As I write this, I am at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, at a summer college program. I got several scholarships that made it possible for me to come here, and I am very excited to have the opportunity!
The class I'm taking is a debate course taught by Sam Nelson, the coach of Cornell's debate team, which happens to be the top team in the world. I've learned a lot, but the most important things I've learned so far come from my overall experience being here.
Since debate involves a lot of public speaking, our professor decided to address the concerns of people who have a fear of public speaking. Personally, I've never been a huge fan of talking in public or giving speeches. When performing in a play, I hardly get nervous at all, but anything that involves talking to an audience gives me butterflies in my stomach.
Mr. Nelson, or Sam, as he prefers to be called, explained that there are two basic approaches to thinking about public speaking.
One involves thinking that you are performing for people and they are going to judge you. This is the method of thought that makes people uncomfortable when giving speeches.
Sam went on to say the other way to think about public speaking is that it's simply a conversation with a group of people. His advice was to be yourself, and be confident; talking in front of a large group of people will become as easy as conversing with a close friend.
Personally, I still need some practice with this approach. However, I've found that this message can be applied to the entire "college" experience I'm having.
When I first arrived, I was very nervous about finding friends here. Suddenly being in a new place with about 800 other high school-aged students, without knowing anyone or knowing my way around, was intimidating to say the least.
But I quickly discovered that everyone else was just as nervous as I was. By showing who I am and not being scared to open up to others, I've made new friends and new memories.
College has become an important coming-of-age expericne for many people -a chance to find out who you can become and what you can do in life, as universities love to advertise in their colorful brochures and websites.
In my opinion, more important than the self-discovery is the confidence that is gained by being independent and learning to interact with other people that you don't know.
Similar to public speaking, most people would prefer to avoid feeling vulnerable in a new place, but they can learn a lot from facing fears and having the guts to be themselves.
The college experience is important in order to build confidence, just as public speaking does. I've learned a lot from being thrown into a new situation, scary as it might be at first.
Although I'm not yet a pro at getting up and talking in front of my class, I have gotten pretty good at meeting new people and being myself without being afraid someone will judge me for it.
Confidence is one of the most valuable qualities a person can have, and my experiences have taught me that I can be me and be proud of it.
Editor's note: Maggie Guter, 17, is a junior at Marquette Senior High School. She is a long time member of 8-18 Media and is also involved in sailing, skiing and piano. Her parents are Jake Guter and Mary Doll of Marquette. 8-18 Media is a youth journalism program of the Upper Peninsula Children's Museum. Through the program, teams of kids write news stories and commentaries on issues important to youth and about any good, or bad, things youth are up to. For more information call 906-226-7874, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.