Three years ago, I wrote a column offering advice to my then-graduating oldest daughter. I didn't know if she would read it, let alone heed the advice, but I wrote the column anyway.
This year, daughter No. 2 is graduating from high school. I now offer her, and all other graduating seniors, the same service.
Take time to travel and see the world. Without ties or commitments, such as family and jobs, now is the best time to experience new places and people. Although travel costs money, there are many opportunities for students, such as study abroad, alternate spring breaks, the Peace Corps, church mission trips and so on, where one can experience the world without spending a fortune. Get out of Aberdeen, and South Dakota, if only for a short time. Immerse yourself in another culture or community to experience new languages, religions, values, beliefs and ways of living.
With experience of other cultures comes understanding and empathy, which in turn allows you to better understand your place in the global community. It also helps you to appreciate the life you live every day and the blessings that are often overlooked. Most of us are accustomed to things like running water, flush toilets and other amenities that we think of as necessities. Try going without either one for of these for a while, even if just for a couple weeks out camping, and see if you gain a newfound appreciation for the simple things that most of us take for granted.
Get involved. Do more than just go to class or go to your job. For those going to college, get involved in some of the numerous extracurricular activities available. You can be a member of a professional organization, join a club, participate in an activity, attend a church, volunteer to tutor, get involved with an intramural sport or other campus activities. Not only are you networking and meeting new people, future employers will take note of your activities and involvement.
My last bit of advice for the high school graduate is to find what you love to do and make a career of it. Now, if you are like my oldest daughter, it took about three tries to find what she enjoys doing. But this is the time to experiment and make mistakes. If, however, you are like my second daughter, you might already know where your passion lies. Either way, remember that if you are going to work 40 hours a week for more than 40 years of your life, it will be a lot easier (and a lot more fun) to do that when you are excited and happy to go to work.
Graduation is an exciting time filled with hope and endless possibilities. Like any ending, it is just a new beginning. Tomorrow is fresh, with no mistakes in it, so seize the day and make the most of every opportunity.
Alan L. Neville is an associate professor of education at Northern State University. The views are his and do not represent Northern State University.