Monday, March 28, 2016

What I Learned from My First Year at College

Here is my obligatory "I am a freshman and here is what I learned this year" post. I know. You were all waiting for it, weren't you? Since you haven't read twenty other versions of this same post. Reflecting on the past seven months though, I genuinely feel like I have learned a lot. I feel like there are some things that people miss while looking for what they want in a college and some things that people focus a little bit too much on. In addition to that, I will be transferring colleges in the fall, so I went through that entire college application process again and definitely knew what I want this time around. Here is what I learned.

1. If you want to be succeed, surround yourself by motivated people.
Of course it isn't just enough to surround yourself with motivated people, but it is a large step in the right direction. You can't be cynical of those who succeed and you can't expect to succeed if you don't put in the work. If I have friends that want to do well, I know I can go to them for study groups or text them about any questions I have.

2. Talk to your teachers!
This, theoretically, should have been something you already did in high school. If it isn't something you are used to doing or if you think it won't help--stop right there. Not only are office hours and teacher appointments super helpful in terms of getting work done, but your teachers will love you so much more for using your resources. If you can't go to office hours, email them! Teachers/TAs/GTFs love when you ask them questions because that is what they are there for. I sent my composition teacher probably fifty emails and it helped me with my essays so much.

3. It is okay if you don't know what you want to do.
One of the most stressful things about college is there is too much to do. Not in terms of homework or studying (though yes, there is a lot of that) but in terms of clubs and classes and seminars and shows and workshops and intramural sports and generally just taking care of yourself. I went into college knowing what I wanted to do no question. I have begun to exit my first year knowing that I have absolutely no idea what I want to do. I am a mess, oh my gosh. I thought I had part of my life together because I knew I wanted to act but oh ho ho. No. I love the wide range of classes I can and am required to take, but I no longer have any idea what I want to do! Act? Be a CEO? Be the leader of the free world? WHO KNOWS? And that is is so okay. Because even the seniors don't know what they're doing.

4. Even if you don't know what you're doing, find something to be passionate about.
It is easy to get lost and caught up in the anxiety and stress and busyness of college life. There will be a million and one people asking you to sign a petition or take a flyer or asking you if you want to join a bible study group. Bulletin boards will be filled with posters and the university will seem to be encouraging you to do everything you possibly can do. It's great to keep yourself busy, but to save yourself from being completely overwhelmed, find something that is yours. Not exclusively, obviously, there are hundreds to thousands of people around you, but something that you love and will always make you happy. Something that you can put your heart into. Don't graduate college and look back and wonder what the heck you were doing the entire time.

5. Please for the love of God, don't leave assignments and studying to the last minute.
You hear a lot about college students who don't get enough sleep and stay up all night in the library studying or finishing a project. Yes, I am a freshman. Yes, I have heard mixed rumors about which year is the easiest year at college, but I do know one thing. I have not once had to pull an all nighter or had to stay up late to finish an assignment or stress over a test. I have gotten great grades so far because I plan ahead. The second I get my syllabi, I put everything into my planner and put any tests, quizzes, or essay due dates into my calendar with an alert. Teachers aren't always going to remind you about assignments and this way, you don't forget about a thing. If you have down time, start something that's due soon if you can! Pro tip: Get a studyblr. I will explain what that is in a post that's coming up. But seriously. Google it. They are life savers.

6. Learn to budget!
I came into college fresh off a summer job budget. I quickly learned that because I no longer had a job, I could not be spending that much. However you're earning your income in college, learn to budget it. Online shopping is going to have to take a backseat, because food is (arguably) more important to survival.

7. Find your "spot."
It is a rare time in your freshman year of college that you will be alone. Whether you are in the dorms, a sorority house like myself, or an apartment, people will likely always be around. My "spots" are the study rooms in the library, Starbucks, or my sorority house's TV room. The library rooms are quiet and private and give me time to relax with my own thoughts. Starbucks is a bit louder, but still allows me to set up my own space and do what I need to do. The TV room rarely has people in it past eleven o'clock, so I will occasionally lay on the couches in there for a half hour or so before I go to bed to wrap up my day. Somewhere that can be "yours" even if it isn't yours (e.g. Starbucks) is vital to staying sane.

8. Don't forget about your friends and family back home.
My first term, I was very overwhelmed with getting to know the campus and the people around me. I wouldn't change that, but something I am very grateful for is reconnecting with my friends from high school this past term. They already know me, and it's nice to have someone comfortable to talk to that has been with you through a lot of life already. I also text my parents throughout the day like everyday which I find very helpful. If you're stressed out, or proud of something you did, or just sitting around bored, your parents are always going to want to talk to you. Don't forget about where you came from!

9. Treat yoself.
This comes in many forms. After a long day, you are going to want to take a nap and not talk to anyone. After a long day, you may need to work out. Treat yoself by treating your body and getting your butt over the gym. It goes both ways though, and you know yourself best. If you've already gone to the gym or went the past three days or ate really healthy today, take that nap! Speaking of eating healthily, if you have been eating healthy and working out get that piece of cake! Likewise, if you've been eating junk food religiously, it's going to be better to treat yoself by getting an apple and laying out in the sun. And don't worry, we all have those cheat weeks where all we do is eat, sleep, and text. Just treat yoself the next week by getting yourself back out that door active and ready for life.

10. Learn to love yourself and remember who you are.
College goes by quickly and as I have already mentioned there's a ton going on around you 100% of the time. You're going to meet a lot of people, some you'll never see again (even though you're still friends on Facebook from that one night you walked to a party together) and some that will be lifelong friends. In it all, remember to just be yourself. Identity crises will arise every now and then when you feel like you don't know what you're doing. Trust yourself: you can do this. You always have and always will be able to do whatever you need to do. Don't compromise your values, obviously, but also remember to take a step back and reflect. You are the most important thing in your life, so don't forget to check in with yourself every now and then to make sure you're all good.

11. Be curious.
College has so much to offer. The town or city you will be in has so much to offer. The people around you have so much to offer. Take advantage of every little thing. Not interested in journalism? Are you sure? Have you tried it? No? Then take a class in it! Take a painting class or a ballet class or a kickboxing class or a weird philosophy class or a science class. Do things that surprise yourself. That is very important I think.

So there it is! I'm sure in the next year (even the next quarter) I will learn many new things and more posts will be written about the valuable lessons I have come to find. One of the best things about this blog is I am able to reflect; this is something I think is important to everyone though--blog or not. So read, explore, be curious, discover, and pursue your dreams!

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