Advice to the Younger Me
Reflecting on My Time at the University of Minnesota
By Elizabeth Weaver
Before I even set foot on campus as a freshman, I had already chosen what extra-curricular activity I wanted to get involved in. Kickboxing. That was until the University of Minnesota Ballroom Dance Club held an introduction to Ballroom Dance in the Coffman Great Hall called "Fall Into Dance."
Since classes had not started yet, I decided to go and check it out. What I found was pretty cool, and I was told about the Club and Competition Team. Auditions were happening that upcoming Friday so I said to myself, "Why not try it?" and decided to go. The day of auditions came quickly and I had no idea what to expect. Arriving at Bierman Gym, I was already late and putting on my heels as fast as I could. Nervous I was going to miss something important, I ran across the gym to get in line.
In the process of rushing, I tripped on my own feet, falling to my knees in front of every student in the audition. If that isn't everyones idea of how to introduce yourself to 50 new people where being a coordinated human being for dance is essential, I don't know what is.
Following try-outs, I learned that I made it onto the University of Minnesota Ballroom Dance Club Competition Team. Once part of the team, I never looked back. Dancing ten-plus hours a week, learning countless styles of dance, prepping for competitions, and bonding with my partners and teammates was something I quickly started looking forward to. Traveling 14 hours by bus to Ohio Star Ball to compete in the USA Dance National Collegiate DanceSport Championships was something everyone on the team couldn't wait for, unlike most normal people who would have dreaded such a lengthy voyage.
Semester after semester, practice after practice, competition after competition, my teammates and I kept coming back. This sport and form of self-expression, was something we couldn't escape, nor did we want to escape. We loved our team and our sport and there was nothing you could do to discourage us from it.
This past semester, I experienced many "last times" as I will be graduating this coming spring. My last time traveling to Ohio to compete in the collegiate circuit, my last "Secret Penguin" gift exchange with the team, one of my last semesters as the Club Secretary. It all seems so surreal at this moment, but I couldn't have asked for a better team, experience, or support network to help me through my four years at the U of M.
Looking back, I wish I could have given myself some of the perspective I have now. Back then I was determined to always have a plan of attack. I wanted to know what my upcoming plans for the future were, was frustrated if I didn't have them figured out, and was even more flustered if the ones I had were changed. When I was a freshman, if I could have predicted the number of times my plans would change in the near future, I most likely would have had a heart attack. My plans have changed so many times now, I can barely remember what they were when I started. And oddly enough, I am very much okay with that.
I never accounted for the fact that my plans could change and I didn't want to leave room for that to happen. But if I hadn't allowed them to, I wouldn't be the person that I am today. At the beginning I had no intention of joining a team like the one at the University of Minnesota, let alone the competitive ballroom dance team. Yet today I cannot imagine my undergraduate career without the support and experiences provided by being part of a this team.
If I had any advice to give to those beginning their college careers, it would be this: embrace change and involve yourself. You may come into college with a plan already created, but then you get here and college says "I think I found you something better". I've found that it's best to involve yourself in anything and everything, following where your experiences take you. You may never know what the plan is, but when you find out, I advise that you listen. Do not be afraid to follow whatever direction it takes you, or embrace the changes ahead.