Five Lessons From My First Year of College

It goes without saying that after moving into my dorm room in September, I never would have anticipated finishing up my freshman year of college back at home. Although the year ended in an unexpected and far less than ideal way, I learned a lot during this time. The following are five of the main lessons I took from the year. 

1. It’s okay to not have everything figured out 

When I say this, I’m thinking of college majors, but really this is applicable to many situations. In my year at Davis, I’ve switched majors twice and spent countless hours considering different areas of study and potential paths to take after graduation. While I would have preferred to have made a more definite decision earlier, I’m glad I allowed myself to keep somewhat of an open mind, even though I basically ended up sticking with the major I started out with in the fall. I also realized that it’s not realistic to have everything completely planned out, and the pandemic we’re experiencing right now is evidence of that. It may feel like everyone around you has it all figured out, but, if you don’t, it’s better to let yourself explore different options rather than rushing into something. 

post it wall of love Kyle Glenn

2. You probably won’t regret getting involved 

I didn’t start getting more involved on campus until winter quarter, but, over the course of the year, I learned that trying something new usually doesn’t hurt. The transition of moving to college is substantial on its own, and I spent my fall quarter getting familiar with classes, adjusting to dorm living, making friends, and exploring campus and town. I had an enjoyable fall quarter, but joining student organizations significantly enhanced my experience by introducing me to like minded students and giving me space to foster various interests. 

3. Little things really can make a big difference 

We’ve all heard some version of this, but allowing yourself to appreciate seemingly minor things can really change your daily experience. This has become especially relevant since being home because of COVID-19 when it may feel like there isn’t much to look forward to in the near future. Working little things that I enjoy into my routine makes it so much easier to complete tasks efficiently and remain goal oriented. Right now, that typically consists of drinking iced coffee, updating my Spotify playlists, and taking breaks from sitting inside to workout or walk around my neighborhood.

Cheering Games Stand_Bleachers Yash Tulsiani / Spoon

 4. Prioritize spending time with people

I’m not suggesting giving up time that you need to get things done, or that this should be your top priority, but I’ve found that I always feel better when I allow myself to spend time with friends on a regular basis. It’s also super important to enjoy just spending time with yourself, but, for me, it used to be pretty easy to just stop interacting with anyone during periods of time when I was particularly stressed, which not only made me feel isolated, but I was also a pretty terrible friend a lot of the time. Being surrounded by people on campus was a good reminder for me to actually make plans with friends, and I know this will be even more of a priority once we no longer have to social distance. 

5. Change doesn’t happen overnight 

While I’ve grown and learned a lot during my first year of college, moving home abruptly made me realize that change and forming new habits really does take time. When I was living at Davis, I felt myself getting a lot more independent, social, productive, and generally more happy and balanced, but when I moved home I quickly fell back into certain destructive thought patterns. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t internalized these lessons, but it made it clear to me that really implementing them as a permanent part of my life is a continuous process that takes more than just a few months.