By Brittny C. ValdesBrittny C. Valdes is a Cuban-American journalist who was born in Miami. Valdes is a senior at Florida International University where she is completing a major in journalism and a minor in philosophy. Valdes is a multimedia reporter for the South Florida News Service, a national wire service located in FIU. Her work has been published in The Miami Herald, Sun Sentinel and The Palm Beach Post. Valdes is also the secretary of FIU's Society of Professional Journalists chapter.
If I could give college freshmen some advice it would be: speak up and stick around.
I wouldn’t have found the opportunities I’m taking advantage of today had I not used my voice to navigate my interests and not been present to vocalize those interests when the opportunities presented themselves.
What I’ve learned is hard work alone does not make a person successful, the relationships a person can build and sustain, do.
But in order to build those relationships, you must speak up and stick around.
When I say ‘speak up’, I don’t merely mean express your opinions about different things, but rather, ask questions and be an agent of in-class dialogue.
I remember a Greek Mythology course I took my sophomore year of college. The class had no more than 25 students and was only 50 minutes long. One day, my professor realized she had been lecturing for more than half of the class time without any sort of student reaction.
She became so infuriated with listening to the sound of her own voice that she pleaded we question what was unclear to us or simply share what we thought about the subject matter.
When no one responded to her request, she dispensed the advice that I would keep and recycle for semesters to come: if we don’t engage in the material being taught to us, we risk blindly accepting it as it is.
It’s our role as students to ask questions, and it’s our role as the youth of society to challenge things. The youth has always been the driving force of change and progress in the world, but an understanding of the world is crucial to change it " an understanding you can only acquire by speaking up.
And speaking up doesn’t only benefit you; it benefits your peers and even sometimes, your professors.
I took a philosophy course on the broad subject of time " yes, time. Time is a very versatile, multi-theorized and complex subject. The words needed to explain a lesson must be chosen carefully or else the students in the class can develop many different ideas about a single topic.
There was one instance when a student kept probing the professor about a concept he didn’t understand as much as the professor kept repeating herself. By her fourth or fifth time trying to explain it, he phrased his question differently and the professor put her hand to her chin and pondered for a moment.
When she looked up, she opened her arms and exclaimed, “Yes! Those are the words I was looking for!” From that point on, she uses his words whenever teaching that lesson.
Just like when a stone hits water and creates ripples, his persistence to speak up until he understood helped the professor explain it clearer, and ultimately helped our class - including myself - fully comprehend it.
That’s what dialogue does when we have the courage to vocalize our thoughts and ask our questions.
And about sticking around, if you aren’t there, how can you speak up?