You learn a lot at college. In my first semester, I learned way more than I expected, but instead of pouring out all of the academic knowledge I acquired in a short post, I am going to tell you about what I learned about life.
1. Distance matters. The people on your floor can become your best friends. At first, it concerned me that so many people said the people that live next to them ended up being their close friends. It’s frightening. What if you don’t like those people? What if you don’t find anyone that you click with? The truth is, there are plenty of people on my floor that I will never be good friends with—and honestly, I might never meet some of them. However, there are so many different kinds of people, that you are bound to find friends. I got lucky: I found lots of them.
2. Everything changes. The things you think matter will change. No matter what you expected to care about in college, it will change. I am not saying your morals will change and you will completely reverse everything you have ever believed in. But it will make you question what you value and, what’s more, it will force you to consider why you ever applied to college in the first place.
3. Who you were in high school doesn’t matter. Most people don’t talk about what kind of people they were in high school. In fact, I don’t know much about the past of most of my close friends in college. I just found out at the end of the semester that one of my friends was valedictorian of his class, and he never brought it up, because he was so humble about it. It’s somewhat weird if you think about it, but you usually don’t spend too much time thinking about that. You live in the moment. You get to know who these people are right now because, after all, that’s all that matters.
4. Guys have feelings, too. It’s really a beautiful thing, but if you ask any guy if this were true, they would probably deny it to the end of the earth. They often try to put a tough guy act on, but this is real life, guys. I have witnessed it. Put on Crazy Stupid Love, and watch college guys get emotionally invested in Steve Carell’s romantic fate. It’s like magic.
5. Your address has changed. If you’re where you are meant to be, you won’t be homesick. In fact, when you go home on holiday break, you might feel homesick, because you know that you are away from your new home. It’s where you sleep and eat and socialize. In college, those are your most basic needs.
6. You will keep in touch with the people that you care about most. The other night I was talking to my friend Grace*, who has been one of my best friends since I was 7-years-old. I share everything with her. She probably knows more about me than anyone else in the world. We don’t get to see each other very often now, and actually we didn’t see each other that much in high school, despite living about 10 minutes apart. Yet, we have texted almost everyday since both of us got cellphones in like 6th grade. We could probably name each other’s college friends. She usually knows if I like a guy before I do. When I was debating over possible career choices, she could even tell me why I wouldn’t like certain jobs. You figure out who you want to keep in touch with, and you make it work. Period.
7. There is never enough time. This sounds weird, but even when you’re studying it feels like the clock is broken because the hands are spinning so fast (or more realistically, that the digital numbers are changing rapidly, but that didn’t have the same finesse). As the saying goes, “time flies when you’re having fun.” I wouldn’t be the first person to admit reading textbooks and endless articles is not exactly a college kid’s idea of fun, but when we are up against midnight deadlines and exams coming up sooner than we expected, things change. The libraries are full of people downing Starbucks and Red bulls in hopes of harnessing enough energy to crank out a paper or memorize five chapters of information.
8. Living in close quarters means you learn a lot about everyone. By the end of your first semester, you could have friends that feel like family. You will see them everywhere. When you go to the bathroom. When you leave for classes. When you go to eat. I don’t think I have ever spent so much time with the same group of people. The best is having late night talks that quite literally last until the middle of the night, when you realize how late it really is. And there is no faster way to bond with people then to have impromptu deep and meaningful talks about life.
9. You are there to learn. Once classes start, it hits you: this isn’t just a place you came to hang out and make friends. You (or whoever is funding your education is) are spending thousands and thousands of dollars to get a degree that says you are knowledgeable and qualified to be a good worker. So go to the library. Join a club. And make this time matter.
10. Life takes time. The “I want it, and I want it now” mindseteasy to get stuck in, but you often have to step back and realize that you aren’t going to have all of the answers right away. You shouldn’t expect to know what your major is or what career path you would take by the end of your first lecture. It takes time. In fact, many people who have graduated from college and are already in the work field don’t have it all figured out. The most important thing that I learned this semester was that the beauty of life is that you don’t have to know all the answers. You don’t have to figure it all out right now. Instead, all you have to do is give life your all and see where you end up, because that is all you can do. Worrying about the future is natural, but if you spend all of your time doing it, then you really are missing out on journey, which is really what it is all about. I know this is getting terribly cliché and sappy, but I am starting to believe for the first time in my life that right now is the best time in my life. Not just because it is college, but because it is today.
*The name has not been changed in this post. She offered her permission to write about her.