This past week back at the U of A, I've been noticing how college freshmen are so obviously college freshmen. They wear lanyards, spend hours picking out their first day of school outfit, and cheer out wrong names of players at football games. While I find all this amusing, I also totally remember the excitement, anxiousness and remarkable amount of cluelessness that comes with being a brand spankin' new college freshman.
My first semester of college was certainly an experience. And I use the word "experience" in the way that Randy Pausch used it in his famous Last Lecture, where he said that "Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted." The first semester of my freshman year of college was a whole bunch of not getting what I wanted. Not getting things that I applied for. Not fitting into the group of people that I wanted to be friends with. Not having any of the guys that I was interested in be interested back. Not achieving the grades I wanted (and kind of assumed I would get). That's just a whole lot of experience right there. But as Randy Pausch also said about experience in his Last Lecture, "experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer." I was able to learn from my first semester of frosh year, and have a very successful and enjoyable second semester -- and I'm hoping to keep using my experiences to improve and grow as a student and person.
And since experience is probably the most valuable thing to offer college freshmen (except for free food because free food always wins), here are some things I learned/wished I would have realized during my first semester of college.
Just stop with this whole lanyard business.
Lanyards aren't even that convenient when it comes down to it. There are actually wallets with little key holders and clasps on them, which are infinitely more convenient than lanyards will ever be.
Stop trying so hard to be part of a group that you don't even truly fit in with.
Yeah, that group of people that you met at orientation just seems super awesome and cool! But give it a couple of weeks, and you'll see that you don't have much to relate to them over. Yet you still try so hard to be a part of the group. You feel left out when you see Facebook photos of events that they had that you weren't invited to. You try to make conversation with them, but you realize that you don't have too much in common except for loving One Direction. And as impossible as it seems, talking about Zayn's hair or Harry's tattoos all day every day gets old. Instead of being hell-bent on being BFFs with the first people you meet, try to branch out to new people, or remember to keep in contact with friends you had in high school.
During my first semester of college, I spent a lot time trying to get myself motivated, listening to inspirational music and reading articles on study tips. But I actually spent very little time being motivated and working hard. I didn't want to start studying or doing homework until I felt fully inspired. Which meant that very little work actually got done. During my second semester, I learned that you just have to dive right into working hard. You can't wait till you feel fully ready. Because when do you ever feel fully ready for anything? Like basically never. I'm pretty sure I leave my apartment every morning rushing and feeling like I must have forgotten something.
Second semester, you'll come to love doing work in coffee shops and libraries. You'll learn to love working hard. You don't need any outside sources to convince you to want to work hard; you'll want to work hard for yourself.
It'll get better.
The campus won't feel so unfamiliar. Your homework will feel much doable and even possibly enjoyable. Your time management skills will get better. It just takes some time. You want to just be able to hit the ground running. But you'll first have to learn to walk. Yeah, the first semester is a struggle, but a worthwhile one that teaches you a whole lot about yourself.
During the first semester, it feels like you should be excited to be in college, but you're just not. You're constantly confused by people who say "I love college" and "College is the best time of your life." But give it a few months. You'll come to really love where you're at. You'll believe that your campus is beautiful, and you'll constantly refer to the University of Arizona as the best university EVER. You'll find a group of friends who you can really talk to and not stress about fitting in with. And you'll hate the thought of being away from college and its endless opportunities and freedom.
So, even though my first semester of my frosh year was just four months straight of not getting what I wanted, it was an experience I wouldn't trade. And it's an experience that I offer to current college freshmen to learn from. But, even more valuable than my lessons learned, is your own experience. Everyone has a different adjustment to college. Maybe you're the one who can and will hit the ground running. Or maybe you're like me, and you just need to learn to be patient. So, even if you feel like you're not getting what you want out of college, just realize that it is an experience for you to learn and grow from. Because this is just the beginning.
We're almost to Thanksgiving Break here at Morehead State, and, as a freshman here for the first time, there are a lot of things that I learned about myself and that I learned about life as a whole.
First, I learned that I really am a home-body.
Even though I'm from Mount Sterling, a small town that is only about 30 minutes to the west of Morehead, I still missed the small town vibe that Mount Sterling has to offer. Maybe I don't like having so many people that I don't know constantly surrounding me, or maybe I don't like the hustle and bustle of a college town. I honestly couldn't tell you. Either way, I realized also that Morehead is a temporary home for me, and that I have bigger and better places that I will go.
Next, I learned that really struggle with procrastination.
I never saw my procrastination as an issue until I got to Morehead, and I had four papers to do in three days because I kept putting them off. It wasn't until this month that I actually started getting all of my assignments organized and I'm finally caught up on everything. Procrastination is the deadliest of all of the college sins, and, if not kept in check, it can really get you into deep waters.
Along with procrastination, stress and depression were huge contenders in this first semester.
Not only was it because I missed everything back home so much, but it was because I was so stressed about money, about school, about obligations, about everything. There were weeks where I cried every day because I was so stressed about all of the things that I had to do. Fundraising, speeches, essays, cleaning. It was all a lot for me.
Overall, I guess I could say that this semester has been all about change, and it has definitely tested my ability to adapt to changes in my environment. I've made a lot of friends here at Morehead. There are a lot of things that you have to decide for yourself, and that's a scary transition from high school, where 95% of all of the decisions were made by other people, and not yourself.
My biggest takeaway is that you have to do what is best for you. Other people are not going to agree with you 24/7, and that's okay. They don't have to agree to everything you do. They aren't you, and they'll never completely know why you make the decisions that you do.
Just take care of yourself. Take care of yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually. You don't have to subscribe to other people's way of doing things, especially when it comes to taking care of yourself. Be mindful of who you are friends with, and never be afraid to walk away from a situation you don't like.
College is suppose to be a good time, but you have to really work and adapt to get to that good time.