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So Long, Chico State: The Lessons Learned Outside Of Lecture Halls

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Cal State Chico chapter.

This final week as a senior is full of “lasts” and it feels absolutely surreal. Just the mere fact this is my last article doesn’t feel believable to me yet. Over the past few years, I’ve transformed into a completely different version of myself compared to the 18-year old Marisa in her first year of college. I’ve become more comfortable in my own skin, met some of my future bridesmaids, and made academic and professional achievements that I’ll always be proud of. My time in Chico has been full of ups and downs, and looking back I truly could not be more grateful for both the opportunities and the challenges. As I prepare to walk across that stage this weekend, I can’t help but reflect not only on the academic lessons and classes that were part of my degree earned, but also the just as significant outside-of-class lessons learned.

Never Start Seeing Yourself from the eyes of someone who doesn’t value you

This one’s a tough one. To be frank, I LOVE external (specifically, male) validation. It’s a temporary high and fix when I don’t feel the best about myself. Unfortunately, this is almost always a recipe for disaster. Throughout my time here, I’ve definitely found myself in a few instances where I felt abandoned, unwanted, and easy-to-leave. It can be really hard, especially as a woman and in college hook-up culture, to not let rejection, ghosting, you name it, make you question your self-worth. Recently though, I’ve really started to understand that just because someone doesn’t see the value in you, doesn’t mean it’s not there. The right people will never make you question your own worth, and you deserve people in your life who will stay at your best moments, your worst moments, your wins, and your losses. This concept reminds me of the “let them” theory that went viral, and I truly believe in it. If someone wants to walk away and is okay with losing you, let them. You’re worth so much more than trying to change their mind.

Self-Respect is just as important as Self-Love

This one is relatively new in my life. I’ve always known how important it is to love yourself, but I’d never considered the difference between self-love and self-respect. College, for pretty much everyone, is a time where you likely make a lot of mistakes. When I think about the parts of my college career that I don’t feel as proud of, I’ve realized that many of my choices were driven out of a place of insecurity, unsureness, and low self-respect. Trust me, I’m ALL for self-love, affirmations, and internal validation. But these past few weeks have driven me to truly reflect on my Chico experience, and I now believe you can’t achieve true, unconditional self-love until you respect your body, your mind, your needs, the people around you, and yourself. This also goes hand in hand with surrounding yourself with people who respect you in the same way. To me, self-respect is about self-worth, honoring my own values and needs, and being intentional with the choices I make for myself.

Add “me time” into your planner & calendar

My friends always poke fun at me because of how much of a planner I am. Every single day, I have a schedule and to-do list with all my commitments and tasks. This certainly isn’t an uncommon thing for a college student, but something that’s really helped me with my own wellbeing (and sanity) is taking it a step further by making sure to add time for basic needs like meals and enough sleep, breaks, plans with my friends, fun activities, and relaxation/decompression or “me” time. From my experience, when I put these types of things into my planner or calendar, they become just as prioritized as assignments, work, etc. and I truly feel like I’ve avoided so much burnout by doing this.

Other people’s opinions of you aren’t worth your energy

This is something that has really fluctuated for me throughout my life. I’d love to say I don’t care what people think of me, but that wouldn’t be my honest truth. Chico is a very small town, and first impressions, mistakes, and reputations can be hard to shake off. This semester, this is definitely something I’ve struggled with. While it’s a hard pill to swallow, the truth is that you can never control or change how people think of you. The version of you in other people’s minds is up to them, and as frustrating as that can be, there are a few things I consistently remind myself of that always help me out of the classic oh my gosh does everybody hate me spiral. First, this audience in your head that you might think is analyzing your every move and holding every past mistake against you is probably more your own invention than actual reality. Next, think about whose opinion actually matters to you. For myself, I’ve realized that I care a lot more about how I view myself, as well as the perception of my family and my closest friends, than I do the random acquaintances I see every now and then throughout the week and weekend. You know the person who you truly are, and the people whose opinions actually matter do too.

Turn pain into productivity or art (or both!)

“My response to anything that happens, good or bad, is to keep making things. Keep making art.”

