3 Things I Miss About College Now That I’m an Adult

My sister graduated from Michigan State this year and it made me yearn for my college days!

My sister graduated from Michigan State this year and it made me yearn for my college days!

As thousands of college students across the country become college alumni over the next month or so, I’ve been spending time reflecting on my college days. It’s been especially pertinent this year as my sister joined the ranks of Michigan State graduates (Go Green!) a few weeks ago and I got to go back to campus.

One of the things that always strikes me when I think back to college are all the things I miss. Sure there was the sleeping in and social time, but there were also a lot of other things you might not typically think of that I wish could continue today. Even though I love my job and a regular paycheck, you have to admit that these things were pretty great.

Setting your own schedule
In college, I would go to work for 2-3 hours in the morning, get lunch, go to class, do some homework, and then go to a club in the evening. Then the next day, it’d be a totally different routine. I got everything done, but did it on my time when it was most convenient — no 9-5 repetition.

Getting to have a variety of experiences
My senior year of school, I was working three jobs, freelance writing and participating in multiple clubs. There’s nothing quite like that in the real world (unless you’re a freelancer) where you can get such a diversity of professional experiences and networking opportunities.

Creating your own stress
Due to the number of things I participated in and the class load I took, I always felt that I was busy and under pressure from somewhere. It wasn’t until I moved into a full-time job that I realized how wonderful it is to have stress put on you by no one but yourself. If something was too much, I didn’t have to do it. In the working world, though, there’s pressure from so many more outside forces — coworkers, supervisors, clients, looming deadlines — that you can’t just walk away from if you feel like you need a breather.

Now, that’s not to say that moving into a career isn’t awesome (I’ll write about that later), but a word of advice to students everywhere: take advantage of every moment and don’t wish it away too quickly — there will never be another time in your life quite like college.

Win or lose, I’m always proud to be a Spartan

Like most of my fellow Michigan State Spartans, I was feeling a little depressed yesterday afternoon. Despite great effort, our basketball team fell to UConn in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. Along with many sports analysts and bracket builders across the country, I had hoped this year would be the year they made it to the national championship. But, alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

Five years at Michigan State gave me some of my favorite people and great friends.

It’s often easy to get swept up in the ups and downs of college sports. For alumni like me, you’re invested in your school and want their success more than anything (especially when you’re going up against your rivals). But when losses like these happen, I have to step back and remind myself that a basketball team is not even close to the most important thing I got from my time at Michigan State. In my five years on campus, it was far more important that I gained:

  • An amazing fiance. While we actually met before college, Michigan State was where we started our relationship, learned about one another, grew as a couple and made the decision to face the real world hand-in-hand, for the long haul.
  • Absolutely great friends. Some of my best friends are those I met through FFA or NAMA or other classes in the College of Ag and Natural Resources. I wouldn’t have gotten through college – and it sure wouldn’t have been as much fun – without them.
  • A professional network. Whether it was through internships, on-campus jobs or participation in various clubs, the professional network I continue to reach out to today is the one I started building during my time in East Lansing.
  • My favorite memories. By the time graduation rolls around, every senior is just ready to be done. You’re done with classes and studying and exams. You’re ready to be in the real world, making money. And everyone tells you to savor those moments as a college student but I – just like all the students who came before me and those who have and will come after – didn’t really believe it. Now that I’m three years out of school, though, I savor those memories of club meetings and hanging out in the dorms and walking through old campus. It was a great time in life and an experience I will be ever grateful for.

As someone posted on Twitter, “We’ve won a lot of yesterdays. We’ll win a lot of tomorrows. We just didn’t win today.” It’s always hard to not reach your goal, but I’d harken to say that being proud of your school and thankful for the time you spent there means that you’re already a winner – no matter what the scoreboard says.

Lessons from a quarterback: Focusing on mistakes gets you nowhere

Michigan State Football Team

My Michigan State Spartans have been struggling this year, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get back up and try again. We could all use that lesson every now and again. Photo credit: NCAAF–Fan IQ Blog

It’s hard to believe that we’re more than a quarter of the way through college football season already. When my Michigan State Spartans run on to the field and the fight song plays, I can’t help but get excited – even if it is just from my living room several states away.

But, here’s the thing – the Spartans have been struggling this season. It was almost laughable to watch the game of musical chairs happening at the quarterback position for the first few games and watching the defense score points almost as well as the offense. It’s “growing pains” like these that are hard to watch as a fan sometimes.

One of the things that does impress me, though, is that no matter what play gets screwed up or ball gets dropped or catch gets missed, the team can’t spend time dwelling on the mistake. They have no choice but to brush it off, learn from it and try to do better next time.

How many times do we need to take this lesson from our favorite football (or basketball or rugby or Quidditch) team and apply it to our personal or professional lives? As a perfectionist, I know I’m guilty of taking my mistakes or even “That didn’t go as well as it should have” moments way too personally. I waste time thinking “How could I have screwed that up? or “Why did I think ahead enough to prevent that?” and place the blame solely on my shoulders.

