It’s that time of year again. While underclassmen are scheming up summer plans and pounding energy drinks to make it through finals, seniors everywhere are nostalgically grasping for the last bit of their college life as it slowly slips away into memory. For those people, the veil of the American college world is being pulled away, revealing a frightening realm of adulthood, full of even more responsibilities and deadlines. And though I would wish it not so, my time has finally come. I am now one of those people.
But before I go, I’d like to offer up reflection on my experiences during my time at this fine establishment we share. Upon consideration, I’ve compiled a few things that I am proud to have accomplished along with some things I would have done differently, given the chance. However generic or distinctive these may be, they are my honest thoughts on my time in college. My only hope is that my meanderings may bring some inspiration for those still privileged enough to have a few years of college left.
This is something I wish I would’ve done more of. When you enter the college life from high school, you’re presented with the opportunity to redefine yourself. You’re out from under the wings of your parents and you finally have some autonomy in your life. Utilize it. Find things that interest you, from sports you’ve never played to clubs you find fascinating. Plus, getting involved is a great way to build friendships. Now don’t get me wrong. Over the last several years I’ve developed a group of close friends, however, I might have more if I’d gotten more involved. Besides, I can’t think of anyone that’s ever complained about having too many friends.
Try new things
Now I know this is one of those generic points you’ll see on just about every blog post or Buzzfeed article about going to college, but that’s honestly because it’s true. College is the time to get weird and embrace the unknown with abandon. Never had sushi? Try it. Never studied abroad? Go for it. Never learned to speak another language? Learn it.
During my junior year, I was offered the opportunity to travel to Uganda for a research project. At that time, I’d never been out of the country and the thought of spending a summer traveling across an unfamiliar foreign country was a little unsettling to a small town kid like myself, but it turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life. My world view expanded so much; I learned a lot and met so many exceptional people with unique stories. Jumping at this new opportunity gave me the chance to learn things that just can’t be taught in the classroom.
Find a passion, not just a degree
I am an expert in this field. I’ve switched majors more times than I’d like to admit, but you know what? It helped me find what I was passionate about. Think about it. You’re spending a ludicrous amount of money, time and energy on a degree. Shouldn’t it be something that invigorates you, or that gets you excited to start the day? Yes, we all need to make money, but it shouldn’t be the sole driver in your decision when picking a career path. For example, my parents wanted me to go into medicine, and I tried but it just wasn’t something that interested me. Don’t get me wrong, I know plenty of people that are incredibly passionate about the medical field. It just wasn’t for me. I challenge those who are still searching to find something that challenges you and keeps you enthusiastic to learn more.
Find your balance
This is one that I believe we all, as college students, struggle with. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from college, it’s that everything in life takes balance. As I mentioned above, college offers you a chance to branch out and experience new things, but in order to be successful at it you have to know how to balance it. Having a healthy social life can be incredibly fulfilling, but it shouldn’t take priority over the entire reason you’re in college.
The equilibrium between all the pulls of the college experience can be hard to ascertain. This has always been somewhat difficult for me. I’m somewhat of an odd combination of careless social butterfly and workaholic. Over the years, I’ve come to find that it takes a little strategy to ensure you’re not neglecting one for the sake of the other. For me, the key to success in college and beyond is finding a balance in life. Find that sweet spot that allows you the ability to focus on your work and goals without neglecting your other passions and loved ones.
During my seemingly short five years at this school, I’ve had an abundance of experiences, both good and bad, that have helped shape the man I am today. Not too long ago I was just an eager young student, unsure about the path I was on, but running headlong into it nonetheless. To be honest, that hasn’t changed much. I still have little knowledge as to what I am doing or where life will take me, but my time here has shown me that we don’t always have to see the finish line, we just have to find a path to it.