In approximately two weeks, I will be graduating from Connecticut College. It seems so surreal, and I’m struggling to really identify and articulate how I’m feeling in this moment. But I wanted to take some time to reflect on my college experience nonetheless.
When people ask me how I like my school, or even as I reflect on my own college experience, I’ll mention how choosing to attend Connecticut College made a lot of sense at the time of my decision my senior year in high school, but Conn ended up ultimately not being the school for me. While I appreciated the intimate, discussion-based classroom setting of a small school environment, I feel as though I never quite found my “people” and didn’t reap some of the other benefits of a small school I was expecting – while still missing out on the resources of a larger institution. I also sometimes wish I’d gone to school on a less self-enclosed campus, with more to do in the surrounding area. And as much as I love both of my majors and appreciate the strong academics at Conn, I do wish my course content translated more to my internship experiences and aligned more with my career aspirations. It was hard to decide what to major in because nothing directly translated to any career path I was considering, and it was hard to hone in on what I wanted to do for work when academics didn’t serve as any sort of “practice” or “sampling” of different fields. I entered college feeling very undecided, and to be honest, I still kind of feel that way. I’d even considered transferring schools my freshman and sophomore year, but I realized that, even if Conn wasn’t for me, I didn’t know where I would have wanted to go instead, and chances were, I’d still have the same problems at another comparable, small liberal arts school.
I will say, had I not gone to Conn, I don’t think I would have found such fulfilling experiences in my extracurriculars, specifically by taking on leadership roles. During my sophomore spring, I co-founded a chapter of GlamourGals, a community service organization that visits senior homes. Being able to build something from the ground up, foster community within the club, lead meetings and plan fun events, and most importantly, make connections with a local senior home, has been so immensely fulfilling. If I hadn’t felt settled (and to be honest, a bit underwhelmed) at Conn, I don’t think I would have pushed myself to start a GlamourGals chapter. Even though we have not been able to visit the senior home this year, I am so excited to see GlamourGals continue to grow. Through co-founding GlamourGals, I pushed myself in ways I never thought I would, and I learned how to take initiative and be a leader.
And of course, Her Campus. I joined Her Campus as a writer my sophomore year, somewhat on a whim, never imagining I’d become the Co-Campus Correspondent. Although I enjoyed writing articles, especially in a low-stakes, supportive environment, I did not initially feel confident in my voice and skill as a writer. And to be honest, I still don’t. But I loved having something to look forward to on a Sunday night besides homework, as well as getting to know the members of the club in a relaxed environment. Through my involvement in Her Campus Conn, I was actually able to intern with Her Campus National during the summer of my sophomore year – I still can’t believe I had that opportunity, and it was the first time I ever felt like anything I’d done in college could translate to life beyond 270 Mohegan Avenue. The way I’d stumbled into such a valuable experience felt so serendipitous. I continued writing for Her Campus Conn my junior year, and this year, I stepped up to become Co-Campus Correspondent. As much as I loved Her Campus Conn and wanted to increase my involvement with the organization, I will say that being Co-CC has been way more fun and rewarding than I was expecting. The women in this club are such amazing, high-achieving, kindhearted individuals and I feel so lucky that I’ve gotten to know you all through hearing your highs and lows every Sunday, and through reading your writing. Even given the pandemic, our virtual meetings still feel more or less the same as our past in-person ones, we’ve been able to level up our editorial and social media content, and we’ve hosted virtual events from game nights to movie nights. It’s been so motivating and reassuring to watch Her Campus Conn continue to persevere and be successful despite such an anomalous academic year. I am so proud of us and in awe of our club every day.
It’s been… weird, to say the least, reckoning with the fact that this is my final semester at Conn. There was a lot of good and a lot of bad that came out of my college experience, that overall evens out to be pretty neutral – I don’t feel particularly connected to Conn as an institution or sentimental about my college experience. But it is nonetheless very bittersweet to be experiencing so many “lasts,” and I’ve grown very used to Conn, and I know I’ll miss the comfort that comes with familiarity.
Something that has really been hitting me this semester is that so much about the college experience just really doesn’t matter once you leave the “college bubble” and enter the real world. I began to realize that stressing over completing a problem set worth two percent of my grade was probably futile, and not a problem I’d have in a few months from now, after I’d graduate. My lack of success with my job search has also been discouraging – despite having a GPA that I’m proud of, internship experiences, and a variety of on-campus leadership experience, my job search has been largely unsuccessful. It feels like I’ve worked so hard but to no avail, that nothing I did in college really mattered that much in the end, and no matter how hard I tried, maybe I had never been “doing college” right because I had clearly not set myself up for success post-graduation. Perhaps my priorities had just been way off these past four years. I’m trying to adopt a healthier mindset, but frankly, it’s been hard given how discouraging my post-grad prospects are.
Despite a very discouraging, anticlimactic end to my college career, I will say I’m very happy and proud of the person I’ve become here. Going into college, my main goal was to be better than the person I was in high school. In high school, I was a decent student but definitely did not live up to my potential, and I was super uninvolved with extracurriculars – I largely felt unfulfilled and unsuccessful in most areas of my life. In college, I promised myself I’d get my grades up and get involved in multiple different clubs. And, not to brag, but I totally did that. I’ve held multiple on-campus jobs since my sophomore year, joined multiple clubs that I felt passionate about and committed to – even serving on their executive boards, and if I don’t completely mess up this semester, I’ll be graduating with Latin honors (plus, I’m an econ major, which, given my track record with math, is something that high school Sam would’ve never saw coming). I take comfort and pride in knowing that high school Samantha would be so proud of and impressed by 22-year old Samantha. Beyond my accomplishments, I feel as though I am generally a more well-adjusted person than I was in high school; I feel a lot more confident in myself and self-assured. It’s honestly such a liberating feeling, and so rewarding to have visibly seen myself mature, come into my own, and just generally feel more content and well-adjusted. I’m not quite the person I want to be yet, but I’m so proud and in awe of who I’ve become and how much I’ve grown.
Overall, my college experience has largely been that of trial and error. I’ve joined and quit handfuls of clubs, and completed all the modes of inquiry twice over in an attempt to figure out what the heck I actually wanted to major in. Though I don’t think I’ve fully “found myself” yet, I have a better sense of who I am. When I think back to the person I was freshman year, I barely recognize that girl – and I mean that in the best way possible. I’m not sure what’s in store for me post-graduation, but at least I know that I’ve developed the resilience to handle whatever will come my way.