Four years ago, I moved into my freshmen dorm not knowing what to expect. I was scared, nervous and completely overwhelmed. I've never lived on my own or been away from my parents and friends for a long period of time. I was in a new place, living with strangers and completely unsure of what was going to come next.
Four years later, here I am, depressed beyond words that I'm graduating on Saturday. I'm still scared, nervous, and completely overwhelmed. I might be feeling all those emotions but I'm a completely different person I am leaving college than I was coming in.
It's hard, leaving something behind that has given you so much. Graduation feels like a breakup that you've been expecting for months but there is nothing you can to do to put the brakes on. Eventually you and college need to part ways but knowing that doesn't make it any easier.
College has been a learning experience for me, a force of nature that made me grow up into the person I was meant to be. Iona College has been the placed that nurtured me, kept me safe and sane, but also gave me some of life's biggest lesson--both big, small, serious, and practical.
I never knew how much college would give me. Of course I've gotten a wonderful education but when I walk across that stage, I'm not going to remember the things I learned in my history and science classes, I'm going to remember the hard, life lessons that this school and my friends have given me and I figured I should share them.
1. Your freshmen year will not define you. People will forget the guys you hooked up with and you'll be able to branch out from your roommates. Those little fights you had with your suitemates might not last forever but at the same time, they might. In reality though, out of a number of girls, one of them might turn into a friendship that will stand the test of time. Hold onto that.
2. It's important to learn how to balance everything in your life. Get a planner, write down your homework assignments and your friend's birthdays. Make time for school but make time to go the bar. Most importantly, make time for your best friends. Grab dinner once a week even if you have a test to study for. Learning to balance your social life and your education will be the best lesson college will teach you.
3. The Sunday morning struggle bus is the best bus. You're in college, you're going to drink and you're going to get drunk/blackout/make a fool out of yourself. There is nothing funnier and greater than getting breakfast with your best friends on a Sunday morning and recapping the entire weekend. Watching your friend's faces drop when you tell them something embarrassing they did is the greatest reward. On that note? Learn your best hangover cure and let it become a religious experience.
4. The friends you came in with might not be the ones you leave with. Going to college changes your life. You're not always there for your friends from high school/friends at home because your schedules are different. You are meeting new people and so are they. Your friends at school become your family because you are spending every second of every day with them. In reality, you become a different person and your 'old' friends might not understand that. Because of this, friendships will wither but the most important friends will stick around and support your life. Remember that some people come into your life forever but others only for a short time. Don't let this discourage you.
5. Find something you could throw yourself into. College is the time to experiment; it's a soul searching process and if you allow it too, college will shift and transform you. Find something, whether it's Greek life, an RA position, or becoming president of a club, find something that you can love and be passionate about. It will make college much more exciting than just going to class, watching Netflix, and getting wasted during the weekends. If you are involved with something, it will change you and enrich your college experience even more. Without being as involved as I was, college would've been totally different.
6. Things will come when you least expect it. Surprises will be thrown your way throughout four years. You'll be surprised at a grade you got on a paper or how well you click with someone you never thought you'd be friends with..surprises are around every corner. You might find something out about yourself that you never knew, like you actually had the ability to hold that leadership position or confront your roommate about an issue you've been dealing with. A surprise can come in the form of a person, friendship, relationship...anything. College gives you the ability to find out new things every single day.
7. Don't stress the little things. This is my number one lesson. I came into college with the worst anxiety disorder ever. Every little thing made me panic and stress, it wasn't good for my health or the people around me. It was taking a toll on me and up until a few months ago, I couldn't get it under control. Even if it took me four years, I finally understood that no matter what, everything will work out, everything will okay and nothing is as worse as it seems. My motto for the past two years has been "We'll figure it out, we always do". Running a sorority taught me this, that no matter what you will have people by your side to support you and to hold your hand. Lean on them, you don't have to do things alone and don't stress too much because it'll all work out.
I don't know where the next chapter of my life is going to take me. My life is at a standstill and I'm not ready to turn the page but I know that these few lessons will stick with me forever, and I owe that all to Iona College.