You will not carve out your path on your own.
Maybe you plan to concoct the new, educated, and worldly college you all by yourself. You’re ready to show up at college and shake it for all it’s worth. Maybe you think you know what you want to do and the person that you want to be. But part of academic integrity, for me, was open-mindedness, recognizing how much there is to learn and realizing the immense number of paths there are in any academic field— many more than you could start to imagine on your own.
Luckily, mentors will be there at every turn. People will inspire you with their stories, if you listen. Professors will be happy to broaden your horizons in class, but also often to work with you one-on-one. They’ll field your interests and help match you to academic pursuits you may not have dreamed of for yourself— or that you may not have even known existed. Initially, I had sworn myself off scientific research as I was attracted to medical practice…that is, until an understanding professor encouraged to me to discover research that I loved, through which I learned more about the field of medicine than I did in perhaps any pre-med course I took in college. Just like my professor did, mentors are willing to help recognize the potential in you and redirect you to opportunities that will bring out your best. Mentors’ advice will help you graduate as the most informed, experienced, and thoughtful version of yourself, so never be afraid to seek out those who inspire you and ask for their help.
Sometimes I found mentors in the most unlikely of places, as you likely will too. Peers are an especially underutilized resource. One rainy day on an overcrowded bus, I overheard two men in the seat behind me discussing their applications to a minor program in global public health, a discipline and program I had never considered before. Their discussion intrigued my own interests in culture and health and that was that…. My eavesdropping turned into a minor, which turned into a major, which turned into a college degree on the topic. You never know who will have an impact on your life, so my best advice is to keep an open mind and your ears pricked for opportunity. These two men inadvertently taught me the way to turn some of my interests into my deepest academic passion today.
Just as you never know who will have an impact on you, part of academic integrity is to be cognizant of the impact you’re having on others. One day, you’ll find yourself to be the student leader (and eventually, professional) in your field. Seek to return the favor by offering a helping hand to those who come after you, and you might just learn more about yourself in the process. I wish I had known from the start that others were always as willing to share their knowledge as I am now, to help the pre-meds and scholars who follow in my footsteps.