By MATTHEW SIMONS
As college students, we often get caught up in our own little worlds in which we don’t retain much of a connection to the outside world. Colleges and universities are often accused of creating their own bubbles of existence separate from the rest of the community and the world, and these accusations aren’t exactly unfounded either.
As higher education institutions often tend to function on a different wavelength than the status quo, it can be difficult to connect with surrounding communities and identify with their zeitgeist. This isn’t to say that we’re completely in the wrong; colleges and universities are places that foster innovation, new ideas, and progressive ideals often more effectively than the outside world.
Nevertheless, we must remain aware of the elitist, intellectual stereotype that surrounds college life because, like most stereotypes, the stigma surrounding colleges as isolated institutions has some truth to it. So, as students who exist in the college bubble, we must make an effort to shed the stigma of our elitism and address the privilege we have to spend four years and a lot of money on developing our intellect and learning from mistakes. One of the ways to achieve that goal is to volunteer.
Complacency with living detached from the surrounding world is a privilege, one that often goes unnoticed. As young adults who attend an institution of higher learning, for many of us, all we have to worry about is getting good grades, making friends, and managing our Tiger Bucks. Obviously, there are many other issues that students deal with, including mental health issues, financial problems, and family issues, but nevertheless we are privileged compared to the rest of the world with the issues we face in our identities as college students.
This partly changes once we enter into the “real world,” where there is a lot more uncertainty regarding our future, even though hopefully a Colorado College education will equip us with the tools to handle those situations. College is a testing ground for life after the fact. In college, there are plenty of worries to be had and mistakes to be made, but consequences are often much less grave than if we were to make those same mistakes later in life.
Young adults and college students have a propensity towards remaining very concerned about their own lives. In a sense, we lack empathy. But CC has no shortage of paths to begin expressing some empathy. Just looking through the list of clubs, you can engage with Amnesty International, Best Buddies, FemCo, Prison Project, and many other clubs with altruistic motives to better the world around them.
There is no shortage of people who participate in these clubs, but there are still many more students who do not engage with these opportunities. These students are missing out on an opportunity to make the world around them a better place, as well as an opportunity to become a better person and add experiences of intrinsic value to their life.
In high school, I participated in clubs that organized school, sport, and social events for students with special needs. I would eat lunch with dtudents with special needs from my high school, or play basketball with them, or just socialize at club-organized events. Since arriving at CC, I haven’t been involved in those types of clubs, and I miss that a lot.
There’s a lot we, as college students, can learn from people who don’t have the same opportunities to succeed in life as we do. Volunteering gives us some perspective on how easy our lives are, in relative comparison to many others who struggle to find their next meal or to exist in a society that doesn’t provide adequate accommodations for different abilities. Especially in Colorado Springs, one doesn’t have to go far to see that there is a homeless epidemic in this city, that there are many people living in poverty.
There are abundant opportunities to get involved and help these people or the environment; all we have to do is take a peek out of our bubble and try to escape the solipsistic path of the college existence. And if for nothing else, one only has to take a quick look online to see that volunteering is healthy and is beneficial to yourself and the people or environment you’re helping.
Humans have an intrinsic drive to do good, we just sometimes get lost in our own problems and forget about the rest of the world. If we can break the chain of individual isolationism that we have wrapped around ourselves, then we will be able to make ourselves and the world around us a better place.