The 5 things every college freshman needs to know

There always reaches a time, in any journey, when you realize that there are more days behind you than there are ahead. Whatever step it may be in your life, it no longer exists in the glowing dream of a journey before you. Instead, it’s wrapped up in memories, in the little moments that define your past. Only a lucky few can live with no regrets. For most of us, what-ifs and could-have-beens litter our pasts.

I have two months until I graduate University. I’ve been both ecstatic and destitute, sure of myself and so very, very lost here. I’ve been able to feel content studying alone in my room, and desperately alone while in a room full of people. I’ve slowly transitioned to my last year of university, where I feel like nothing has changed and yet, when I look back, everything is different. I can’t say that my time here has been lived out to the fullest, or that I can look back without regrets. I have, however, gained in university the kind of wisdom that can only be garnered through experience. And, using the only skill I’ve learned here, I have summarized it into a condensed, 5-point list.

  1. Study abroad. The biggest regret I have is not having challenged myself to study abroad. The real world doesn’t really give you an opportunity like this without any consequences or limitations, so take advantage of it while you can. Spend time in a foreign country, eat a different cuisine, learn about a new culture. This is one of the best experiences you can have in college. 
  2. Travel. I spent most of my time in university either in school and looking for a job, or sulking about school and looking for a job. I should have spent my breaks jetting off to Spain, cruising in the Caribbean, or scarfing down sushi in Japan. Even if you don’t have the resources to travel, you should consider working part-time to save money, or borrowing money from your parents. Do whatever it takes to do as much travelling as you can, while you can. 
  3. Join the archery club. Or the African society. Or magic club. Or any cool group that teaches you something new and exciting. University is all about finding yourself and experiencing new things. Don’t be afraid to stray a little from all of the other keeners, and join something other than the Pre-law Society, Finance Association, or Debate Club.
  4. Eat out at all of the dirty, cheap local restaurants while your body still lets you. This is something I definitely did not miss out on, and both the scale and my wallet certainly reflect it. But the truth is, you’re going to look back and remember laughing with friends over a plate of greasy fries, not the $2 you saved by eating at home. 
  5. Study. This is the final lesson: GPA matters. Whether it’s to impress employers or get into your choice of graduate school, remember what you’re really there for. 

Get ready for the roller coaster ahead of you, because the next four years are going to be full of ups, downs, and loop-de-loops. You’re going to make so many right choices, and even more wrong ones. But somehow, miraculously, you’re going to end up where you’re supposed to be.

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When you know you’ve finally grown up.

You are the guardian of your own happiness.

I used to be so affected by everyone’s opinions of me. I cared about what my parents thought – I thought that they knew what was best for me, that their opinions and knowledge were always absolute and sound. I cared about what my friends thought – whether I was just a sidekick to everyone else’s evolving lives. And I cared, without reason and without limits, about what strangers thought – what were their first impressions of me? Was I fat, ugly, and stupid?

I lived feeling like I was dropped into a world that was so dense, so hard, and so immalleable. I was putty, being shaped and molded by whatever everyone else around me was doing or saying. It was exhausting – I could never be happy in my own skin. I was always hopelessly chasing butterflies. I would be right on the cusp of catching my own, but let it go whenever I saw another one that some other kid was chasing. I’m always too busy looking at the other kids.

As I’m growing up and growing old, I’m finally beginning to realize that I need to live life by my own standards, my own means, and my own goals. People who love me give me their ideals of what they think is best for me. People who hate me carelessly throw words my way, hoping that I am weak enough to let them affect me. Either way, I need to learn to accept these opinions with kind graciousness.

And then I can turn around and do whatever the fuck I want to do.

Nothing is absolute. No one has a set formula for success. People have their own reasons for going down a certain path, and everyone’s circumstances are different. I need to set my goals with reason and with certainty. This way, when I’m swayed by whatever my surroundings are, I can easily recall my own purpose and continue along my own journey. I can be motivated by my own decisiveness to work harder and to learn more. I need to chase my butterfly with almost a tunnel vision, stopping only to study others’ techniques. And who knows, maybe one day I’ll catch a monarch.