Aaron Smit knew he wanted and needed to get outside his comfort zone when he came to Albion College. But even he likely didn't imagine everything that he would end up being involved with in his four jam-packed years.
"Maybe one student comes in and plays a sport for all four years or maybe a student decides to be a member of a few different clubs," Smit said. "I don't know how to describe it other than learning a ton about myself and other people. I think I've learned much more outside of the classroom. I've been willing to try different things and go outside my comfort zone in some cases.
Originally recruited to swim for the Britons – he was a member of the state champion swimming & diving team at Hamilton High School – Smit took the first two years of his collegiate career to explore campus activities ranging from academic (investment club) to leadership (student senate) to service (Albion student ambassadors) to fitness (canoe/kayak club) to spiritual (Chapel and Cru).
Smit added to his resume in his junior year, producing the signature moment of the men's soccer season with an overtime goal that sent Albion to the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Tournament and joining Greek life by pledging to the Sigma Chi fraternity.
"I plugged myself into a bunch of different things on campus – I was super involved – but I started to realize I was missing the opportunity to challenge my body and I missed being competitive on a high level," he added. "I knew there would be a lot of rust, but I decided to go for it."
Even he joked that he's probably done as much in his four years than any three students. Then again, Albion was exactly the place for him to follow his passions and develop their potential.
With Albion being under the direction of first-year coach Wytse Molenaar, Smit said the timing was right to make a return to varsity athletics.
And it was exactly what he needed to quench his desire for competition.
"There wasn't a single game that was easy," he said. "It's the highest level I've ever played at and that made it fun. It can be challenging at times when things don't go your way, but, at the end of the day, you become a better player and off the field you become individual because you understand how success is achieved."
While Smit has taken advantage of opportunities to develop himself into a well-rounded individual, he's also just as intentional in building a resume of professional experiences that will prepare him for life beyond college.
An economics and management major with a minor in the College's Carl A. Gerstacker Institute for Business and Management, Smit cofounded Albion Outfitters. What began as a part of a directed study project, the business made sense as the area positions itself as a place for outdoor activity as the City of Albion and Albion College partner on a trail expansion project that will create a hub for several regional trail networks, including the Iron Belle Trail, the Great Lake-to-Lake Trail and the North Country Trail, and as the College expands opportunities at the Nancy G. Held Equestrian Center.
"Albion has all of the pieces to make Albion Outfitters work," Smit said. "It was an idea to support any outdoor activity the area can sustain, including biking and that could branch out into providing camping equipment."
Based out of the College's Beese-Havens Boathouse, the venture launched last summer by provided canoeing and kayaking opportunities on the Kalamazoo River.
Running the business entirely by himself, Smit served nearly 100 paddlers on the river doing everything from managing reservations to recommending tours on the river to taking visitors to and picking them up along sites on the river and maintaining the boats.
"It was an amazing learning experience," Smit said. "I learned I could not be in multiple locations at once, so I had to decide where to spend my time."
Albion Outfitters may expand into bike tours and bike repairs or what Smit calls a community space where individuals with shared interests in the outdoors can meet.
Until then, Smit will broaden his professional development as the continuous improvement intern at Haworth, a Holland, Mich.,-based manufacturer of office furniture.
"I have a lot to learn and I need to learn in a different place so I can come back later," he said. "Working in a larger business will provide experience I can apply in the coming years because I want to continue with Albion Outfitters."
Get the latest information about the Albion College Men's Soccer team by following @AlbionMSoccer on Twitter. General athletics news can be found @gobrits on Twitter and Albion College Athletics on Facebook