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5 of the Biggest Lessons I Learned During Undergrad

With only four short months left of my undergraduate career, I am feeling pretty reflective. I have seen a lot of articles written by postgraduates about the things they wish they did, things they wish they didn’t do, or the highs and lows of being in college. While those articles are informative and relatable, I want to focus less on what I could’ve done and focus more on what I did do. Let’s talk about lessons.

Before I get into the biggest lessons I learned during my time as an undergrad, I want to emphasize that my experiences and story are not reflective of your college experience. If you relate to these lessons, great! If you are an incoming first-year student, do not freak out. My experiences will not directly reflect your own since everyone experiences college differently! 

Lesson 1: What happens in freshman year, stays in freshman year.

Let me be as straight forward as possible, freshman year is only relevant when you are a freshman. In the grand scheme of things, whatever happens during your first year of college is extremely minuscule compared to the following three or four years. Like tons of other students, I had my ups and downs during my first year. I made some really good friends and clashed head-on with others. 

That year was a drama-filled whirlwind and looking back on it, I spent too much time worrying over the little things. I had a roommate I didn’t like and I never wanted to spend time in my dorm. I felt like things were never going right. Thankfully, I transferred schools and quickly learned that dwelling over freshman year was pointless.

I am not saying you should forget everything that happened during your first year in college. In fact, I still have some really good memories to this day. However, getting caught up in the past is definitely not worth your time and energy. I learned that in order to continue making new memories and enjoy the next couple of years, I had to leave freshman year behind me. Not only did this help me socially and mentally, it also physically allowed me to create and work towards new goals. I was able to continue personal growth and success throughout my college career.

Lesson 2: Don’t let the F.O.M.O. control you.

F.O.M.O. is the "fear of missing out". I have been a victim of F.O.M.O. before and would go out and do things I really did not want to do. I found the feeling of being left out was stronger during my first and second year. I constantly wanted to be "in-the-know" and wanted to feel like I was spending my time in college having fun. After a while, I got super busy and didn't want to go out and do things all the time. Overtime, I stopped accepting invitations to go out and would even go home during the weekends.

The worst thing about F.O.M.O. is that it isn’t peer pressure. That is, nobody is making you go out or do something you have no interest in. The F.O.M.O. is an internal pressure and obsession to stay in the loop at all times. When I stopped allowing the F.O.M.O. to control me, I became happier and less conflicted. I felt more in control and stable both with myself and my relationships. I also saw a huge spike in my productivity, health and wellbeing. Eliminating the stress and anxiety that came with the F.O.M.O. actually changed my life. It sounds dramatic, but it’s kind of true!

I believe the F.O.M.O. creates a mental insecurity and can often times leave you feeling on edge and exhausted. Rejecting these feelings of F.O.M.O. allow you to put yourself first and live your life on your own terms. In retrospect, missing out on one or two events most likely will not make a significant impact in your college years. Letting the F.O.M.O. control me was one of the most exhausting experiences during my time as an undergraduate, and I feel more confident in my decisions and in my lifestyle. If you are anything like me and enjoy being in control of how you spend your time, I highly recommend learning to reject the F.O.M.O. and prioritize yourself first!

Lesson 3: Go at your own pace.

Comparison is killer, especially in college. There are a lot of people around you and it is super easy to get caught up in the chaos of what other people are doing. Trying to push yourself to reflect the pace or level of your peers is extremely dangerous. I am a firm believer that everyone succeeds at their own pace and that it is worse to take on too many obligations than you can handle.

Learning to find your own pace will help with your mental health, academics, and professional success. If you constantly compare your success to your peers, I promise you that you will become burned out in no time. I felt a lot of pressure to take on as many activities and jobs as possible to build my resume but quickly found that I had absolutely no time for myself. I learned to experiment and find my personal limits when it came to my workload. In order to celebrate my successes, I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish for the month. Doing this kept me grounded and focused on what my personal goals were. As a result, I focused less on what other people were doing, and worked towards fulfilling my own accomplishments.

Lesson 4: Change is inevitable, just accept it.

The hardest thing for me to look back on during college is all the friends and opportunities I have seen come and go. I do not remember the last time I got upset over change because it has always been a part of my life. So, if you don't handle change well, the worst is yet to come. College comes and goes by fast and you'll encounter new friends, part with old ones, and experience some new opportunities.

Something I had a hard time getting used to was being apart from the friends I made in high school. I’m not going to say that college pushes you away from all your high school friends, but I also can’t promise that you will be friends with them through your college experience. People change, and life gets crazy. The only thing to do is handle it. Letting friends drift and allowing myself to experience meeting new people was probably one of the hardest lessons I had to learn. Nevertheless, it worked out in my favor, because I was able to meet some of my closest friends. You just have to stay positive and allow yourself to experience new people and new things.

Lesson 5: Set your own goals and stick to them!

It might seem obvious to set goals and actually follow through with them, but it is really easy to just forget or overlook those goals because of all the undergraduate craziness. This lesson was crucial in order for me to survive the academic side of my college career. I found that when I didn’t set long-term goals, I got too caught up in the day-to-day things. This helped me stay focused and on track, which made the hard days a bit easier. The most important part of making goals is making them realistic and desirable. That way, you will stay on track and actually stick to them. 

Setting goals gave me something to look forward to every semester and kept my motivation up. I think without having goals, undergraduates would feel a lot more stress. Not only has this helped me throughout being in school, but it has also taught me how to make and maintain goals in the professional world.

Whether you are enjoying college or not, I guarantee there are lessons you will learn and I strongly recommend you reflect back on them. My lessons aren’t going to be identical to yours, but I promise that you will realize the impact undergrad has on various aspects of your life.

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Through her experience of living internationally throughout her childhood, Christi has firsthand knowledge of other countries, cultures, and religions. She is a Communication major at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and has been able to use her writing both in an academic and leisurely setting to spread cultural acceptance, awareness, and growth. Her favourite topics to write about include travel, feminism, politics and social life.
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