When I started at Southeast, I thought I had it all figured out. We come to college excited for freedom, ready to figure out just what we’re supposed to be, but I can assure you that’s easier said than done.

After all this time, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, and I think that’s okay. While I have about a month to figure it out, most of you have four years, four years to be whatever you want to be. I hope some of what I’ve learned over the years can help you discover what you want to be.

Taylor and another girl pose in front of a mural on the river wall that says Welcome to Cape Girardeau Missouri 

Take Chances

I’m sure all your relatives already told you as you headed off to college, "Try new things!" And, I hate to break it to you, but they're right. The beautiful thing about leaving your hometown and going somewhere new is being able to try things you wouldn't have before. Take classes because they interest you, not always because you need them to graduate. Some of my favorite classes have been the ones I took just because I wanted to. Try new foods, try new hobbies, meet new people. I swear there is a club for everything at SEMO. I live by this: Try anything once, and if you hate it, at least you learned something about yourself.

We’re Human

If there’s one thing you should take away from your experience in college, it’s learning humility. You're going to mess up, you'll probably offend someone, or completely forget about an exam that’s been planned for weeks. You might even fall down the stairs a time or two. You can’t be afraid to try something new because you're afraid to fail at it, that’s no way to live. The times you fail will teach you infinitely more than the times everything goes smoothly. Growing up, my dad always reminded me that someone out there will always be taller, faster, smarter, etc. As I get older, I’ve realized none of that really matters because at the end of the day, we're all still human.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my time here, it’s that if someone approaches you about an opportunity, it’s because they believe you are completely capable of handling it. College provides you with opportunities that would be hard to come by elsewhere. Study abroad, run a marathon, join a club sport, be a TA, go sledding on the hill outside Towers. I’ve always been a planner, and I’m someone that becomes ill at the thought of change. However, some of my favorite memories are the ones that happened out of nowhere. Spontaneity will be your best friend.

Know Yourself

Now, I probably sound like I’m contradicting myself, but at the end of the day, trust your gut. No one knows you better than you know yourself. If you're feeling run down, rest. It took me a long time to learn how to say "no" to things. Take the time to realize when something is not mutually beneficial. Not everything has to be a "resume builder." While that’s important, so is your well-being.

Best of Luck

My final piece of advice before bidding this campus adieu is you have the rest of your life to stress about things, enjoy this experience. Remember, you're supposed to be growing and changing right now, don't beat yourself up if things don't look how you pictured them at some moments along the way. Believe in yourself, find your people, and trust the process. I wish you all the best of luck.

-Taylor VanAusdall