The Catch With College

By Olivia Macdonald


On paper, college is an opportunity with no runner-up. Nothing can compare to the doors it opens, not by closing the ones you came from, but by connecting you to a world your own doors never could lead to.

In practice, the experience and the degree in your hand undoubtedly put you in a better position for success. College is one of the only ways to develop the skills a person needs to be ready for the world.

If you ask any college student, though, it can be as limiting as it is boundless — quite the paradoxical experience. For those that want to set in motion a surge of change, it becomes painfully apparent how difficult it is to see even a trickle of that change within the confines of a university. You’re in this limbo where you’re supposed to be an independent adult, yet you don’t really feel like an adult at all.

So, what can you do? Here are some ways you can put your passion into practice.

1. Start or join a club. You may think that your efforts and actions won’t make a difference because you’re only one person. If everyone adopts a similar mindset, it sets a wave in motion — and it works both ways. When you get that rush of motivation to clear out your closet and donate the extras to charity, a group of people doing so makes it even more fruitful. On the other side, when you toss that plastic bottle in the garbage because “it’s only one” ultimate means millions of bottles packed into a landfill or drifting into the ocean (and this is the reality).

2. Become a weekday vegetarian or vegan. Because college is a full-time job, becoming a vegetarian or vegan can seem like a commitment — and it is. It involves a sweeping lifestyle change, and that can be tricky, even for people who want to do it due to the limited types of food colleges offer. However, you may consider dedicating weekdays or certain days of the week to eating vegetarian or vegan. Here are some things to know if you want a loose engagement to this diet.

The New York Times reported that farming is responsible for the equivalent of 574 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States each year and 56 million metric tons in Canada. To put it in perspective, worldwide, livestock accounts for between 14.5 percent and 18 percent of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions.

Whether or not veganism/vegetarianism is going to be the way you make a difference, it’s good for your health to limit animal product consumption. If you are conscious of maintaining nutrition in the absence of meat and dairy, plant-based eating has actually been found not to only be sufficient but also progressively beneficial. According to the American Dietetic Association, “appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.”

College is about doing what you can to keep yourself healthy and doing more for yourself when you have the luxury. Even a weekly day of vegetarianism (i.e. Meatless Mondays) can give the environment a break, especially if you can encourage your friends to do it, too!

3. Live with less. Sometimes I wonder if college is a game to see how little you can get by with. Reaching into a fridge brimming with food is a summer luxury, and cereal starts to look pretty tasty for two meals a day. With the mass consumption mindset that plagues our Earth, college can be an opportunity to see how much you can reduce your footprint. If you can find a compost center — at Fordham University, you can try St. Rose’s Garden behind the parking garage—keep as much of your biodegradable waste out of the trash as possible (then you don’t have to buy as many garbage bags, either.

4. Connect with the community outside your campus. A close-knit campus community can make a daunting place feel like home. You start to know who you’ll smile at on your walk to class and who will greet you for your morning coffee. But this home isn’t confined to the perimeters of your campus. If you’re surrounded by a safe area, take the time to explore the communities around you.

5. Vote with your wallet. You can vote at your local polling center, or you can fill in an absentee ballot, but election day isn’t the only day that your values matter. Every time you shop, be mindful of supporting businesses that are sustainable and ethical. If streets trimmed with trash are any indication, NYC and cities around the globe could use our help.

As is the case with many of you, the urge to help a seemingly crumbling world is charged and ready to ignite. Sometimes it’s better to start small to see what you can do with your passion alone. Movements have to start somewhere — why not with you?



Olivia Macdonald, FCRH ’21, is a communications and culture major from Chester, Connecticut.