Living the College Experience That Works for Me

When I walked on to the University of Central Florida’s campus about six months ago, I expected parties to be unavoidable and classes to be optional. I soon learned that college parties were a choice and attending class was a necessity, but this isn’t the way all students balance their social and academic lives. Some spend their weeknights at bars and snooze away their 9:00 a.m. classes to earn the same GPA as their more studious peers. 

It’s an anomaly I’m not quite familiar with yet, but it goes to show that this college thing is different for each of us. Of the many complicated factors that lead to our vastly different college lifestyles, I've found three elements in particular that have the greatest impact: Social Life, Deeper Relationships, and Media.

1. Social Life

Our experiences are largely a result of on who we spend our time with. There are those students who come into college with a whole squad and tend to jump head-first into the college social scene. These freshmen may spend their first semester out on the town or involved in clubs and organizations with their friends, while the rest of us spend the first few months growing acquainted with the massive amount of people we encounter on a daily basis. As someone who has just exited the “growing acquainted” phase, I can confirm that semester one of college is a challenge. I had to push myself to meet new people and try new things, but because I did, I now have an amazing group of friends who keep me plenty busy. It took me a little time, but my unique experiences led me to my very own squad—a group I would’ve never met if I had been busy trying to conform to college stereotypes. 

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find that a lifestyle of partying is overwhelming (though a night out every once in a while is much needed). At first, I thought I was missing out on the authentic college experience by staying in and binge watching "Gossip Girl" for the fifth time on a Friday night, but over time I realized that the “authentic college experience” doesn’t really exist. No two people are going to look back on their time at college the same way and (almost) no one is going to look back and remember college as a scene from "American Pie."

2. Deeper Relationships 

Last semester, it became very clear to me that being in a relationship greatly affects how I invest my time at college. On nights when my friends are going out to Knights Library I find myself wanting to stay home with my boyfriend and watch movies. A part of me feels like I’m supposed to want to go out with them and experience the things they’re experiencing, but the reality is I get more satisfaction from staying in. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to let loose on a Friday night and there is no shame in not wanting to either. It doesn't make a difference to the other club-goers if I’m not there, so why do I still feel so much hesitation? The answer is the media. 

3. Media 

Movies and television paint college as a place of rebellion, risk taking and choices of questionable legality. I’m not saying college isn’t a little bit about this stuff, but there is so much more going on behind the scenes. I’m in three clubs and five classes and I barley have time to make myself dinner, so how do the characters in all of my favorite cult movies find time to wreak havoc on their respected campuses? It’s hard to set these over-the-top illustrations aside when trying to find your own path in college, but I've found that it's truly important to do so.

Since being at UCF, I’ve learned that no one in college really knows what they’re doing, so they don’t have time in their day to worry about what you’re doing. With that in mind, I’m going to continue going through my time here, worrying only about what lifestyle makes me the happiest. I’m positive that I’m going to change over my next four years at UCF, and odds are, my unique experiences will play a huge role in determining who I am when those years are over.

Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5