Taylor Swift, TIME

Everyone who knows me knows I love Taylor Swift, and I remember reading this quote for the first time when she was named TIME’s person of the year and feeling so validated. It resonated with me so much, because it reminded me of one of my lowest mental states. Early last spring semester, I was hurting a lot – because of a variety of things. I felt unlovable, insecure, and just sad. When I started to feel better was when I started to remember who I was, and when I started to turn the negative energy into motivation to make something happen. That’s when I found Her Campus, and began the process of starting the Chico State chapter. Flash forward to now, this chapter has turned into an organization of over forty people and won “Student Organization of the Year.” Of course I’ve gone through low points since then, but this idea of creating something out of hurt or pain has stuck with me, and I’ve discovered even more healthy outlets that work for me, like poetry, music, and art.

It’s not too late to start healing your inner child

No matter how old you are, you’re carrying every single version of yourself within you. I had a very privileged childhood and I’m incredibly thankful for that, but that’s not to say there wasn’t hardship. Being fully independent is freeing on one hand, but it also forces you to confront the internal conflicts that are easier to avoid when you’re younger. College has been when I really started trying to tune into my inner child, and heal the younger versions of me. Being in therapy taught me just how much your experiences as a child shape your internal dialogue, your friendships and relationships, and pretty much every aspect of your life. I’ve tried to make more of an effort to find activities that make me remember, wow I used to love this when I was a kid. From my own experience, tapping into my inner child has also completely changed how I talk to myself, once I realized I’m not just talking to 21-year-old Marisa. I’m talking to the 21 years worth of Marisa. When you talk to yourself and visualize or even look at a picture of yourself as a child, it becomes really clear that you’re talking to them too. Even if I’m not happy with myself or I don’t feel the self-love or self-respect I know I should, that doesn’t mean it’s fair to treat my 10-year-old self that way. 

the value of mentorship

I’ve always had a stubborn side, especially when it comes to asking for help. I don’t fully know where it’s rooted from, but I’ve always considered independence to be one of my strongest values and prided myself on succeeding on my own. Yet, over the past four years, I’ve realized just how important it is for everyone to have mentors and role models in their lives. I’ve worked as a mentor in a variety of positions on campus which has been extremely rewarding, but I’ve also had the privilege of building relationships with my own mentors in all aspects of my college experience, and I truly would not be the woman I am today without them. My supervisors, several of my professors, and a few of the older women in my sorority have been my biggest cheerleaders, helped me get back on the right track when I felt lost, and supported me in all of my endeavors. The friendships I’ve built here truly mean the world to me, and the mentorships I’ve had the opportunity to embrace have held and will continue to hold just as important of a place in my life.

take advantage of every campus resource

This one is very Chico and college-specific. One thing I really wish I did more during my time here was take full advantage of every resource given to me as a student. Things as simple as walking on campus, studying in the library, or group classes at the WREC. The Chico State forest therapy program was by far one of my favorite experiences here and it’s completely free. The over-the-counter prices at the Wellcat pharmacy are life-savers, and I truly give so much credit to the resume workshop I did in the career center for helping me land internships and experiences that contributed to my admission into my dream graduate program.

I’ve learned so much inside and outside of school during my undergraduate career, and I’m truly so thankful for every moment of college, good or bad, because it helped me get a little bit closer to the highest version of myself. And by the way, I’m far from having it all together. Though these are lessons “learned,” they’re all still in progress. I’m constantly evolving and I’m so grateful that I was able to build the foundation for my own personal growth here in this little town, and I’m beyond excited to continue my healing and self-betterment journey into the next chapter of my life. So long, Chico State, it has been quite a ride and you will always hold a special place in my heart.

Marisa Cala-Keck

Cal State Chico '24

Marisa is the Founder of the Her Campus chapter at Chico State and served as the 2023-2024 President and Editor-in-Chief. A double major in English and Psychology, she is equally passionate about mental health and writing. She is an honors student, served as the 2022-2023 President of her sorority, Alpha Delta Pi, and has been on the Dean's List seven out of seven semesters thus far. Marisa has worked in a variety of mentorship roles on campus and currently assists students as an Academic Advising Intern. In her free time, Marisa loves spending time with her family and best friends, being around animals (especially her 3 cats and 2 dogs), binge-watching her comfort shows (the current top two include Pretty Little Liars and Gilmore Girls), reading novels, traveling, and singing! She loves Taylor Swift, spicy foods, Trader Joe's, Pinterest, and all things chocolate. After graduating this Spring, she plans to move to New York to earn her master's degree before pursing a career in the field of education, through which she aspires to reframe health and sex education programs to be more inclusive and to open in-school conversations surrounding mental wellness.