The 9 Biggest Lessons I Learned in College

We’ve heard all the clichés: “Four years go by in a blink of an eye,” “Enjoy every minute of it, college is the best time of your life,” and “You have the rest of your life to work.”

But what they don’t tell you is that all the crazy stuff that happens in college impart important life lessons moving forward. As uncomfortable and weird as I felt being a minor living at home, but not yet a full-fledged adult, I realize now it’s a fortunate state to be in. It allows you to almost play dress-up (like Wannado City, for my SoFlo peeps), without too much of the real-life repercussions. You get to dip your toes in the water of adult-hood, rather than being thrown right in. So take advantage of it, because I promise, the repercussions are not as bad as you think, but the benefits are even better than you could imagine.

1. Don’t be scared of joining clubs you know no one in.

This isn’t high school, people are nice and extremely welcoming! There are at least three clubs I can think of right now that I didn’t join because I didn’t know anyone in them and none of my friends would go with me. But there are also so many clubs I’m in now that I didn’t really no anyone and everyone from the moment I walked in the room talked to me like I was their best friend anyway. Funny enough, I’ve even made friends with people in other ways, but later find out that they were in a club I wanted to join. They ask why I never joined in and I wonder about that myself. Maybe if I had, I would’ve met these awesome people sooner!

2. Don’t be weirded out by nice people. Be open to friends everywhere.

I don’t know if this is everyone’s experience, but a lot of my friends in high school were “school friends,” where I would just see them and hang out with them at school. But we never really talked or saw each other outside of school. Coming into college, this is how I viewed nice people in my classes. Everyone that was nice to me and I got along with, I would enjoy their friendship during the course of that class, and at the end of the semester, we’d part ways. I never tried seeing them outside of class, and definitely didn’t ask much about their personal life. Or even worse, I’d be creeped out by their reaching out to hang outside of class. I wish I would’ve learned sooner to not be so standoff-ish. I missed out on so many great friendships that I only found later! Now I have a couple of good friends I met from either class or networking events that I allowed myself to become friends with personally, and they’re such great friends. Not only could this be your next best friend, it’s nice to have a diverse group of friends, and not just friends in, say, your sorority.

3. Learn to like yourself with no sleep.

The sooner you learn to function and feel normal without a full eight hours, the sooner a whole new world opens up to you. This is a world where you live the “YOLO” lifestyle. This “YOLO” lifestyle doesn’t just apply to  going out and partying, but joining more clubs, being more productive, seeing your friends more. Whatever it is that you don’t have time for, you could regret not making more memories at the end of it all. Don’t be afraid to say, “hell ya!” to your tightly-knit schedule and swap out some of your sleep for a deep, late night talk with your roommate. Or go out on a midnight McDonalds run with your girls. You may sleep much that night… or shower. I mean, gross, but perfume and baby wipes can do wonders, right? You’re not going to remember being stinky the next day, but you’ll remember the laughs you had during those late nights. And even if you do remember doing something stupid, or running into an ex without having showered, that’s just more memories to look back at and laugh at!

4. Don’t skip the gym because “you’re too busy” or have “too much homework” that week.

There were countless times I felt too stressed to go to the gym that week and I just told myself, “So you just won’t go this week. It’s fine.” And honestly, I wasn’t using the work as an excuse, I truly felt way to overwhelmed and felt the need to just keep working. I’ve learned that sometimes you have to push yourself away from the work, go to the gym, and just start working out. Exercising clears your mind, helps you practice working  faster and more efficiently, and it can even better your mental health. The last thing you should do when your stressed is skip the one guaranteed thing that’s going to help you destress. You don’t have to do a whole workout, or go as many times, but just go once or twice that week— it’ll make all the difference! When you get back to working, you’ll feel more awake and have a fresh mind-set. You’ll probably finish the work faster and better than you would have if you stayed in that stressed place. You also should not neglect mental or physical health. We as college students are so quick to neglect our mental and physical health, but self-care can be the saving grace to bettering your education and personal life. So take 30 minutes and just go for a run, do some yoga, or take a quick group class at Southwest— you’ll feel so much better and thank me later, I promise!

