to living somewhere every day for four years. The only thing I did not predict is how much DU wants to make your transition as comfortable as possible.
Imagine a list of 12,000 students, each and every one of them different, each with different interests, plans, and habits. Now imagine how big of a list of clubs offered by a university would have to be to accommodate everyone’s needs. And now imagine a list twice as long. That is how many clubs DU offers, each different from the other, and each designed to challenge you in a different way. The best thing about it? If you somehow manage to find an interest of yours that is not on this list, just add it yourself! Not only is it welcome but it is encouraged! Visit the website, fill in a couple of forms and your club is already up! I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of anything better to do with your free time than sharing your passion/interests with your friends or making new friends with similar desires!
You may think, “okay, that’s fine but physical growth is not everything, and neither is gaining new knowledge”; you couldn’t be more right! That is precisely why the school offers programs such as the Pioneer Leadership Program or the Living & Learning Communities program. These are designed especially for people who want to understand how society works, who not only want to find their place but are also ready to take a role in society. They will help you reach your full potential as a leader and as an important part of any society, especially the one at University of Denver. Each of those have a different impact on your life, from where and with whom you live on campus, to receiving individual tasks designed to enhance your strength in those particular social skills, which build on your challenging academic courses. The best thing about it? Everyone can become a member; all you need is the will to do it.
2. My part in the community
Another reasonable question you may ask could be “I am a member, what now?” The truth is, I couldn’t tell you. I can only explain what I did and why I am advising you to do the same thing. I am a part of the ski team at DU, and on top of my rigorous academic life, I also have responsibilities connected to that. On top of practice and competitions, which I have to spend my time on, there is the most important aspect, which is both the best and the most challenging part of it. That is the consciousness of being a part of a team, one that is like a chain, a chain that is as strong as its weakest link. It’s something that can be read as ‘try not to be the weakest link’ by people who have not experienced that responsibility yet, and as ‘try to support your friends with need because eventually every one of you falls down at least once’ by those who have. That thought, that there is someone to pick you up when you fall, that you will do the same for those people, is the thing that turns practice and routine into a lifestyle. This makes waking up earlier and working harder a fun part of your day instead of a responsibility someone forced onto you.
That, and the fact that it helps you increase your effectiveness, eventually leading to you having more free time than before, is why I would recommend it to everyone. The bonds created between people trusting each other, and the chance to work with some of the most experienced coaches is life-changing. I have always considered myself a good skier and always had proved that at competitions, however, it was the experience I have managed to gain here that truly showed me how much more room for improvement there is.
The thing that surprised me the most was how understanding everyone is. Coaches understand that we are also students and take that into consideration when you have your midterms and finals, and so are your professors, who understand that you have practice and other commitments. For me, this was extremely helpful, especially at the beginning when everything was still new to me and I was still lost in the huge change in my life, and I was not yet used to the daily routine I had to implement into my life. Yet, to anyone asking themselves the question of whether or not they would be able to do it, I have only one answer – yes, everyone can. And in my opinion, everyone should give it a try.
On top of that, there are numerous ways to develop the academic part of your life outside of class! From group studies, lab and many other ways, one can ask for help when they have problems they may not necessarily be sure of. By going to your professor’s or TA’s office hours, you can expect to receive competent help from people who make a living by making complex problems seem trivial. These are people who have years of experience in a topic you are just starting to learn, one that you did not have even enough time to process or develop an intuition for.
That is precisely why I recommend becoming a part of any part of the DU community to everyone. Everyone can do it if they want to, and the endless upsides of it will change your stay at DU forever. Help create great friendships and habits, gain irreplaceable experiences and just have a great time.
Author: Jakub Drobek
Editor: Ronnie Cheng
Learn more about other international student experiences at the University of Denver: