5 Things I Learned From my First Year of College
(Image Inspo: Jenn Im)
If I could sum up my first year of college within the parameters of a couple words, it would be the only appropriate time I’ve ever used the phrase “I can’t.”
Rather, I discovered that I set the expected parameters for myself and my first year of college far too small. I know it’s such a cliche but this past year has, without a doubt, been such a defining, self-discovering trip (lmao) And the fact that it’s only the beginning strikes me with awe again and again, and again.
Was it the distance from home or was it the confrontation of my all my high school fears and insecurities? (But that’s another story.) Here are five things I learned that I found worthy of sharing.
I. EVERYONE JUST WANTS TO MAKE FRIENDS
I got the most out of what I put in
I realized I really had to put myself out there. No one was going to know I existed if I spent every single night in my apartment room binging The Flash. (Not that there’s anything wrong with days to yourself!) For the most part of my first quarter, I went out with my apartment to school events and hung out with my best friend. Sometimes vice versa and sometimes all of us together and that was the variation of my social interactions. I never went to parties or kickbacks because, quite plainly, I was scared. However, I learned that I couldn’t make friends if I didn’t give others the opportunity to know me. I was incredibly shy (and had such low self esteem that I doubted anyone would even want be friends with someone like me) coming from high school so it really took a lot out of me to venture out of my comfort zone. I remember being so terrified to go out to club events or organization meetings but I held onto something my sister always told me before leaving for college. “Everyone just wants to make friends.” Which means everyone is just like me, coming into this scary new environment just looking for a home.
Second quarter I really put myself out there, holding onto every shred of self-confidence I had. This really changed my life. I met so many people from different aspects of life and made so many unforgettable memories, along with memories I do wish to forget (lmao) Also, college is so huge that I never had to make a commitment to someone if I honestly didn’t vibe with them. And college is also so huge I was bound to find people I could relate to. (I’m blessed to have found many!)
II. DON’T BE JUDGEMENTAL
High school, at least for me, was a pretty shady time. Being an insecure teen I definitely tried my hardest to fit in. This meant picking up some terrible norms like judging individuals/groups based on superficial characteristics or talking badly about someone else in order to feel powerful and in charge of my own insecurities and self-confidence. 10/10 do not recommend. It was such a relief being both physically and mentally at a place where I did not need to engage in gossip in order to spark interest with someone because my other interests did not catch their attention. No one cares what you look like, what you wear, or who you hang out with. All that matters is your personality. 10/10 do recommend being urself.
III. DON’T LISTEN TO RUMORS
What I heard about orgs vs. What I experienced in orgs
Prior to coming into college, I heard so many rumors about so many different organizations that made me reluctant to join them. Something I realized and told myself was, “Do not listen to what anyone tells you; try it for yourself.” It’s human nature for people to naturally defend/oppose literally everything and we’re all different with different passions and pursuits.
Joining Kaibigang Pilipino, the filipinx org at my university, was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I was immersed into this space surrounded by a family who cared for me and pushed me to challenge myself by “leaning into my discomfort.” When I was in HS, being filipinx and even “liking” it was not cool at all and it made me reject my own culture. Here I was free to love and understand my roots and become empowered by my own identity. (I am also happy to say that through this organization, I will be a peer counselor next year!)
IV. IT’S OKAY TO FAIL (LITERALLY)
Coming in pre-med from a trash high school lol
I moved miles away from home expecting to experience a culture shock. What I experienced instead was an academic shock. My high school was not in the best location nor did it really prepare me for what was actually to come after I graduate. It was really discouraging coming into college and seeing my GPA take the biggest L. Despite all my studying, hard work, and all-nighters (all of which I’ve never done in high school) my test grades and overall course grades never reflected my efforts. At first, I thought I was really stupid and didn’t even deserve to go to this university. But I just had to realize it’s all part of the process. Through failure, I learned how to study better suited to the way I learn and I reminded myself to take other classes just in case maybe this wasn’t the path for me.
Also, there were so many successful people I’ve met (and haven’t met but have heard of) who have gone through and came out of worse situations. Having people I could fall back on and knowing people with incredible, comeback stories encouraged me and pushed me. I just finished my first year, so of course I’m still unsure of what I want to pursue, but there’s nothing I regret and I’m so thankful for all the support I’ve received from friends.
V. I LOST SOME AND I GAINED SOME
Basically cut off a lot of old “friends” to make room for new, lifelong friendships
I had to accept the many realities of friendships through distance. I just had to realize that some of mine were based on proximity and convenience. It sucked a lot and it highkey felt like a genuine, heart-wrenching break-up. Despite continuous efforts to make my relationships with a select few never fade, the relationship couldn’t cultivate simply because the other end didn’t feel the same way. While it hurt, I accepted it. It allowed me to dedicate my time to actual relationships that were much deeper.
Something I want to add to this is that gaining new relationships do not have to stem from new people in your life. You can make new relationships with people who you currently know! Here’s an Instagram comment I added to supplement an appreciation post I made for someone a couple months ago when I first had this thought:
My first year of college exceeded my expectations and then some. I am beyond grateful for the experiences and relationships which have developed me into who I am today and will continue to live on as they impact my everyday decisions. I am so looking forward to the following years as I continue to grow beyond my inevitable, self-constructed limits and see more and more of what I’m capable of.
And that’s that! Thanks for tuning in with me and I hope to have you here again soon!
Learning to exist,