As I write this, I have been an alumnus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison for two days. Or as the subject of an email once told me the “A word.”
Four years of my life have never flown by so fast.
For those of you who are just about to start your college career or who are just at the start of it, I have two words of advice for you: relish it.
I know a lot of us have heard lists of things you must do or cannot forget to achieve before you graduate college, but here is my list — a list from a fresh new alumnus that wants nothing more to see people have the best four years of college ahead of them.
1. Listen to people. This is the generation of all talk and no listen. We love to post our thoughts on Facebook, write cryptic messages in 140 characters or less and then blog about our feelings in a WordPress post. But we never take the time to listen to others.
So many people have their own stories and they are all on a campus you now call home. Listen — not just in class — but to the people around you and the people you meet; you will be pleasantly surprised.
2. Buy a Brita water filter. You might be scratching your head at this one, but a lot of freshman residence halls are equipped with a mini fridge in the room or you or your roommate end up bringing one. I highly suggest buying a small Brita water filter so that if you want to fill up a water bottle during those late night study sessions in your room, you have no worries. You also don’t have to walk down the hall to the nearest water fountain and you know your water is filtered and clean.
Trust me on this one.
3. Say “No.” In fact, it is okay to say “No.”
As a freshman, you are extremely overwhelmed with the transition you are going through and you might not know what to do with it all. There will be a lot of kick-off meetings or student organization fairs at the beginning of each semester that are really geared for freshman. Go in to those meetings knowing what you want to learn more about and how far you want to push yourself to get involved.
If you know you won’t find it interesting, say “No” because there is always another opportunity right around the corner and you may end up resenting not taking a missed opportunity.
4. Fail at something. The best and the brightest students will surround you — which means everyone has to work twice as hard as they did in high school to get results.
But if you do not fail at something, even a small assignment, you will not realize how important it is to stay on track. Trust me, I am in no way saying to fail a midterm or final, but it is more important to realize that you will fail and that you need to learn from that.
5. Enjoy your student ID. Sure, it won’t get you into bars if you are under 21, but it can save you so much money on so many things: student rates on movie, theater or concert tickets, 15% off full-price merchandise at J. Crew, stand-by tickets on Ryan Air, the list goes on and on.
Furthermore, if you go abroad during your undergraduate career (which I highly recommend), chances are the University you are studying through abroad will also honor your student ID for some great deals.
6. Take a lot of pictures. This is the era of Facebook and posting pictures, liking comments and sharing posts. The day before I graduated I went through all of my photos from freshman year and realized all of the different stages I went through.
Besides some major fashion mistakes I made, I also remembered people who I used to be friends with but no longer stayed in touch with, but also realized who the most important people in my life are.
7. Invite your family to campus. You will miss your family. Trust me.
The first time I went home after moving to college, my mom pampered me so much I almost never wanted to go back to life as a college student! Have your family come to your campus for a day or a weekend and show them what you love about it and where you take classes. They hear you talk about all of these places and people over the phone or over Skype, but they would love to have you as their own personal tour guide.
8. Become a regular somewhere. I am a coffee fiend. There is a coffee shop right across the street from the Journalism Building, which is where I spent all of my time. I would frequent this coffee shop so often they would know my order as soon as I walked in the door. My best friend and I would go there twice a week for our lunch break and order the same exact thing, which also soon became another one of our regular orders. It was just habit.
There was a sense of commonality and calmness with knowing this place and the business owners. When I graduated and they knew it was my last day, they were genuinely sad to see me go.
Gain a sense of “being a regular” somewhere so you feel like home at a place you never thought you would.
Although these are only eight pieces of advice for you, there are always going to be the typical words of advice like: “Take a class you never thought you would be interested in,” or “Talk to someone who randomly lives down the hall from you.”
All of these things are true and should be taken into consideration.
But I encourage you to relish the little things, the things you will realize you miss a lot when you are called the “A word.”
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