A university’s academic prestige comes in the quality of its professors, class variety, libraries and other resources. However, there so many unexpected perks that come with living on a college campus. And you don’t have to be loaded with cash (as university students rarely are) to be able to participate, you just have to be on the lookout and quick to take chances. Here is a look back at the cool opportunities I have been able to take advantage of and the ways I was able to get involved.

Operas, Ballets, and the Performing Arts

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The Inside of the SF Opera House

Before starting college this year I had never attended an opera or professional ballet performance in my life. At the beginning of the year, I couldn’t imagine they would become part of my freshman experience. That was until I got an email from my Resident Fellow offering a trip to see Tosca at the SF Opera House for no charge at all, even transportation was covered! It was lots of fun and I never imagined an opera to have such an engaging narrative.

After that night, I felt very lucky and almost certain I wasn’t going to be visiting such an opulent building again any time soon. That was until I found myself there again during winter quarter to watch Don Quixote ballet, courtesy of my RF. Most recently I was there again with a group of friends to watch the Romeo and Juliet ballet, once again transportation and tickets paid for. I found it very important to keep an eye on my email inbox and respond to these opportunities as fast as possible. In a matter of minutes all the spots fill up and a long wait-list begins.

Other performing art opportunities on college campuses are student productions, in all shapes and sizes. One way to get involved is to participate in the productions! And you don’t have to be an actor, there are many behind the scenes roles like set and costume design. Or if you just want to watch the performance, many of them are free or of reduced cost to students. For the pricier productions, there sometimes are opportunities to get free tickets by ushering and such. There is no excuse to not at least attend a handful of plays and musicals throughout your time at college.

Speakers

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Journalist and writer Jeff Chang giving a presentation

Students often think that prestigious speakers only grace Ivy League  schools like Harvard and Princeton with their presence. That is a myth,  i.e. Obama spoke at what once was a community college back in my  hometown only a year ago.

Most college campus receive a number of  interesting speakers throughout the year, it’s only a matter of being  informed, signing up quickly, and luck. I’ve had the opportunity to meet  novelist Ruth Ozeki, see a community leader panel about Ferguson, hear  Jeff Chang talk about his new book, attend a discussion about graphic  novels featuring Marjane Satrapi, and  ask William Deresiewicz a few  questions. Many times when the speaker  isn’t a celebrity like Oprah or  Obama, these events face a lack of  attendance by the student body. Take  advantage of that but don’t assume  all events are like that so make sure  to reach the venue early.

Miscellaneous!

There are too many activities that colleges offer to even classify sometimes: visits to local landmarks (Alcatraz in my case), art exhibitions and museums, and even trips to other cities or other states! For some you may have to apply but for others it’s just a matter of sending a quick email to an organizer to show your interest. The worst case scenario you continue in your daily life, the best case scenario is that you get to do something mega cool! Each college has unique opportunities, take advantage.



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the author

Andrea Villa is a freshman at Stanford University, hoping to major in Comparative Literature or Art History, if her rogue interest in Astronomy doesn’t get in the way. Born in Bogota, Colombia but raised in Miami, Andrea’s upbringing has consisted of multicultural blend of Latin American influences. A strong believer in the power of hard work and merit, she maintains that financial difficulties do not have to be obstacles to success. As a Gates and Questbridge scholar, Andrea aims to spread awareness about these and other programs that lend a helping hand to low income students. Her life goals include publishing a novel and travelling everywhere. She is an avid reader of fiction, fantasy, historical nonfiction, and anything else that seems interesting. Andrea loves languages; she is fluent in English and Spanish and has studied French, German, and Japanese in the past. When not working or reading or studying, Andrea can be found restlessly looking for something to do.

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