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Five years ago, when I was beginning my senior year of high school, I never imagined I would study at one of the best public universities in America. My first day of class at the University of California, Irvine was unforgettable. I was starting a new chapter of my life, in which a new and endless world was waiting to be explored.

Recently, UCI was ranked 8th in the “America’s Best Value Colleges” list by Forbes Magazine. Carolina Howard, a Forbes’ staff writer, asserted that the selection and classification of colleges was based on “whether a college will deliver a meaningful return on investment.” However, the real value of a university is too subjective to rank because it is the decision of each student to determine whether it is valuable or not.

Personal and professional growth is nurtured by UCI through the various programs and organizations it offers to its student body. Internships, facilitated by the Career Center, are valuable programs that allow students to gain experience in their fields of interest. On-campus organizations and student clubs provide a similar experience to internships, but in a less formal and pressured environment. Students have the opportunity to be part of student government, clubs, fraternities or sororities, among other organizations. However, it is imperative for students to utilize the benefits the school has to offer. Students can uncover or acquire skills that they may never know they had because they never tried.

Student organizations have inspired me to develop an urgency for self-improvement. Being part of a fraternity encourages people to get out of their comfort zones and explore new opportunities. It encouraged me to join the New University, which informs students about recent events on campus and provides a medium for them to express their opinions. Finally, I joined KUCI Radio, an independent radio station that allows students to share music and discuss important topics within the community. It became a valuable platform to expand my professional horizon (and its environment is cool). With all these opportunities at our disposal, only a fool would not take advantage of at least one of them.

Numerous academic and social events that occur at UCI throughout the year allow the students to interact with people whose beliefs, cultures and background directly. Celebrate UCI, according to its description on UCI’s website, is an annual social event where “Anteaters, potential new students, and local communities are invited to campus to enjoy a day of fun and information.” It is thus directed to reinforce the connections that already exists among students and the community, and establishing additional ones with people interested in attending the university, through a vibrant and friendly atmosphere that encourages students and families to participate in a variety of recreations and spectacles.

Illuminations, On the other hand, is campus initiative that aims to expose students to creative arts in “an array of structured activities and events that are conceived by faculty, staff, and students from across the campus and produced within our various schools and programs.” Last Saturday the celebration of comedy Improv Revolution presents: The Coup de Comedy Festival 2017 came to an end. It was the finest opportunity for students to relax after two stressful weeks of midterms, and explore new styles of comedy.

UCI offers several opportunities that allow students to be prepared for their professional careers and the realities that come with it, but it is the decision of each student whether to use them or not. The university cannot force us to excel, and trusts that as independent and rational adults we can make the decision to better ourselves. It is our decision to make the money invested in our education worth it. If we want to see UCI as the best value school it is, we have to be out there studying, discussing, writing, reading and enjoying it.

Sebastian Suarez is a third-year political science major. He can be reached at ssuarez1@uci.edu.

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