Haven’t found your place yet? That’s okay.


Lavette Williams

This summer, I got to attend Student Orientation, Advisement and Registration (SOAR) and to manage a table for The Flor-Ala. My job was to promote the newspaper and to get incoming students interested in volunteering for us. It was a job that brought about a sense of excitement as it was my first time returning to campus since the spring semester, but also a sense of nostalgia.

As a girl with her curly hair and glasses scribbled her name on our volunteer sheet, I couldn’t help but see myself in her.

I remembered what it was like coming in as a freshman – new and eager to find a place on campus. I remembered walking around at SOAR, glancing at all the organizations and thinking, “Where in the world am I going to fit in?”

Like most of the incoming students, I had no idea what I was going to do as freshly declared journalism major. I was creative writer. I wrote poetry, prose, short stories and occasionally, I journaled. If I’m being completely transparent with you, I did not know what time and dedication went into being a journalist. All I knew is that I wanted to get involved, that I wanted to write.

I know I went up to just about every table, from sororities to Freshman Forum. I asked questions and took advantage of the free merch they were handing out. Still, nothing really stood out to me.

That’s when I found The Flor-Ala. Or rather, I like to say that it found me.

At the time, two staff members were at the table. If I remember correctly, it was Karah Wilson, the Managing Editor at the time, and Evelyn Beckman, a graphic designer. They were explaining to a group of curious students what Student Media was and what volunteering for the newspaper entailed.

After listening, I remember scrawling my name and email. I had even picked up an issue they had laid out on the table. Later that night, when I got back to Olive Hall, I remember reading the newspaper and saying to my sister, who had been my SOAR roommate, “I wanna do this.”

Now, a senior at the University of North Alabama and Editor-in-Chief of The Flor-Ala, I watched as the SOAR counselors led their groups through the Guillot University Center (GUC) and wait patiently for my table to find students.

I realize that it’s not always like this. Not always instant. Some students, feeling put on the spot and rushed, don’t make those connections at SOAR. That’s OK. Some students sign up to be a part of organizations at the Big Deal or decide to participate in a group later on in the semester. That’s OK too.

I also understand that not everyone comes into college with a decided major, not everyone knows what they want to do. Again, that’s OK.

High schools pressure students to make a decision of what you want to do early in the year. High school Lavette wanted to major in English and minor in Creative Writing. As you can see, that changed. I know people who were journalism majors and changed mid-junior year to something more fitting.

I’m here to tell you, it is OK to not have a place on campus … just yet. That is what college is for, for figuring it all out so that, by the time you graduate, you’re ready to go out into the “real world” with more certainty, with more confidence than you came in with.

Sure, I found home in The Flor-Ala, but I did not start that way. I came into UNA just as flustered, just as nervous and just as lost as many of you might be right now. I came in with no clear game plan. But, what I did do is take a leap of faith. I saw something I thought was interesting and I went for it.

My advice to all incoming students is to go for it. Go see what organizations UNA has to offer. There are so many inclusive groups in search of new members, so many resume builders, so many networking opportunities. If you do not know what an organization is, I want to encourage you to do your research. Go to una.edu and look up what the organization is about. Find out what it stands for and the time commitment that goes into becoming a member.

Another thing you could do is speak to your advisor. They are your advisor for a reason – not to get your access code at the end of each semester, but to help you and to guide you. Sit down with them and ask them the questions you might be too anxious to ask an organization’s leader, ask them what groups pair well with your major.

Four years down the road, managing a table of your own at SOAR, you will be thankful that you did.