College: The Desolation of Comfort Zones

Going to college is reminiscent of Bilbo Baggins’ journey to the Lonely Mountain, with its own set of orcs, dwarves, and mysteriously frustrating wizards along the way. One of the most intense things I’ve experienced on my own journey through my first year is how my comfort zone—my own personal hobbit hole—has been demolished. A group of dwarves, otherwise referred to as ‘responsibilities’, have stormed into my home, eaten all my food, and left me wondering how exactly I got into this mess.

And yet, I’ll continue on the adventure with them.

I have three different roles I play while attending college, alongside being a student: I am a Cox Scholar, an ACE, and a not-exactly intern at the IU Office of Sustainability. What do I mean by ‘not-exactly’? I mean that my role in the Office is slightly different from that of a normal intern. There’ll be more on that later.

I’m going to try and explain the work that each of these organizations does, and how that work is slowly and steadily chipping away at my personal insecurities.

Sure, I’d love to go back to my little hobbit hole of comfort, with all my books and quiet moments. However, like Bilbo, I’m too far into my adventure to turn back now, and personally, I believe I’m better off for it.

Working as an ACE

The acronym ‘ACE’ stands for ‘Advocate for Community Engagement’. ACEs are partnered with campus groups or community groups across Bloomington in order to connect the campus to the city via service learning. Service learning allows students from certain courses across IU to work with an organization in order to further the students’ learning experience and to benefit the organization.

ACEs, who are also Cox Engagement Scholars, meet every two weeks in order to work on improving their work ethic and to further their knowledge about organization or leadership. These ‘Bi-weekly Meetings’ allow ACEs to get to know each other, as well, and create a sense of companionship throughout the group. To further that sense of companionship, ACEs are divided into ‘Cluster Groups’ that meet on a monthly basis for lunch or other activities. These groups exist so that the ACEs to get to know each other better and so that they can feel more comfortable sharing with each other.

That aspect of comfort is important, because at the end of the year, ACEs are required to present the work of their organizations through a variety of forms (posters, videorecordings, etc) in front of each other as well as in front of visiting guests from both ACE organizations and businesses throughout Bloomington.

I’ve never held a position quite like the ACE position that I have now. The work process behind being an ACE requires incredible communication skills and the confidence to ask for what you want. It also requires the flexibility to meet the needs of others, and the self-awareness to take responsibility for any mistakes you make. Believe me, reader: I’ve made plenty of mistakes. We’re human, you and me, and that’s natural. 

However, I’ve never been shamed for those mistakes, and I believe that the response I’ve received when I admit to my mistakes is what is making me a better person. I’ve been encouraged to always improve, especially after I’ve messed up. Because I’m so new to this program, being allowed a ‘learning curve’ is extremely reassuring.

Working as a Scholar

All ACEs are Cox Engagement Scholars, but the activities that ACEs do are not the same ones that the Cox Scholars as a whole do. Over the school year there are various opportunities for Cox Scholars to meet up with one another through events like the Cox Etiquette Dinner or a night out at a basketball game. These events serve not only to bring the Coxes closer together, but also to allow the Coxes to grow in knowledge and organizational ability. Coxes are chosen for their scholarships because they meet a set of high standards, exhibited by Jesse Cox and encouraged by the leading members of the Cox Scholarship organization. The events Coxes attend allow them to continue to build themselves up around these standards and encourages them to continue to learn and grow.

Living up to the legacy can be intimidating and difficult, but the community provided by the Cox Scholars is a welcoming one. A student will never feel as though there are tasks that he or she has to do without guidance or support. Those tasks can be related to scholarship related work, or to general schoolwork. It is important to note that, while there are many responsibilities placed on Cox Scholars, the organization always understands that education comes first, and they are incredibly supportive of anyone who comes to them asking for help.

I have personal experience with going to the ‘head honchos’ for assistance for help with tasks outside of my Scholar-related work.

Unlike the fabulous gentleman above, Abby Englert, the woman in charge of the Scholars, is a wonderful lady to talk to. Whether you’re worried about school or questioning exactly how you ended up with all these responsibilities in the first place, she's willing to lend an ear (or an email) to talk to you about it. When I was sitting in my dorm, asking myself what I had done to prove myself worthy of this scholarship, Abby was willing to clarify. Her words really gave me a confidence boost and allowed me to continue to better myself over the course of the year.

Working at the Office

The IU Office of Sustainability operates out of the E-House, an environmentally beneficial building on 10th Street.  The people there work to spread information about sustainability across the Bloomington campus. By dividing interns and staff into working groups, the Office is able to focus on multiple aspects of sustainability, such as recycling, sustainable technology, academic research dedicated to sustainability, and other such ideas.

My work within the Office involves not only the sustainability working groups, but also the IU professors. It is my job to connect the projects that the working groups have begun and a class that a professor wants to teach in order to enrich the learning experience for some students as well as to spread more information about sustainability across campus.

Working at the Office has opened my eyes to a whole new world of tasks that need to be completed and ideas that need to be brought into life. The people I interact with are wonderful, welcoming, and incredibly dedicated to what they believe in. Working alongside these people has allowed me to dedicate myself, as well, because I don’t want to disappoint their passion.

Looking Forward

There have been a lot of mountains in my way during this journey, and the biggest one is still looming in the distance. However, alongside the people I work with and the people who encourage me, I know that I will be able to find my way to the top of Lonely Mountain. The dragon inside that mountain better keep an eye open, because I’m on my way, and this college-hobbit isn’t done just yet.

The blogger would like to apologize for the excessive use of Hobbit images in this blog. All images credited to the Hobbit and Google Images.

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About The Author
Celia DanielsEnglish Major, Class of 2017

I am a junior majoring in English and minoring in Spanish and Psychology this year.

I spend a lot of my time working with the IU Office of Sustainability through my Cox Engagement Scholarship. I'm also hold two other positions with RPS. It's been a busy year so far, and it looks like it's only going to get busier.