Six years ago to the day, I embarked on my undergraduate journey. I was scared shitless. I wrote an article about this, which summarized my intense feelings of departure, both from home six years ago, and, eventually, from my university four years later. ‘Full circle’ doesn’t even begin to describe the path on which I travelled.
As I sit here, at home and with no immediate journey to embark on, I feel compelled to share just a few tips that I wish someone had given me six years ago. As it’s been said over and over again, advice is best given. Let me give it a shot.
1. Embrace your equivalent of the ‘freshman 15’
For some people, the ‘freshman 15’ is literal: a gain of fifteen pounds, fueled by drinking, laziness, and an unlimited meal plan. For others, this is metaphorical, representing an uncomfortable or negative change in appearance or habit or some other element, driven by a radical change in your lifestyle. For me, it was a bit of both the former and the latter, but my point remains: embrace the change, as negative as it may be. I still look at the transition from high school to university as one of the most defining times for young adults; with it comes good and bad. Embrace the bad, for you will look back on it once the year is done, and realize just how tough, and how grateful, it made you for your healthier and more comfortable ways.
2. You are the company you keep
It’s so, so, so tempting to find solace in any sort of company or friendship, no matter how good or bad it (they) are for you. You’re there, you’re new, and the most important thing is to ‘make new friends’. Right? Wrong. You really are the company you keep, and your happiness will be in large part defined by the influence of those connections that you decide to make. But the key word here is ‘decide’. You decide who you associate yourself with. As with anything in life, be patient, and don’t rush it. From clubs, to committees, to bars and coffee shops, there’s a place for almost every type of person, and it is in your most coveted settings that you will meet your most coveted friends.
3. You’ll only remember what’s memorable
I remember early on in first year debating between staying in town to study, and venturing off to a cottage. Initially, I had come to the conclusion that I would stay in town, get some work done, and feel as good and prepared as possible once the weekend finished. A close friend of mine asked me: “Ten years from now, will you remember that you stayed in and studied, or will you remember the weekend away at the cottage?”
Well…six years later, and he was right; rarely do I remember the nights in studying, and had I spent the weekend in the library, it probably would have become a wash in my mind. Those evenings with friends and family are the ones that will always be memorable, for years and years to come. This is not a “go out and party you only live once” message. This is, however, a reminder to think long and hard about what you’ll remember down the road. Remember this, and apply it reasonably.
They say that our twenties define us. University defines us. But I’ve heard this expression for just about any age or life stage that you go through. The reality is, every stage of life will change us, and present us with good and bad. Enjoy this transition, now, in the moment. No matter what happens, never look back.