Finding 17 Again

Her Campus USF had the opportunity to attend an advanced screening of the movie, "The Edge of Seventeen". Those who attended found it to be hilarious and quite relatable. It even got me thinking how far I have come from 17. So much has changed in the last two years. Friendships that were supposed to last forever, didn't make it past the beginning of senior year. College loomed around the corner and dashed my hopes of ever attending an Ivy League. 

 It was an emotionally driven time for everyone; we all felt alone at some point.  However, what is amazing, is the fact that we all felt this way, no matter where we came from or what we endured. We were all alone, but come together now through our diversity of experiences. 

A few students from the University of South Florida reflected on this transition from high school and provided some nuggets of wisdom that they have learned in college for those who find themselves pursuing this change. 

Anne Lastra is a young senior at 19. She has been studying psychology at the University of South Florida, since graduating locally from Wharton High School. Lastra shared what she thinks is important for teens in this age group looking toward the future.

 “Appreciate your youth, because once you get into college it is completely different,” Lastra said. “You have start thinking about bills, loans, scholarships and stuff like that. Make sure you start to appreciate what you have because you have someone cooking dinner every night and you don’t have to worry about paying the electric bill.”

Valeria Vallejo, a cell and molecular biology student at USF, shared that these experiences are actually good at this age because they instill a strong work ethic.  Vallejo is a graduate of John A. Ferguson High School in Miami. She is a sophomore at 19, so she is able to relate to this period of time easily as well.

“I would say that especially when you are in that age margin, you always keep hearing that yes, the fact is that life is going to get harder and that things are going to be tougher and you can not take for granted what you have today,” Vallejo said. “And in part, I do agree with that, but at the same time I would tell my 17-year-old self that this should not discourage a person from really trying to pursue their dreams or changing their dreams or like how big their dreams are. Because that shouldn’t be a limitation at all, if anything, it should be an encouragement for one to work harder towards what they want to accomplish.”

Vallejo continued to share why these challenges at a young age are important to her and individuals now as an adult.

“Nowadays things being so difficult in the world in all aspects, things don’t come easy in any way for anybody nowadays, no matter how much privilege you have, things require work,” Vallejo said. “And I would encourage others not to limit themselves and to not be afraid to work harder and really fight for what they want to do. Especially because they will be able to enjoy the fruits of what that brings upon them.”

The theme of not being afraid is emphasized to this age group.

Donovin Widmann, a USF student, is about to turn 20 in January. He shares how even though high school can be a tough and scary time, it is important to look past that.  He attended Ridgewood High School in Pasco County.

“Honestly don’t be afraid, don’t be so afraid to be yourself, don’t really care about it as much,” Widmann said. “ I mean I know high school can be 'hella' judgmental and you are afraid of what other people are going to be thinking of you, but you really only have one childhood and you really have one life to live and it is not that long so just enjoy it.”

In high school, it was a common belief that students tended to be scared because of the static environment they were in. This is because it is hard to think past this closed environment. Students struggle to be who they want to be as opposed to who they think others want them to be,especially in terms of personality and ability.

Through different backgrounds, the students interviewed were still able to connect with this experience.They were also able to connect with their growth through further education. This knowledge now helped shape what advice they would tell their younger selves.

“I have become a lot more open and lot more aware of different social issues: oppression, privilege, that kind of thing,” Widmann said. “I have realized some of my own privileges as well. It really did open me up to just because coming from Pasco County, a small county, going to this campus which so much more diverse, you really get a wider range of experiences and perspectives and it really did open up my eyes, as cliche and corny as it sounds.”

Vallejo felt this in her work abilities.

“So connecting to the idea of what I would tell my 17-year-old self, yes, life has gotten tougher in many aspects, but at the same time it has been a lot more enriching,” Vallejo said.  “I feel like college, like I said, has made me grow not only in a personal way but it has made me appreciate that even though life and in circumstances can get a little bit tough on a person, it makes things a lot more worthwhile to be able to work as hard as you need to accomplish something and be able to enjoy the results of your hardwork.”

Lastra felt growth due to her experiences in college.

“It  has made me more aware of things,” Lastra said. “ Social issues and stuff like that, but it also made me realize, like how I said that there are people with the same similarities as you; that it’s good to be yourself because then you reach people who want to be with you all the time”

Lastra continued to speak about how important relationships are.

“Appreciate the relationships that you have because I know that when you go into college, it can be scary trying to meet new different people because it is a completely different environment,” Lastra said. “You know in high school you are forced to talk to people you see, the same people everyday, but when you go to college it’s just a whole different world and like you meet so many different other people. Also don’t be afraid to be yourself, because even though there are people who could be judging you, when you get to college then you actually even though it’s hard to,  you actually start meeting people that actually could have the same similarities as you do.”

Widmann shared that the future will depend on this. Students in high school about to make this transition need to capitalize on their different backgrounds and use them this connecting experience.

“I know it’s going to be, it’s going to get scary these next four years, not to get super political, but it’s a, different changes are going to happen, but just know in the end, just do what’s best for you,” Widmann said. “Whether it’s first and foremost your safety and how comfortable you are, but if you really, don’t be afraid to be yourself and get out there.”