Five years ago, I was a junior in high school with the whole world ahead of me and not a clue in the world of what I wanted to do with my life. I was a three-sport athlete with a respectable throwing arm (part of that can be attributed to being a southpaw), a good head on my shoulders that translated to good grades, and an addiction to the outdoors. When I wasn’t playing baseball I was either fishing or hunting with whoever wanted to split gas that day. I was the definition of an Iowa boy from a small and quiet town. Looking back, I see a lot of clues that just didn’t seem that significant at the time.
Junior year is the time for visiting colleges, and I did exactly that. University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa, ICCC, University of South Dakota, and South Dakota State University were all on the list. Of all those visits, SDSU was the one I disliked the most. My visit took place during the summer when there was nobody around, lots of construction, and buildings that just weren’t quite as fancy as the ones I saw at the Iowa schools. The only reason I visited the school was my dad’s assurance that I would enjoy both the school and the awesome outdoor opportunities.
Senior year rolled in, and I chose University of Northern Iowa with almost half of my graduating class of 60-something. We had all been great friends throughout high school, and it really just seemed easier to stick together than lose touch. Boy was I wrong. The school itself was not the problem, with good resources and good teachers. The reason the school just didn’t appeal to me was an ideological one; I didn’t have the same values as most of the students or the professors, and finding someone who enjoyed trudging decoys through a slough at 3 AM was nearly impossible. Two months in, I decided to revisit SDSU because of their accelerated pharmacy program. This time the visit came in October, and the entire town came alive. By the end of the first semester at UNI, I had decided that the following year I would be transferring to South Dakota State University as a pre-pharmacy student. I had realized how important my roots were, and I wanted to return to them (in the form of moving 5 hours away from home).
The rest is history as they say, and these 5 reasons attribute to why I now call Brookings, SD my home:
- Define yourself
Being five hours from my hometown in a town where I knew nobody before moving here has been a blessing in disguise. I realized that although my family is a science family (both my parents were in the sciences here at SDSU), I am not. It took the move to a place with a wealth of access to the things that I enjoy, to realize a white lab coat was not the best thing for me.
- Learn what you want to learn
The SDSU Economics department is the “business school” of the University, and the opportunities are endless. The professors are not all just academics here for the research, they are actual teachers. This isn’t meant as an insult to universities that have great research programs, because research is the spawn of innovation and it definitely has its place. However, being able to sit down with professors who have worked in top-notch ad agencies, started their own businesses, and succeeded in the real world does a lot more for the average student than an Economics research internship does.
- Small-town values in a not-so-small town
By most people’s standards, Brookings is still a small town. Yet there is still plenty to do, and in comparison to other college towns of its size scattered throughout the midwest it hasn’t lost an ounce of its small-town feel.
- Its not cheap, it has value
The school has one of the lowest tuition rates of anywhere in the country. As a Business Economics major, the usual correlation between price and quality is more than apparent. But it just isn’t the case here at SDSU. The professors here (at least most of them) want to do whatever they can to help you learn. Your classes can’t teach you everything, and its up to you to go the extra step and learn the rest. Your professors want to be the people that help you with that.
- Its who you know
Through my time at SDSU, developing relationships has been easy. Relationships are an intangible resource that has changed the course of both my work and my college life. I’ve worked hard to expand my knowledge as well as my network, and its foolish to not embrace both. Going through college and not reaching out to those who are smarter than you, more experienced than you, or just those who you’d work well with is a major misstep for college students.