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Unread 02-03-2005, 03:24 PM
Erin Rapacki's Avatar
Erin Rapacki Erin Rapacki is offline
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College FIRSTers: What was your transitional year?

I’ve been noticing a trend among many of the college students who participate in FIRST. There seems to be a year during a student’s college career when they either tone down their involvement in FIRST, replace some tasks for others, or quit FIRST entirely. I’d like to know, if you happened to participate in FIRST during college, if there was a transitional year for you and what you’re your circumstances. Did you plan ahead to take a break? Did it come up unexpectedly (exp: semester abroad)? Were you going to have an anxiety attack due to stress and decided that school/life was more important? What happened, and what were the results of your decision?

I’ve observed that many students who are just entering college (freshmen and sophomores) continue to be very excited about the program. They are mentors now, fantastic! They acquire new responsibilities, new ambitions, and over-involve themselves to the point of ignoring other obligations. They believe themselves to be fantastic mentors when in fact it is a misunderstanding; they are substituting over-involvement for ability to mentor well. They forget that it’s about quality and not about quantity.

Then, something hits!

{College student thinks} “Is it a chemical imbalance? What is happening! Should I feel bad that I don’t feel like doing FIRST much this year? Should I force myself to continue with tradition and build a robot? Or, should I take this year off and take the break my mind and body are craving? But wait! I’ll disappoint all my friends within FIRST because I’m not doing it this year. Ok, I’ll do it. I don’t want to upset everyone else. But, for some reason I’m not into it. Why?”

I’ve seen college students come back from this “year off” and be better mentors than ever before. I’ve also seen people never come back; they wore themselves too thin over the years. My opinion is this “year off” is a signature year from when a college student grows-up from a “recreate my high school FIRST team fun” phase into “become a true good FIRST mentor” phase. Do you agree or disagree? Why? What is your story?

When questioning my own involvement last year I felt bad because (I thought) I would be disappointing many other people. I spoke to somebody who works at FIRST HQ about my situation and they simply said, “It doesn’t matter how much/little you do, as long as you stay involved somehow.” This helped me feel a lot better. My decision was to step back from any kind of direct team involvement and focus only on the Beantown Blitz, Conferences, build:Boston:FIRST, and volunteering at events. I am proud of that decision and I can still feel good about making a difference.

If any of you college students in ChiefDelphi Land are going through a similar situation right now, this thread is meant to help you out. The idea is that if you stick to your priorities and trim-the-fat of being over-involved in FIRST, you will probably be a better mentor in the long run. There’s a lot to life out there, and college is the perfect time to explore every curiosity.
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