They say that high school is the best four years of your life. Maybe for some. For me, it is and always will be college. It’s been exactly a week since my college graduation. In my short time home, I felt like I was home for summer break, not done with my undergraduate career forever. I expected to sob hysterically throughout senior week and commencement weekend and strangely didn’t at all. Don’t get me wrong, I had a few good cries throughout the year in general. I loved my college experience more than anything in my life. But the best lesson I took out of it is that no matter how atrocious or fantastic it was, there was always more ahead, proving that the best is yet to come.
Going away to college and living there, whether it’s just twenty minutes away from home or a twenty hour flight away from home, is the best way to take advantage of what a four year university experience has to give. It teaches you how to live with others who are different from you, play nice with people (because we all know that sometimes, people suck and test our tolerance), balance different aspects of our lives, and most importantly grow up. Overall, it’s a humbling experience.
Any college experience, especially mine, is like the El Toro ride at Six Flags Great Adventure, an amusement park that houses the world’s fastest roller coaster and biggest wooden coaster (El Toro). If you’ve ever ridden El Toro, you are familiar with the smooth rise, the 96 degree drop, repeated few drops after that, the giant curve that puts you nearly 80 degrees on your side, and a series of twists at that give whiplash a whole new meaning before braking to a sudden stop. If you think about it, that initial incline, plateau, and massive drop is the shocking change that is freshman year. The multiple humps after that is the sophomore hell we all endear. The large winding curves are junior year in which we start to find a right balance that turns us into the end of the journey. Lastly, those series of twists and turns represent the wild and fun ride that is senior year before it suddenly all comes to an end.
College, meet El Toro. El Toro, meet college.
To say I had a rough four years is an understatement. These four years were practically like a meat grinder, and I’m about as mixed up (yet still somehow whole) as veal. Gross, I know. But you get what I mean.
Freshman year for me was that initial incline of excitement, a plateau of the same nonstop routine of doing way too much, and a terrifying face plant drop when my academics, extracurriculars, and personal life started to crumble. Much like that empty pit in your stomach when you ride a rollercoaster, I felt that same feeling exiting my first year. It’s a cute time. We’re all so young, way too eager, and quite inexperienced and immature. Very few freshman walk into their first year and walk out the same. It’s the year of trying things and enjoying the abundant room for mistakes.
Sophomore Slump is from the end of that drop to the end of the series of ups and downs. No matter how much you fight it and insist you’re different, sophomore year will get to you. Some will say it’s just because you’ve been sprinting through freshman year on an all time high and naturally will need a break. Others will address the regression to the mean theory for this slump. I say it’s because the rose-colored glasses are off and college is no longer this bundle of endless fun. You start seeing the ugly truth to many things. It doesn’t mean everything is bad; it just means freshman year goggles are off. You start seeing people’s true characters. What’s scarier is you also start seeing yours.
It’s sophomore year that teaches you a lot about your limits, likes, dislikes, strengths, and weaknesses. It also shapes your interpersonal skills pretty well. For me, I learned those lessons from a terrible relationship with my parents, constant change in friend groups, and an overly passionate-turned-toxic relationship. By the end of this year, I was exhausted. The good thing was I knew how I didn’t want my second half of college to go. It is here where you start to filter through the garbage of drama you sit on and start to solidify a few short-term goals.
Junior year was what I called the cocoon year. Most people fully step out of their underclassmen days and start to evolve, change, and mature. Part of it is because you need a break from being oversaturated with experiences, yours or others that you were a part of. Whether these are great, average, or unspeakably horrid experiences, they occupy a lot of your time, energy, and memory. With internships or the possibility of graduate school ahead, you start focusing on what’s important and look at the bigger picture outside of all the bullshit in your school’s bubble.
Senior year is proof to freshmen that the best is yet to come. No one will ever tell you that his/her senior year was bad. It doesn’t matter if the worst thing that happened to you in college happened senior year. The key reason is because by now you’re mostly secure with yourself, have a sense of what your future will look like, and are past the trivial matters that clouded your mind for years. You know how to balance things and handle rough situations in the most morally correct way. You know how to handle different personalities and work with those who are less then compatible. No one can tell you what to do or who to be anymore. Even if you’re terrified of post graduate life, you’re secure with yourself, or at least more so than you were when you first entered college.
For me, senior year was my happiest. With my close girl friends rather same throughout college, I had a different group of guy friends each year. This year, I finally found the group of people that I bond with the strongest and am blessed to be moving to New York with them as well as a handful of my closest friends both in and out of my college. The year was full of beautiful memories: a killer recruitment resulting in a beautiful pledge class, first place in Greek Sing and Booth, an amazing buggy season with the fraternity that grew to be like my own brothers, and the most fun and memorable Carnival. Honestly, all of that noise isn’t important at the end of the day. The important matter is by the time your graduation gown and cap is on, you start realizing that no matter how many twists and turns the end of this ride threw at you, you’re coming to a stop with a much stronger sense of self. Knowing yourself and being comfortable with your growth and maturation is the key to happiness, success, and expanding your potential.
From recruitment to formal events to spring break to Greek Sing to booth to buggy to my first ever champagne (+ Natty Light… thanks friends…) showers to birthdays to crazy Saturday nights, I couldn’t have asked for a better a senior year. I got to share my knowledge with my younger mentees, put my hard-earned lessons inside and outside the classroom to good use, and fulfill my academic and career goals. I learned how to open up, trust, forgive, and forget. I also learned how to heal myself if I ever get hurt again. But best of all, I had some of the best memories with the people I love:
Congrats! You made it past my saga of this year’s biggest highlights. (If you’re not a senior yet, don’t worry. You’ll come to find that by the end of your four years you will have one too.) College is a weird span of time full of exponential growth and experiences. If there is one thing my college taught me, it’s that anything is truly possible. When I walked onto campus, I had no idea what I actually wanted and who I actually am. I didn’t think I could accomplish as much as all my more intelligent peers and grew to be self-deprecating and unfaithful. I was judgmental, naive, and stubborn. So if I could go from a gushy and immature creature who had no idea what she was doing to someone I am finally proud of and to someone who freely expresses herself unapologetically on a blog, anyone can find that confidence in their college career as well.
For those of you who are still struggling (or thriving) through it, ask yourself what you want to remember when you look back at these four years. Then make it happen. This is the only time you live and breathe the same air as a pool of resources all outside your door. All you have to do is seek, and you shall find. You don’t need to graduate with a 4.0 or honors or a 6-digit salary. You just need to graduate with a better understanding of yourself, an inner peace with yourself, and a wealth of knowledge about the world you live in. That’s earning an honors in life, in my opinion.
Thank you Carnegie Mellon, the Greek community, Dancers’ Symposium, Undergraduate Marketing Organization, Tepper School of Business for an unparalleled four years. All the people and organizations I came across helped build me up and whip me into shape. Without you all, I would have never learned to be more open-minded, patient, and compassionate. I also would have never had the type of self-confidence I have now without unconditional love and support outside my parents and friends at home. Thank you to my best friends for accepting me and sticking by me through thick and thin crust pizzas at 3am. Most of all, thank you to those in admissions for believing in me four years ago. Because of you all, I learned how to believe in myself too. I am blessed and humbled by this gift.
Cheers, Class of 2017 and bonne chance, mes chéries! And if you’re having a bad day, just remember that the best is always yet to come.