Instead, wouldn’t it be more productive if we thought “Now that we’re here, what can I do to fix this?” or “What can I learn from this to make it a better experience next time?” or “Is this really as bad as I’m making it out to be or does it only feel messed up because I know how it should have gone?” (a big one for many brides, I think). What if we thought less about punishing ourselves and more about personal growth? In my experience, you’re often the only one expecting perfection, so give yourself a break and learn from every “game”.

Because, remember, just because you took a sack doesn’t mean the next play won’t be a hail Mary straight to the end zone. Touchdown.

AgChat conference perfect for college aggies

Since I recently graduated from Michigan State (Go Green!) and just took an awesome full-time position a couple of days ago, I’d like to think that I’ve done a pretty good job at preparing for “the real world” and that I can offer some halfway decent advice to college students and recent graduates. My big piece of advice today for those college aggies out there: apply for the AgChat Foundation Agvocacy 2.0 Social Media Training Conference!

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The pride and tradition of being pure

There’s something about being involved with purebred livestock that just makes my heart swell with pride. Now, that’s not to say anything is wrong with raising commercial livestock – I’m grateful for every farmer that produces the vast majority of what I eat every day – but there’s something to be said for getting around people that have such a deep history in raising outstanding animals.

Like many others, the start of my livestock career focused mainly the county fair. Having only a market show, our goal has always been to develop the best market hog out there – usually the result of crossbreeding. Now, while I will say that I love the market hog aspect (my most favorite set of hogs – Grand Champion Pen! – were a set of crossbred “blue butts”), I developed a whole new appreciation and pride for breeding hogs when I got involved with the National Junior Swine Association, the junior leg of the National Swine Registry.

A Duroc boar from Shipley Genetics in Ohio. Animals like this can have a huge impact on the breed. (And don't you just love how you could drive a truck between his front legs!? Awesome!)

Breeding purebred animals, for me, is an entirely different mindset. Instead of breeding solely for type, you breed for characteristics that will improve the breed – and in turn, all hogs – in the long run. You want to breed Yorkshires and Landraces in a way that will add muscle and leanness to their great mothering ability. You want to add mothering ability and sound structure to the great carcass traits that tend to be associated with Durocs and Hampshires. If anyone can remember how far the pendulum swung towards market hogs that were too lean, too shallow bodied and horribly structured in the late 90s, you know how important the purebred industry can be in making our animals better – whether you’re in commercial production or seedstock production. Having that ability to make an impact is the thing that makes all the difference to me.

Yesterday I got to interview the faculty coordinator and farm manager from the purebred beef farm at MSU and they reminded me how it’s great to be a part of raising seedstock, not only for the pride in your animals, but also for the pride in your people. Throughout the history of the purebred livestock industry, there have been outstanding people that have made a difference – both for animals and for others. There are few things greater than getting to listen to older people – and it doesn’t matter if it’s in cattle, swine, sheep, horses, etc. – talk about those that made a difference in their lives when they were a livestock showman or make a difference in the lives of youth now. That’s huge for me.

As you or your children get involved with livestock – and I sincerely hope you do – I would encourage you to consider involvement in the purebred side of the industry. While both seedstock and commercial production are important for the entire industry, it’s definitely a unique experience to be a part of shaping a breed or multiple breeds. I, for one, am extremely honored to be a part of the great pride and tradition associated with being pure.

My life, as shaped by agricultural education

In honor of National Teach Ag Day, I wanted to share my vision of the power of agricultural educators. As the daughter of an ag teacher, I was practically born in a blue, corduroy FFA jacket and had Ag Sales CDE practicums memorized better than the high school kids when I was 10. To this day, it catches me off guard when someone has never heard of high school agricultural education, since I was raised with it from day 1 – my dad’s first year teaching was the year I was born.

Growing up in the classroom, it was really easy to see the impact a single teacher can make on so  many students. When I was 5, I was at the meeting where my dad announced to his chapter officers that he would be leaving the school to take a new position. There were lots of tears and sadness — he had made such a difference in a few short years that these students obviously had formed a connection and did not want him to leave. In the years after we moved, I got to watch as he mentored students who went on to become USDA meat inspectors, agronomy researchers, 4-H leaders, and – like him – ag teachers. I also got to see his former students go on to become more important things, like husbands and wives, moms and dads, and friends. I like to think that, even though not solely responsible, ag teachers do play a role in developing youth so they can be the most successful in the latter roles.

I’m now a senior at Michigan State University and, like my dad, I am majoring in Agriscience Education. Next year, I will student teach with another great ag teacher and work to learn as much as I can about youth, education and agriculture. I’ll admit, I have my moments when I don’t know if being an agriculture teacher is the right career choice for me. Who knows, life may throw a curve ball my way and take me down another path. For the meantime, however, whenever I have one those ‘moments’ I think about my life with agricultural education and the difference ag teachers – including my dad – have made for me. It would be my greatest hope to make that difference for others.