My Final Semester in College: Part 1

I can almost still feel the tangible anticipation in the room when I sat with my new hall-mates that night three and half years (and many lifetimes) ago. We looked expectantly at our RA, waiting to hear that the next four years would be the best of our lives, that everything everyone tells you about college is true. The girls sitting around me, having come to Furman from all across the country, were already whispering about all the things they wanted to do in Greenville, what they wanted to major in, how they were planning on getting involved on campus. And yet, it all felt a little impossible to imagine. As an anxious and unsuspecting freshman, I couldn’t quite put a face to all of the meaningful moments, the conversations about the world beyond what I had ever allowed myself to imagine, the kinds of loving and intentional friendships that I didn’t yet know existed quite in the way they did, the many nights that we couldn’t remember but would never forget. I had no idea all that was on the horizon for me. I would have never imagined that I would soon be the one sharing in all of the cliches that yes, it really was the best four years of my life, and I really did discover new parts of myself throughout all of the ups and downs. And more than anything, that those college friendships turned lifetime friendships that everyone talks about would prove the most valuable thing I gained from my college years. Thinking back, there was a lot I didn’t know and a lot I wish I had. Now, as I sit in my senior year apartment, reflecting on the last four years and the meaning behind all of the lasts that will inevitably come throughout the next few months, there are a few things I wish I could tell my freshman self. 

1. Give everyone a little more grace than you think they deserve, including yourself. 

The most important thing I have learned throughout my time at Furman is that everyone is fighting their own invisible battles, and everyone deserves some grace. Our senior class has lived through intense periods of grief, a pandemic, and one of the most politically tense periods of history together. If we had all shut each other out and judged one anothers’ every move, we would have never been able to get through it. The only way out was by being there for one another and recognizing that you never know how someone else may be handling difficult circumstances. 

2. Be a yes girl.

None of my most treasured memories over the last four years include a time when I said no to doing something exciting and spontaneous. In fact, if I had to list all of the moments where I truly learned what it feels like to be fully present in a moment of life that you will never get back, they were all times when an idea came up last minute, and we went for it. There’s no time to worry about what might happen. Say yes. 

3. Be intentional in your friendships.

Always keep your friendships as a priority. Although the Furman culture can become unbearably overwhelming with rigorous classes and intense extracurricular commitments, you will regret spending all of your time checking boxes of what you think you’re supposed to be doing. Take time to check in with your friends. Go on lake walks. Sit in the DH at dinner for a long time discussing life. Take drives through Paris Mountain. You have the rest of your life to be productive, but you will never get these moments with your friends back. Take advantage.

4. Allow yourself space to grow.

If you always hold on too tightly to who you once were, you’ll never have the opportunity to become who you’re meant to be. Yes, growth is scary. But staying stagnant is scarier. The most meaningful year of my life, my sophomore year of college, was the year I finally let go of who I thought I was supposed to be and leaned into who I really wanted to be. I started trusting my instincts. Talking more kindly to myself. In order to become the much more confident and authentic version of myself that I am today, I had to release my hold over this past version of myself.

5. Don’t take life too seriously. 

Most importantly, enjoy life. Be present in every moment. Do all of the things on your college bucket list, no matter how crazy. Go after what you want. Yes, these years will go by faster than you think. Soon, you’ll be dreading leaving this place that has become home and all of the people who have made it feel that way. You won’t get these days back, so make the most of them. 

Reflecting on all of the many lessons that college has taught me, I feel like a distant stranger from the girl who sat in her freshman dorm anticipating what lie ahead. I also feel a profound sense of gratitude for the ways that I have grown and changed from that version of myself and even for the ways in which my experiences have differed so greatly from what I naively imagined my time in college would hold. Now, looking back over all of the special moments that I will hold in my heart forever, I have many faces to put to the memories. I have a greater sense of who I am as a person. I have a refined and more holistic perspective on life. I have friends who have taught me to stand up for myself, who have always pushed me to be better, who have loved me unconditionally. And most importantly, I have four years of meaningful moments in time that will likely define my life for years to come. Although there are things I wish I would have known coming into college, I don’t regret the innocent and unknowing version of myself that I once was. Because as a result, I was able to develop into the person I am today. As much as I wish I could relive my time in college, I now understand the value of being present in and appreciating every moment, living through each memory as if you might never get a chance to again. As the great Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around every once in a while, you might miss it.”