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What I Learned After One Year of College

Everybody can get caught in a moment of self-reflection and realize they wish they’d done things differently. As we finish this Spring 2018 semester, every single day I consider the past year and how I approached it.There are things that happened this year that were groundbreakingly incredible, heartbreakingly devastating, and a multitude of things somewhere in the middle. Like every cliche, there were times that this year forced me to grow and challenge myself. There were times when I thought I genuinely wasn’t going to make it through. Through all of it, however, I made it out alive (maybe just barely). Looking back, taking a moment to really think through everything, there are some things I wish I had known.

1. Getting a 4.0 is hard, stressful, and not worth it.

I spent all of high school, like I’m sure many of you did, killing myself for good grades. The education process was all about my capacity to regurgitate facts and figures that meant nothing the minute I finished an exam. When I came to college, I thought I could do the same. What no one tells you is that there’s a difference in learning and knowledge. You learn from flashcards, quizzes, or recall, but you know from experience, truth, interaction, critical thinking, and challenge. Spending your freshman year trying to memorize a bunch of facts reduces the valuable knowledge that everyone around you is trying to share, not just your teachers. When I look back at this semester, I have a lot of regrets for turning down DUCling dates, movie nights, wine nights, icky frats, and whatever else to “study.”

2. Staying healthy feels impossible, but it’s not.

Getting used to a new schedule is super overwhelming, there’s no denying it. I’ve been to summer camps in the past, even study abroads for extended time periods, but I’ve never had the same independence that you get with college. When you’re left to your own accord to eat healthily and exercise, it’s easy to just not do it. Even when you’re sitting in your Health 100 class, nothing really registers. It’s when you start feeling tired after each day because you eat nothing besides WoodRec fries and tenders that you realize there might be some truth in the speeches and lectures. Being healthy means finding balance in your schedule, making time to prioritize yourself, and treating yourself and your body with the most respect possible.

3. Boys are dumb

I hope for everyone’s sake that you realize that boys may come and boys may go, but your gal pals are there to stay. College has a lot of new temptations, but it also gives you one of the first opportunities to make real friends, not just frenemies. Take time to find your women, and as fun as it is to be the subject of male attention sometimes, don’t make it your priority because (99% of the time) these freshman boys won’t make you theirs.

4. There are parts of social life that don’t involve partying

The FOMO culture makes this something that is completely shrouded. When you see everyone’s snapchat stories at a darty that you didn’t know about, it doesn’t mean that’s the only thing happening. Take advantage of events around campus (UCB sends a dope email about weekends on campus for every weekend!) that have some depth to them!

5. Having Friday classes is not actually that bad

Emory has an interesting Thursday night party culture, something you don’t see many other places. If you have classes on Fridays and someone asks you about them, you’re bound to get some weird looks. No matter what anyone says, you’re paying your money to be here, go to school, and have a social life, not just two of these. Friday classes are likely inevitable if you’re optimizing your schedule, don’t let someone make you feel bad about getting your stuff done.

6. The people in your hall might not actually be your best friends

When I was reading every Pinterest post about college life, I always found that people bonded with everyone in their hall. I don’t have anything against anyone in my hall, I like all of them actually, but they aren’t my best friends. Don’t limit yourself to having, or feel bad when you don’t have, best friends who are also your neighbors.

7. Greek life is important

I don’t care what anyone says about Emory, Greek life is important here. If you’re not a member in the spring semester, you will need to make other weekend plans. There’s nothing wrong with having these communities (although they can feel pretty exclusionary), but being outside of them will feel obvious. There are people not in Greek life, so if you can’t be, find them. If you can afford the opportunity and you find a place you vibe with, be sure to get involved.

8. Just because Animal House exists, doesn’t mean it’s definitive of your experience

Emory is not a crazy party school, no question. Don’t expect to come into this environment with the idea that there’s going to be crazy Project-X-type ragers. There are some great parties and events, but there are also some major busts. That being said, a lot of what makes something fun is who you go with (#3! Take your gal pals!)

9. You can still be nice

It feels like sometimes, especially as you get farther into the year, that people have totally lost their kindness. On occasion, it can feel like you’re still in high school with weird cliques and groups trying to place themselves on a popularity hierarchy that doesn’t actually exist. What I think everyone could try harder at is being nice to everyone else (ha great solution), no matter what day they have classes, what sorority/fraternity they’re in, or what they think about Lil Yachty being the Dooley’s week performer. Emory boasts its community incessantly, try to be a positive addition to it!

10. Don’t  forget about your home

College is so fun. New friends, new experiences, the new city, and the new life it affords you can totally consume you, but just because something is new doesn’t mean it’s better. Your family and friends love you, miss you, and you shouldn’t forget about them. Even if you only call your mom or dad on your way to class, make sure to let them know that you’re still alive. They love you enough to send you to this great school, make sure you let them know that you appreciate being here. No frat party, calc quiz, or Spanish paper can change the comfort and security you can find in the familiar.

Maddy Knight is a senior in Emory's College of Arts and Sciences with a double major in Spanish and Linguistics. She plans on attending law school once graduating. Maddy likes all animals with fur, spending time with her friends and family, and has been writing for Her Campus since high school. 
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