7 Hidden Lessons that University Has Taught Me

University has taught me much more than what is heard within the walls of an auditorium or seen within a textbook. Here are seven of the most impactful lessons I have gained from my university experience that I carry with me in my back pocket.

  1. 1.  It's OK to Change Your Mind (Even 16 Different Times) 

    woman reading a book on a couch in a library

    I am sure at one point or another, at least once, we have all felt a dose of guilt for changing our path; spontaneously shifting course and doing a complete 180. We foster this undeniable sense that had we just been more aware, better prepared, took more time to really think in the beginning, that you wouldn't be in the position you are now in. You feel like you can’t commit to one thing or follow through on even your best intentions. You're constantly flipping back and forth and nothing feels certain or stable. 

    I won’t deny that making changes can be scary- as humans, we tend to navigate ourselves towards feelings of comfort, security and familiarity. However, adjusting your path and making changes isn't something to feel ashamed of. It's part of growing and a normal piece of discovering who you are. As we get older and gain more life experience, our opinions change - our likes, our dislikes, our passions. University has taught me that someone who is willing to change their mind is someone who is self-aware - someone who is able to recognize when things aren’t working out and is brave enough to try another path. We are still learning about ourselves - at this point in life, you are discovering who you're supposed to be. And for that, don’t think of yourself as someone who can’t stay grounded. You’re shaping your life each and every day as you discover who you are, and that probably means making some changes. It might even mean making many, many changes - You are experimenting, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. 

    I have changed my mind about my career path on several occasions throughout my university experience. The pressure of knowing what you want to do for the rest of your life in your early twenties is underrated. It’s important to acknowledge that you aren't learning anything by sticking with something that makes you unhappy when you're needing something new. It doesn’t make you committed or mature. It really just makes you feel stuck. At the end of the day, it's your life and your happiness. Embrace change. 

  2. 2. The Learning Curve is Absolutely Real

    Remember that whole "practice makes perfect"! spiel that you heard from your parents when you were younger, perhaps even when you were learning how to ride a bike. You undeniably fell off your bike after they removed your training wheels for the first time and they threw those words in your face, as they brushed the gravel from your kneecaps and the tears from your eyes. Or maybe that was just me. University has taught me that getting comfortable with "do-overs" is key in becoming successful. It has solidified those words that my parents reiterated to me countless times as a child. Learning isn't always as 'textbook' as it's made out to be. Learning is a shared number of experiences, not a fixed moment in time. I can promise you that I did not get back on that bike the second time and execute a perfect bike ride. Even by the third and fourth time. It became a bit easier, yes, but it took many tries and the only way I was going to learn how to ride is to climb right back on that bike. Simply put, the more you repeat and rehearse something, the more fluent you will become. Life is full of challenges and not everything you do will be a success on the first attempt. Or second or third or fourth. When I reflect back to first year, I have gained a lot through trial and error and I take pride in that. Life doesn’t come with an instructional manual - we are our own best guinea pigs.  

  3. 3. Seek Out Opportunity 

    You are surrounded with unparalleled opportunities each and every day. Sometimes opportunities stare you right in the face, and other times you have to look for them. In my experience, the best opportunities are those that aren't as obvious, rather the best opportunities appear when you seek them out. Having the ability to take initiative is valuable and widely applicable throughout all stages of life. Capitalize on chances to take risks- reach out to individuals, network, propose novel ideas. Learning how to be resourceful and take charge of your life is so rewarding. Peruse your interests and be proactive about it. Your greatest and deepest passion could be awaiting your discovery. Remember that you can only develop opportunities by looking and asking for them. Why wait for it when you can create it? 

  4. 4. Learn to Laugh at Yourself

    Girl lying on bed with cat

    Laughter is one of the greatest gifts we have as a human race. It is vital to our sanity and resilience. Laughter radiates positivity and cultivates relief. I promise you that mistakes know no age limit. Remember that nobody is perfect so don’t create a habit of beating yourself up for simply being human. Learn to see the light in your mistakes. When you are able to laugh at your errors, you are forgiving yourself. We truly are our own worst critics at times and humility allows us to be kind to ourselves. Self-humility also diffuses sensitivity to criticism and other people’s opinions. It helps us release tension and destress; to reset ourselves. I have learned that finding a reason to laugh with myself and my mistakes each day helps me keep a light-hearted perspective. Our problems and mistakes are only as big as we let them be. Life is short, don't take it (or yourself) too seriously.

  5. 5. Celebrate Your Small Successes

    Not everything you do in life will be a success or a huge accomplishment. It's easy to feel down about ourselves and our failures. In fact, we tend to punish ourselves for even the smallest errors, yet when we accomplish a small win, we almost never feel good about it or even recognize it. University has taught me to embrace and acknowledge seemingly minor triumphs. These could range anywhere from going to the gym to organizing a weekly planner, even doing the dishes. These small wins cultivate and boost self-confidence. Sometimes we need that pat on the back from ourselves. Feeling good feels good and it encourages a positive outlook - a 'glass-half-full' type of perspective. When we are able to acknowledge our small wins, we are actively improving our productivity and promoting self-progress. So maybe you didn't check everything off of your to-do list for the day but start looking at the things you did accomplish. It's about living in the moment and getting excited about little victories. Don’t undermine the power of those small wins!

  6. 6. Call Home Often

    University truly marks the beginning of adulthood and genuine independence. It becomes your home-away-from-home and is where we spend eight months of the year making connections with new people and growing as individuals. Because of this, it can be easy for us to forget who we were before university and so we tend to overlook calling home. I know that it may not seem important or relevant to talk to your parents; you're getting older and you don’t rely on them as much as you did when you were a child. But remember, they're getting older too. In fact, it may be more important to keep in touch with your parents now than ever.  Your relationship with your parents is changing and living apart will likely lead you to discover a newfound appreciation for each other. They just want to hear from you, stay updated on your life, even if it means five minutes of your day. Try and integrate a routine into your schedule and make a habit of calling home. They are your biggest supporters- they are the people who celebrate your successes harder than you. I have come to learn that parents will appreciate a phone call more than you could understand. That being said, if you're missing your parents, I can almost guarantee that they're missing you even more. You might not always need them in the same way you used to, but part of growing up is understanding sometimes you really do need them. And they probably need you too.

  7. 7. You are Exactly Where You're Supposed to Be

    The way to the cabin

    I cannot tell you how many times I have asked myself "Is this what I'm supposed to be doing in life"? Or "Is this where I should be"? I've come to realize that the answer is yes. Even in those moments where everything seems wrong and I have every doubt against myself, I know that where I am now is exactly where I am supposed to be. And I promise that you are exactly where you need to be, too. Thousands of actions, choices and moments. Millions of thoughts, mistakes, and blessings. Everything you have done has brought you to exactly here. And here is just right. Not every step has been or will be pretty, but it's part of the journey. We are supposed to feel stuck, scared, defeated like we aren’t going anywhere. We are supposed to have highs and lows, moments of perfection and success. At the end of the day, these are all just moments. They are temporary. Where you are right at this very moment isn't permanent. Trust the process and appreciate that you are still a work in progress. I promise you that no one has it all figured out, especially in university. So, stop calling yourself into question. Stop feeling like you aren’t getting anywhere. Remember in those moments where you feel successful like you are where you're supposed to be, that every mistake, every bump, those not-so-great moments lead you to that spot.  There is a reason why you are where you are right now. You might not understand the reason, but I promise there is one. Your life is unfolding as it should be, embrace each moment. Appreciate your past, be excited for your future, but most of all, soak in the present. I don't know where you'll end up but trust that the journey will make it worth it.