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The Five Most Important Things I Learned In College

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC Irvine chapter.


I graduated from UCI six months and one big move to India ago. In my time as an Anteater, I joined Greek Life and Campus Reps, ran the ASUCI Vendor Fair, studied abroad, and founded the Farmersʼ Market and TEDxUCIrvine. I went from being on the fringes of the UCI community to the center and back to the fringes again, but more than anything, the lessons I learned and relationships I have made through each change in my college experience has proven invaluable for me. Now that I have had enough time and distance to reflect on what I have learned at UCI, I believe that these are the most important lessons for currents students to learn in their short, sweet time as undergraduates.

1. How to socialize for success.

Throughout college, I found myself naturally wanting to do charismatic, social things that every college student appeared to be doing. Eventually, I learned that I was actually terrible at like giving campus tours, being on the mic hosting events, running for elected student government positions, and joining a sorority. Many of these things I did fail at or quit doing because I hated them. What I realize that I do not fake well in some social situations. I do not convince people that I care about them as much as I can. For some, it comes naturally. For me, socializing is absolutely exhausting. It’s a long, underestimated skill of unquantifiable value that no one really discusses about it in school. This is unfortunate because schools, and colleges especially, are giant social laboratories. You can practice and develop skills of charisma with a diverse range of people from different ages, socioeconomic statuses, racial backgrounds, personal interests, future career paths, etc. Practice those interpersonal skills as much as you can with as many different people as you can. The reality is that the SPOP staffers and the cool popular people you envied in high school will never end up homeless, even if they fail academically and have seemingly no career trajectory. If they can manage to connect with another human being at a conference, in an interview, or for a referral into a company – they just got hired and you did not. People won’t outright tell you that connecting with other human beings is the default mode of obtaining money in the world, but it’s the truth. And it’s especially true today, with all the opportunity of the Internet and what some are calling the “connection economy.” The finer you can pin point your laser of influence to cater only to a certain tribe or the broader you can cast a net and build a large community, the better off you will be. Figure out your capacity for socializing and determine your career path to suit those abilities. If you want to be outstandingly successful, you will have to refine this skill no matter what. Better to start now, when the stakes are lower and the opportunity is available.

2. How to reach out to anyone online.

In my time at UCI, I wrote e-mails to Condoleezza Rice, I called Keith Urbanʼs agent, and I met the founder of Kiva, Jessica Jackley… with my hair dip dyed blue. I learned that I could connect with anyone, regardless of the circumstances, and I cultivated that habit in my work all the time. I could not have started any of the new events or gotten half the jobs I did without this fearlessness, openness, and spontaneity. The anonymity of the Internet is the greatest excuse to just send an e-mail or tweet to someone out of your league who you could never interact with on a normal basis. Even if they reject you, it is a digital interaction. They do not even know who you are. If they do respond, you could go on to develop a relationship that could change your life forever. Either way, you’ll build confidence in yourself by learning to take risks. I find the unexpected benefits of shooting off random digital communication should never be underestimated.

3. How to make money doing anything.

When I look back at the things I did for money in my four years, they are hilarious and creative. Yours should be too. I got paid to get my brain scanned, to sell concessions at baseball games, to give blood, to drive a bus, to give campus tours, and to update Facebook and Twitter statuses for a local business. In the times between, I cut the labels off old clothes I just didn’t want anymore or picked up the occasional real vintage item and sold both on Etsy. You can also rent out your car through Relay Rides and Lyft, post your dorm or apartment for rent on Airbnb, or become a TaskRabbit for the rich people of Orange County. Whatever you do, make money and make it memorably. We are growing up in a global economy that is insecure and unpredictable, so the more that we can make money doing creative, independent side hustles the better off we will be. Also, it’s a great way to cultivate empathy for people you will interact with later in your professional career.

4. How to live in a globalized world.

Studying abroad changed my life. You hear this from every single person you talk to who studied abroad. I do not understand why so few people actually take this seriously, especially the Greek system. People are practicing medicine and addressing real health problems all over the world and sometimes sitting in sterile lecture halls with socioeconomically and academically identical professors distributing bubble tests where all you did was memorize cell cycles for four all-nighters straight just isn’t the best way to learn about the reality and complexity of it all. Perspective is important for everyone. That is what makes studying abroad the most psychologically challenging thing you can choose to do in college. You have to make serious investments of time and money for an experience which is largely unpredictable, distant, and intangible. You have to separate yourself from all that you know and value and open yourself up to uncertainty and the unknown. You must do it.

5. How to love.

I probably donʼt need to rattle off current divorce rates in the U.S. to make you skeptical about love. It is possible that many of us Millennials are the product of divorced parents ourselves, making us more apt to have friends with benefits relationships where we invest less in each other, compounded by the fact we also have the ability to meet new interesting people all the time, faster than ever. That is exactly the reason why you have to continue to believe. Love doesnʼt need to have the same rules and patterns as our grandparents, our parents, The Notebook, The Bachelor, or a Taylor Swift song. If that girl got one thing right, it is that this love is ours. No one can tell us when it’s right to get in a relationship, when we should say “I love you” for the first time, or when to call it quits. No one should tell us if we can or cannot have a long distance relationship spanning across 4 different countries because I’m doing it right. It’s possible. You can use technology to stay in touch with those you already love, just as much as you use it to pursue new people you think are highly attractive. You can use it to take on ambitious opportunities that will make you neglect those you love, or you can use it to share new experiences and become a more authentic and well-rounded version of who you always were; being apart but growing together. Love is a choice; you just have to figure out what decision you want to make.

If you’re looking for some alumni help or mentorship with any of the skills and experiences I have mentioned here, please feel free to reach me at kamrin.klauschie@gmail.com and I’d be happy to help you. Zot zot!