10 Things I Learned about Life from Freshman Year

The end of the school year is usually a time for reflection and for making plans for the summer. Between my end-of-the-term projects and finals, I have been able to reflect on everything I have learned in my first year in college.

I was thrown into the world, a little unprepared, a little scared, but ready, and I didn’t think I would change as much as I did in my first year, so, here are some things that I learned:

1. Things are never as they seem

When I toured the freshman dorms here as a high schooler, the tour guide didn’t prepare me for what life in Andreen would really be like. The hot sweaty nights in the beginning of the year are seared into my memory. I also don’t remember there being so many stairs when I toured. So things start to change when you have lived in the place for a year.

More significantly, when I toured Augie and attended other events for incoming freshman, I thought I knew what kind of school and student body I was coming into, but now that I have been here for a whole year, I can say I was very wrong. The way that I look at the school has matured and now I see the good and the bad of my school. But I have also come to see the campus as my home. There may be some bad things that they never told me about, but now that I recognize them, I know that anything that I can do to make it better is well worth my time, because Augie is my home.

2. Welcome to the world of responsibility!

Now that I am in college, I have to pay for household things like detergent, toilet paper (I live in a triple with a bathroom; it is a blessing and a curse), cleaning supplies, gas for those long drives home, and much more. A whole lot of responsibility is dumped on you in the first year of college, and the worst thing is that I know it gets worse from here.

Even my social life has changed dramatically. I grew up in a small town in a small school where I only interacted with the same people for a large amount of my life. In college, every day I interact with new people and new ideas. I have realized how small my world was until now.

Speaking of social life…

3. How to make friends! (a.k.a. people who you are friendly with)

In my second trimester here, I asked a senior if they had a lot of friends, because at the time I didn’t have a lot of people I felt close to. They answered, “Actually, I have a lot of people I am friendly with,” and that statement struck home, because, I too have a lot of people I am friendly with. They are those people you wave hi to while walking around on campus. They are the people in your class that you talk to even though you never knew them before that term. I have met a lot of those people through taking so many classes where I don’t know anyone. The people I am friendly with may not know everything about me, but I know that they have my back in class.

This next one relates to those close friends…

4. It’s okay to say no

I have a big problem with peer pressure. Not the best characteristic to have in college. But one thing that I have learned this year is that it is okay to say no to a friend who wants me to drive them and a group of people I don’t know to Taco Bell at 3 am. It’s okay to say no even for little stuff, like going to dinner when maybe you want a quiet night in the dorm. So, this year I have been able stand my ground against the “awww”s and the “whaaat”s that I got after saying no.

5. But sometimes you should say yes.

A lot of great experiences have come from me saying yes, even if I really wanted to say no. I recently said yes to driving a group of friends to a movie that I personally didn’t care for, but in the end, I had a great time. I learned more about my friends and it served as a distraction for one of them who was going through a tough time. So sometimes, you should really just say yes, especially when it will help other people.

6. “College is just sitting in different places with your computer”

I read this somewhere, and it has stuck with me ever since because it is undeniably true. At a recent eye appointment, I had to reveal my daily screen time, and I had to quickly follow it up with: “I’m a college student!” I have learned that it is unavoidable to be constantly plugged-in in college, but I also learned that I need to value the time that I don’t have to be plugged in.

7. Passion is key

When I think about how much money is going into my education here and what kind of student loans I will be confronted with after graduating, I know it better be worth something. We all have had those existential crises where we ask ourselves, “What am I doing here?”, right? I have learned that without my passion for my education, for writing and literature, that it would be hard for me to answer that question. This year has helped reveal my passion and care for what I do academically, socially and what I do for myself. Once you find your passion, you have to latch onto it, and use it to give what you do meaning.

8. Know when to step away

So, with college comes new people, and with those new people come new opinions. Some of those opinions do not match yours, most likely. I have encountered many of these, and 9 times out of 10 I will express my opinion that contrasts the other, and then we will both agree to disagree. Very civil, right? But there have been a few times when I have expressed my opinion and the other decides to argue, rather than discuss our differences. After one incident where I got very worked up and almost said some things I would have regretted, I learned that it is best to walk away in those situations. There was obviously no changing their mind, so I don’t know why I kept fighting them about it. So, a big life lesson I learned was that walking away is far better than ruining your day (or even your relationship with someone).

9. F*** it

I tend to mutter this under my breath each morning when I get up. There are things you can’t avoid (like getting out of bed) and that need to be done. I have the colorful characteristic of overthinking everything, and this usually gives me anxiety about everything, especially social interactions. I feel like I have to do and say the right things, all the time. So, whenever I act like the awkward mess that I am, I just say “F*** it.” You can’t do anything to change that and it is pointless to mull over the smallest of conversations wishing you could say something else. The same goes for things like presentations, meetings, and other dread-worthy things. It’s a part of growing up, and we all have to do it.

Finally…

10. I still don’t know everything, and I probably never will.

We all have to admit this to ourselves at some point or another. I may think I know what my future holds, but life has a way of really messing up plans. I have learned to stop expecting everything to go how I want it to, and learn to let it go. You have to take something good from every moment, and really try to live one day at a time.

This is what is most valuable about college: it gives you the space to grow, to learn about yourself and to contemplate what really matters to you.