We’ve all heard it before—take a risk and try something new! And while seemingly basic advice, jumping into the deep end and experimenting with anything foreign can be quite daunting, especially as one is just finding his or her stride in a new environment, especially when that new environment is a college campus. Intimidation factor aside, I’m convinced this advice is worthy of implementation. 

I attend the University of Southern California, and last fall, I enrolled in a wheel-throwing class. Pottery, that is. A talented family friend’s pottery spiked my desire to create similarly beautiful works when I was very young, and the opening in my schedule for the elective of my dreams offered the perfect opportunity. Contrary to my expectations, the first several weeks of the class were quite the nightmare. 

The pottery studio was absolutely miserable. I would spend hours in the far-too-heavily air-conditioned space, and several more hours mentally preparing to take my seat at the wheel, anticipating imminent failure. Despite my commitment, I remained unable to produce a piece that resembled a bowl, plate, vase, or anything in between for weeks. 

As I kept my head down and worked through the months of the class, an overworked slab of clay slowly became a soy sauce dish, a soy sauce dish a cereal bowl, and a cereal bowl a serving-sized salad bowl. I ultimately produced work that I remain proud of, but what I picked up along the way was far more valuable than any of the pots I made. 

I never could have imagined that it would be this class that most solidified in me many of the qualities that I would argue we attend college to develop. I’ve always maintained that one of the most attractive traits is that of being interested. An individual who is passionate about various matters is subsequently interesting, and we all love to surround ourselves with interesting people.

It is not easy to find genuine passions, and the opportunity to try many different things at college renders these four years of one’s life the perfect time to figure out what he or she actually likes. I can assuredly say that pottery is something I will forever be infatuated by—the making of the art, the chemistry of the material, the development of the style—and for this, I am to thank the pottery class that I took at USC. 

There are certain characteristics that most would agree are fundamental to any form of personal and professional success. Being responsible, adaptable, and determined come to mind. Pottery trains responsibility like no other discipline: I tend to my pots with as much care as I did to my little cousins during Sunday babysitting. Pots require constant monitoring as they go through the stages of the drying cycle. Failure to spritz, rotate, flip, and or trim a pot at the correct time is detrimental to the ultimate appearance and usability of the pottery. 

Clay is a responsive medium, such that if one is attentive, he or she can continuously adapt hand and body positioning in order to achieve the desired form. The canvas that is clay rewards adaptability so immediately that in an instant, the slight drop of the shoulder could render a once warped vessel a perfectly circular plate. Life is full of unexpected challenges, and it is one who is not tentative or reluctant to change his or her ways, to adapt, who can successfully navigate these curveballs. 

Moving from a very beginner to a proud intermediate potter took significant determination. And as a once nationally ranked athlete, I do not use the word lightly. Through pottery, I was reminded that with perseverance, any skill is learnable. Repetition is the only thing standing in one’s way, consistency the most direct path that I know of towards confidence in anything.

My point is not that everyone will find the same love for the craft that I luckily stumbled upon. Instead, I am urging that one takes advantage of the opportunities college offers to experiment with new things. It is not my countless upper-division economics requirements that have convinced me of the value of my college education. Far from it, actually. Instead, it is the only course that has quite literally filled my eyes with tears of sadness and tears of joy: pottery.