10 Lessons I’ve Learned in College as this Semester Comes to a Close

Can you believe we only have a few weeks of classes left for this Fall 2016 semester? Each semester goes by a little bit faster than the last. Next Spring was supposed to be my last semester, and I’ve learned more than I ever thought I would; I still have a year to go, so I suppose this list is semi-incomplete, because who knows what this next year could bring. These last few years have been a whirlwind of experiences, emotions, essays and existential crises. I think that’s just part of the college experience. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned as we near the end of the Fall semester of my 4th year of college.

Illustration by Elliana Demarco
  1. If it doesn’t make you happy, don’t do it.
    I’ve found that a lot of the times I was doing things was simply because I felt obligated to do them. I didn’t want to be labeled a quitter. Lose that attitude. If you’re in a club and you’re miserable and dread going to the meetings – quit. If you hate studying pre-med, change your major. If you would rather stay in and binge watch Netflix than go out until 1 am, stay in. There is no wrong way to do college (this isn’t the movies, people). It’s YOUR life, and there is not enough time to be doing things that do not make you happy.
  2. If they want to leave, let them.
    A lot of people you meet in college are temporary. And a lot of the friends you had before college started might seem to drop off the face of the Earth. It’s ok. The people who want to be around, will be. Make sure you are an active presence in the lives of people you care about, and they will do the same for you. We all have different paths, and it’s natural we move in different directions. Remember people who leave with fond memories, and know that sometimes, you might be the one to go.
  3. Be honest about how you feel.
    Speak up. Sometimes the people around you don’t know if they’ve hurt you. Tell them – most of the time, they will do everything they can to make sure it doesn’t happen again. On a different note, if you think something nice, share that thought with the world. If you like someone’s new haircut, tell them. If you love someone, let them know (yes, I’m talking about platonic relationships, too). If someone invalidates your feelings, it might be time to reevaluate your relationship.
  4. Don’t let the world get you down.
    Sometimes existing can be really hard. Sometimes all you can see and hear around you is the negative. Sometimes people will tell you that your field is useless. Sometimes people will make you feel stupid or embarrassed. The weight of it all can get pretty heavy. Rise above it. Be sure that you are someone spreading positive vibes and standing up for what you believe in. Be who you want to be, and don’t let anyone decide for you what that is.
  5. Quit looking for love.
    So many people think this is make it or it break it time when it comes to romantic love. The truth of it all is that we are so young. I’m not trying to bash on anyone who has found their forever-person, don’t get me wrong; love is cool and all, but it’s not everything, and you have plenty of time. If you are unapologetically yourself, and give all the love you have to give, someone will give it back. It’s time to love yourself first. Learn who you are, learn what you want, figure out what you need, and go get it. The people who want to be along for the ride, will be.
  6. Check in with yourself.
    Stop. Stop everything you are doing. Evaluate. Ask yourself these questions. Am I happy studying what I am studying? Am I happy here? What can I do right now to better my life? What do I need to be doing to reach the goals I have set for myself? What can I do to better the lives of those around me? Am I doing my best work? Have I taken time for myself today? We are constantly growing and changing, and the first step to success is knowing yourself. Take some time to be introspective and to understand who you are.
  7. Check in with your loved ones. 
    Your family misses you. As awesome as it is to be out of your house and living on your own or with your roommates, you should be checking in with home. A lot happens while you are away. It’s amazing what a phone call with mom can do; sometimes there’s just stuff you need to get off your chest that no one else could understand. Even if you just send a text to your siblings or parents, aunts or uncles, grandparents or friends, let the people you love know that you are thinking of them – even if you don’t talk so much anymore.
  8. Your best might not be the same as someone else’s best. 
    Do not, I repeat – DO NOT – place YOUR value in someone else’s work. By this, I mean, don’t compare yourself to others. We are all fighting different battles, and what other people are able to do does not reflect on what you are able to do. Sometimes the people around you are doing amazing things, but that is no reason to feel inadequate. Support the hardworking people around you, and support yourself. So long as you are doing your best with what you have, you are doing just fine. Attitude is everything.
  9. Your value is not based on your productivity.
    Contrary to what this world seems to be, you do not need to be busy 24/7 to be considered a good person. I know our society is incredibly competitive, and often times our schedules are packed and it’s not even our choice – it’s just the way it needs to be for us to make it here. With this in mind, know that it is ok to have nothing to do. Seriously, it’s even good for your health. We’re not robots, and we are not made to work as much as we do. Our bodies start to fight against us, our brains turn to mush. Don’t be filling your schedule with stuff you don’t need or want to do simply to feel like a productive person. If you need the break from the world, take it.
  10. Find balance.
    It’s easy to become consumed by one thing. Don’t let school take up your whole life. School is important, you should be going to classes and getting your work done, but you need to find the time to have fun and to be human. There have been weeks at a time where I would forget to eat until 6 or 7 pm because I was so consumed by the work I was doing for school. It’s not healthy. Take time to see your friends, your family. Take time for yourself. Make sure you are eating, cleaning, showering, sleeping. Make sure you get to class. Finding that balance can be difficult, but it will be fulfilling.

Know that these lessons are what I’ve come to find with my own personal experiences. We are all living different lives; you might find some of this really helpful, you might find that some of this does not apply to you – that’s alright.

I wouldn’t want my college experience to have been any other way, and I’m open to learn as much as I can.
I hope you are too,
FYM Kelly


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