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Life Lessons & Takeaways: What I Learned From My First (Virtual) Quarter At UCLA

​If you asked Anya one year ago what her first quarter in college would look like, she would’ve never imagined what I am about to tell you right now. Starting college in a completely virtual environment was definitely challenging for me, and I’m still trying to adjust and make the most out of the experience. While it isn’t the ideal college experience, I’ve learned so many things about myself and college life in general that are valuable life experiences, and I definitely wouldn’t trade these lessons for anything. 

[bf_image id="q5b5ku-1n9t4o-aks41r"] ​Attending a university as large as UCLA initially created some feelings of imposter syndrome for me, which were made worse by being online. I remember feeling frustrated after I finished my first midterm, which was harder than I expected. I kept wondering if everyone struggled as much as I did, and I convinced myself that I wasn’t good enough, which took a toll on my self-confidence. I also remember being rejected from clubs and programs that I really wanted to be a part of, which worsened my imposter syndrome. I kept comparing myself to other students and their accomplishments. Over time, I learned to stop focusing on these setbacks, as I realized that it was detrimental to my mental health and overall college experience. What really helped me overcome these feelings was focusing on positive thoughts and developing a healthy attitude towards failure. I told myself that making mistakes is essential to the learning process and gives me room to grow as a person. At the same time, I tried my best to focus on myself and stop worrying about other people’s accomplishments. It can be really easy to doubt yourself when you’re constantly focusing on other people’s successes. Remember, what people post on their social media or LinkedIn is always the best version of themselves and often doesn’t paint a super accurate representation of their day-to-day life.  

​Especially during these virtual times, I learnt the importance of putting yourself out there by joining clubs and organizations. As a freshman, I was initially really nervous to apply to or reach out to any clubs but I am so thankful that I eventually got the courage to try out a few clubs. I definitely believe that meeting new people and joining clubs made my virtual college experience a million times better. From joining various clubs, I got to meet new people from all different backgrounds from me and form friendships that I never thought I would make while online. Regardless if it’s through a sorority, sports team, academic organization, or a social club, getting out of your comfort zone will really help you feel connected to the UCLA community despite being so far away from the physical campus.

[bf_image id="kjgcgs2v564q6m69wv96xvz"] Another important takeaway I learned is how useful and essential scheduling is for a college student. Especially as UCLA runs on a quarter system, it’s so easy to fall behind or feel overwhelmed due to the fast-paced nature of classes. Early on in the quarter, I created a personal planning system that worked for me and allowed me to become as organized and productive as possible. Specifically, I really liked using Google Calendar and color coding all of my events to their individual categories: deadlines, meetings, etc. Having a solid scheduling system helped me to always be aware of any upcoming deadlines or events. At the same time, I was able to plan ahead during midterms and finals week by creating a studying schedule that revolved around all of my exams. However, even though scheduling and staying on track is extremely important, it’s also essential to prioritize your mental health and wellbeing. Especially during these uncertain and challenging times, it is extra important to listen to your body and do what is best for you. Whenever I get too stressed or overwhelmed with my classes, I always make sure to step away from my work and do something to calm me down. I like to use my down time to spend time with my family, talk to my friends, listen to podcasts and cook my favorite meals. 

​Lastly, I learned that while college is a time to figure out your future plans and learn more about what kind of person you want to be, it’s okay to not have everything figured out. I remember talking to upperclassmen and feeling completely lost and worried that I literally had no idea what I was doing. I learned that it is completely normal to not have a plan for everything and to just go with the flow. It's important to take advantage of the plentiful resources and opportunities UCLA has, even if they don’t always lead to permanent activities. So, take classes you’re interested in, form genuine relationships with people and make sure to make the most out of the four years. 

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Overall, this quarter has been filled with many ups and downs. I’ve learned so much about myself as a new college student and I’m still in the process of learning a lot more.

Anya is a first-year economics major at UCLA and is a feature-writer for Her Campus. When she's not writing, she loves to scuba dive, go makeup shopping, and indulge in black sesame ice cream. She's obsessed with Disney movies and will 100% cry when watching Finding Nemo.
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