Well, I made it! Next week I’m graduating a semester early. When I look back at who I was when I entered Oshkosh, it’s hard to believe Freshman Samantha was even the same person as Graduating Samantha.
On my first day of college, I was terrified, shy, and not so sure I enjoyed college at all. I couldn’t rely on my core group of friends from high school anymore, which was a scary experience. And I wasn’t used to making new friends; I had grown up knowing my friends back home.
I also had no idea what I wanted to major in. I knew I wasn’t alone in this; nearly a third of incoming freshmen don’t know their major. But it still felt like I’d never know what my passion was. I envied the people I met who had known their major since middle school.
This all changed when I started to get involved on campus. It began when I was a freshman and auditioned for a theatre show on a whim and was miraculously cast. I met people there who I could really relate to, and it made me realize the best way to fall in love with college was to get involved.
From there my involvement grew into attending leadership conferences, helping my Community Advisor plan programs, and helping out at the theater. Suddenly I felt like I not only belonged on campus but I was actually an important part of it.
But where things really fell into place was when I attended my first Film Society meeting. I had never considered filmmaking before, but I was absolutely hooked from the beginning. I found a passion I had never known existed, and I’ve been devoted to filmmaking ever since. I found my calling in screenwriting and I’ve never looked back.
To this date four of my short films have been produced. I’ve directed my own short film and written for telethons, public service announcements, TV shows: everything imaginable. A script I wrote for “The Walking Dead” even won a national award.
But it’s not only my accomplishments I’m proud of, it’s also the amazing friendships I’ve made. Friendships built not on simply being thrown into the same school together, but instead on shared passion and a love of working together. I graduate with not only an arsenal of writing and filmmaking skills, but also with a network of people I know I can trust and depend on.
I’m proud that I’m a different person today than I was my first day of college. And I have some advice that I certainly hope you’ll take.
First, get involved. I know you hear this all the time, but that’s because it’s true. College is only partly about what you learn in class. Getting involved is a chance to actually apply your skills and get experience.
Second, never stop trying new things. Who knows what would’ve happened if I hadn’t decided on a whim to try filmmaking?
And third (and probably the most important), don’t give up. I was scared and uncertain at first, too. But one day you’ll wake up and realize how fantastic college is, for much different reasons than you see on TV.
So that’s my advice for you. Trust me, it’s valuable, and it’ll ensure your college experience is as fulfilling as mine was. I leave UW Oshkosh with incredible friendships and experiences. And I have no doubt that what I learned here will help me continue to succeed in the career world. So take some chances, and don’t give up. Then find me afterward and let me know how it goes.