5. Talk to people. Be honest. Be yourself.

One bad habit I have is not opening up to people, even my close friends and acquaintances. I always feel the need to keep things to myself. Sometimes it’s because I feel like I’m boring someone or they’re not interested, sometimes I’m scared of jinxing something, or sometimes I just think they don’t care and they didn’t ask so why would I tell (I hate bragging, and feel weird sharing good news)! Whether you’re like this, or not, keep sharing everything with everyone and don’t be scared of what they think. Okay, maybe not everything… keep it socially acceptable and PG, of course. But bottom-line is that you don’t know everything about everyone, and someone may have that one thing you’re looking for in a friendship. If  you’re stressed about a big decision, have good news, or just have a crazy story to tell, share it because someone else may have a similar problem or experience or some advice to give you. Lately I’ve started spilling more things about myself to people I wouldn’t call my “best friends” because I’ve been so stressed I can’t even care about what they think, and it’s helped so much! People have shared stories and advice with me that I never even thought of. Who knows if I would’ve figured it out myself, but I’m grateful for the people who were there for me. So take a chance on people and let them in, it may just be the thing you needed.

6. Take your parents advice, but make your own decisions.

My entire life I’ve been the “goodie-two-shoes,” always following what my parents say, or doing things that I know they would approve of. Call it first-child syndrome, but all I ever wanted was their approval. But after four years of living on my own, and I do mean it took me all four years to finally realize this, I’ve learned that what your parents say is out of love and care, but it’s not always right. And even if it is right (even though there isn’t really a true “right” answer), it’s still your life. You either have to learn from your own mistakes, or just enjoy those mistakes. In the end, you’re the one living your own life. At the end of everything, you may look back and remember all the times you made your parents proud, but you’ll more likely remember all the things you missed out on. You need to live your life for you! You can take what others say into consideration, but navigate life the way you want. Deal with the consequences and make those big decision and stand by them for you and no one else.

7. Clean your fr**king dorm/apartment once a week!

This one’s simple and easy, but just get used to it. You’ll feel better emotionally and physically having a clean space, and when you wake up to a clean apartment, you’ll feel more prepared to tackle the day and get stuff done. Clean space means a clear mind, and who wants to sleep in a rotten, dirty, insect-infested place?! Cleaning once a week will make the task feel a lot less overwhelming, too. The longer you put it off, the bigger pain it will be. And the more you’ll dread it every time. So just do yourself (and your roommates) a favor, and just block of 2-3 hours once a week for cleaning.

8. Be open-minded. Bite your tongue and listen.

Meet new people that you wouldn’t normally talk to and listen to their ideas and beliefs whole-heartedly. Even if it goes against your own thoughts, just listen. So often we come from such a place of defense that we don’t even listen to what others have to say. Whether you change your mind or not, it’s good to just stop, listen and think. Reaffirming what you already thought isn’t a bad thing, and neither is changing your mind. Who knows, you may even learn something new. So go ahead and broaden your horizons! Your outlook on life may just change for the better.

9. Stand up for yourself. Never be afraid to expect/ask for more.

I can be a pretty timid person, so sometimes I may care a little too much about what other people think of me.  I was always shy when it came to asking for things or going against the current of others. I think our natural desire for people to like us plays a part in all of us feeling a little need to blend in and not disagree with the majority.

For me, growing up with a southern mother didn’t help, either. I was raised on the values of being nice and always being hospitable. But after four years of living on my own and not being a minor (a.k.a. not having my parents to speak up for me), I quickly saw the opportunities I was missing. It took me four years to finally work up the courage to stand up for myself, and it’s still doesn’t feel the most natural. I don’t think it ever will feel natural, and I’ll always feel a little nervous right before. The point is not if you feel comfortable or if you feel bad or anxious, but to let yourself and others know that your voice matters. Speaking up for yourself is a part of life, personally and professionally, and that will never go away. So take a deep breath and just speak up! You may just be extremely surprised with the results.

These are just some of the lessons I’ve learned in my time as a college student, but you may have learned some of the same or completely different lessons altogether. Whether you have experienced these first hand or not, I still suggest taking these points with a grain of salt. Everyone experiences the wild world of college differently, but I hope my stories aided you as you make your own path at UF.

If any of my mistakes or experiences help you, at least then all those embarrassing moments were worth it, right?