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Unconventional Things I Learned in College

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Wisconsin chapter.

A graduating senior’s “wisdom”

I feel as though I’m nearing a breakup as my college experience comes to a close. 

In a lot of ways, committing to four years of school is a lot like being in a long-term relationship. This university has seen me cry, has given me friends and has been my home while I’ve transitioned from being a teenager to an adult. I’m having to say good-bye to a big part of my existing identity as an early twenty-something, and think of alternative personality traits to tell people besides “being a Badger.” In honor of me leaving campus, here are some of the unconventional things I’ve learned during my time here. 

1. How to prioritize brain power.

This is a big one. A lot of people will tell you that college will teach you how to manage your time. With all of the activities, classes and jobs that take up your time at school, you’ll have to plan out your day in order to get everything done. This is all true, and learning how to manage your time makes doing these tasks while also getting enough sleep at night much easier. However, what will stick with me more is where to put my brain energy. Not all tasks require the same cognitive effort. Sometimes you don’t need to give all your homework assignments the same amount of brain energy, or to go ham on every single exam. It’s more important to conserve energy to get everything completed and to save energy for tasks that serve your mental health and physical well-being.

2. It’s okay to change your mind.

I flipped through so many mental pathways of how I wanted my life and education to pan out. I suffered through chemistry classes, sat confused in statistics, and even tested out economics, horticulture and ballroom dance. Ultimately, I decided to major in creative writing, and I always imagined I’d become an editor for a publishing company. However, I’m not so sure now. The truth that I’ve had to learn the hard way is that it is okay to have a plan and not stick with it. Alternatively, it’s okay to have a plan and not get to your goal through the same avenue you thought you would. Everyone is on their own path, and it’s okay to test things out. There’s no set way to complete the things you want to do in life. 

3. Rotating friends is normal.

Before college, I always thought I’d meet my close-knit group of people and that would be it for life. Boy, was I wrong. There are definitely people that have stayed together throughout the years; however, people also cycle through different friend groups. If you think about it, this is normal, because you are constantly changing where you live, what activities you’re involved in and what classes you’re taking, each with totally different people. Just like you can cycle through romantic relationships, it isn’t uncommon to recognize that a friendship has died out or gone awry. I always thought I was alone in that experience, but that turned out to not be true when I became friends with people who went through the same thing. 

4. It’s good to do things alone.

As someone who wound up rotating friend groups a few times, I figured out quickly how to go out and do things all on my own. However, even if you have lots of friends or a romantic partner to lean on, learning to do things all on your own is a good skill to have. It’s important to be your own best friend, and give yourself the emotional support you need when others aren’t there to do it for you. I took myself out to movies, grocery shopped and cooked for myself, and learned how to be present with my own thoughts. I now have a solid social circle, but learning to be on my own after my past relationships helped me to be less dependent on my current ones. 

Through making this list, I’ve condensed a lot of ideas into a few quick nuggets of wisdom. Many of these things I’ve had to learn the hard way, so I hope that by writing them down, someone who is still in college or is maybe just entering college might realize the tough things they experience as a young adult are also experienced by others like them. My time as a Badger may be coming to an end, but these lessons are some I’ll take with me my whole life. 

Bella Bussey is a junior at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, and is pursuing a major in English with an emphasis on creative writing. She loves dogs and cooking, and in her free time enjoys running, watching movies and hanging out with friends.