This story ran as part of a VCU Student Media Center summer special publication, The Compass, which serves as a guidebook for new students.
Georgia Geen, Executive Editor
The experiences college and a new city have to offer are as diverse and endless as you make them. For those who stuck to themselves in their hometowns, VCU can be an opportunity to branch out and find new passions. If you’re adventurous, you might be champing at the bit to take advantage of all Richmond has to offer.
Wherever you might lie on that spectrum, some of the following experiences are, for better or worse, integral to the college experiences of many students. Keep them in mind when you’re thinking of how to make the most of your time at VCU.
- Travel as far as your bank account allows
The broke college student trope is accurate, and exorbitant trips are impossible for most. But it’s also a time when most are freer than they ever have been. If you’re lucky enough to still have some financial support from your parents, it’s also probably a time when you’ll have much more free time and fewer obligations than in the rest of your adult life. Full-time jobs don’t give you two and a half months off every summer.
If you can budget a long weekend at a cheap Airbnb with friends at the beach, the mountains, D.C. or even New York, do it. It won’t have all the fixings of an exorbitant vacation, but the adventure of being in an exciting place with friends brings a sort of creativity and spontaneity to even the simplest outing.
- Party every once in a while, if that’s your thing …
Let’s just say, “every once in a while” can mean many different things, because time is relative. So long as you take precautions, such as taking care to only go out with people you know and trust — though that doesn’t guarantee safety — keeping track of how many drinks you’ve had, making sure you don’t leave your drink unattended and always serving your own drink, it’s okay to explore that part of yourself. You might not have the time or energy to have those kinds of experiences and make those kinds of memories again. It’ll at least make for some good stories.
- … but develop a few healthy habits.
Even if it’s something simple, like learning to cook healthy food, budgeting your money or improving your skincare, working a few things into your life that make you a more functional adult will help you in the long run. You might want to learn to communicate better, set boundaries or exercise regularly. College provides an extremely rigid structure for your year — each semester can be an opportunity to improve and reinvent yourself.
- Build connections with faculty
Regardless of your major, your professors are assets to you. You won’t click with every instructor, but if a professor interests and inspires you, take advantage of their office hours. Beyond the obvious — that you need a few professors to like you so they’ll serve as references or recommendation-letter-writers — instructors often have a lot of knowledge about and connections in your field.
Not to say that you shouldn’t try in all your classes, but put extra effort into being attentive and engaged in their courses. Ask questions, make it obvious you’ve done the work, and try to stay connected after the semester ends by taking their other classes or emailing them to start a quick conversation if something interesting comes up in your field.
- Get to know Richmond
Absolutely no shade, there’s more to Richmond than the 800 block of Broad Street, Rumors and the Village Cafe. Get to know restaurants, parks, museums and other attractions in all parts of the city. Go to a house show advertised on a flier on a brick wall, take a walk through Shockoe Bottom, look for volunteer opportunities and try a new restaurant in a different part of town every time you eat out. Wherever you go and whatever you do, remember to be respectful of the businesses and people who call Richmond their permanent home, and, in many cases, have done so for years.