I can't believe I am actually writing this. I can't believe it's actually time to write this. But as time tells, chapters of your life move by in the blink of an eye and are over before you know it.
Three years ago, I was an fresh 18-year-old headed off into the venture of college. I turned 18 only two months before beginning my freshman year, and I was, well, a baby. I still am a baby. Except now, I'm a 20-year-old smol baby with a college degree, after only three years. How, how, HOW??!!! I keep asking myself. How did this happen? Who let this happen? But all in all, it was me. All. Me. and the hard work and effort I put into completing my degree.
Let's talk my degree:
I began my freshman year at the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities. I have a lot of mixed feelings about my freshman year, but I truly attribute that year of my life to defining the rest of my career. I went into college not knowing what I wanted to do, what I wanted to major in, who I wanted to be. And like the majority, I felt less alone in a sense because so many people were on the same page as me. I wanted to study psychology, I wanted to study journalism, I wanted to study so many different things.
I started my fall semester of freshman year by taking all generals, which duhhh, that's what you do when you don't know what to do. But there was a specific class and professor that completely changed my prospective on what I wanted to do, what I wanted to study, and who I wanted to be. It was a first-year writing course, required by the University. The professor opened my eyes to an entirely new form of writing. I had always loved writing, but I always thought "dang, I really don't want to just sit at a desk and write for the rest of my life...how boring." But man, was I wrong.
This professor assigned us Narrative stories, research papers and more, and it was the first time I ever felt like writing was my calling. I wrote a Narrative story on how I met Taylor Swift for the first time. It was my first ever college paper, and it still, to this day, is one of my favorite pieces I've ever written. And it still, to this day, has been the best grade I've ever gotten on a college paper...199/200. After that, I thought, "maybe this whole writing thing wouldn't be so bad after all..." and I jumped right in.
Sophomore year, I transferred to a smaller school in Minnesota: Southwest Minnesota State University, to complete my degree in Professional Writing and Communication. I also added on two minors, marketing and public relations.
When you're studying something like writing, it's important to have people on your side and in your niche, especially people who understand you as a writer, and I cannot express this enough. I was so warmly welcomed with all of those aspects when I transferred. My major at school is small; there was only about 7-8 of us in the program. And let me tell you, I've come to realize that having only a few people in my major was so immensely crucial to my time in college because I was able to have the support I needed, and have the relationships I needed in order to be the best student I could be.
At the U of M, my class sizes were huge. It was extremely hard for me to feel like I mattered as a student and to feel like my opinion counted towards something. Once I transferred and had the smaller, more close-knit community within my major, I felt listened to, heard, understood, and supported. A huge thing for me has always been to build relationships with those that are teaching me the material (teachers in HS, professors in college). At SMSU, I was able to build one-on-one relationships with (almost) all of my professors, and that was something that I really, really pride in as a student.
I guess the moral of this part of my reflection is to 1. Trust your gut instinct -- if you're good at something, or have a passion for something creative (such as writing), go and study it! There's so much more to writing than just sitting at a lame old desk, and 2. Allow yourself to be influenced by your Professors-- they are there to help pave the way of your career, to help you understand who you are and what you want to be. BE. INFLUENCED. BY. THEM. And most importantly, thank them for their hard work!
Let's quick chat about how I completed my four-year degree in three years and balanced it all:
I completed my four-year degree in three years, even with transferring. A lot of you have asked how I did it, what my study methods were, how I had the motivation, etc. And honestly....who knows. No, I'm kidding. I worked my tooshy off! I'm about to brag a little here, but I think that's acceptable.
I had absolutely no credits from high school going into college. Zero, zip, nada! I finished 120 credits (well technically 128, but you only need 120 to graduate) in three years because I pushed myself and worked hard. It was extremely stressful, I'm not going to lie, but I had my mind set on this goal and I wasn't going to let myself down. I haven't had a break from college classes (aside from winter/spring breaks) since August of 2017. MY. BRAIN. IS. FRIED.
My freshman and sophomore/junior (I don't know which one we want to consider "skipped" here so we'll just slash 'em) years of college, I took 16 credit semesters. Starting in the summer of 2018, I loaded on summer credits and did a full-time summer semester. And during my third and final year as a senior, each semester I took 20 credits (I'm not kidding when I said above my brain is fried). Some may call this over-working oneself, but I call it hard-work, drive, and passion.
As for my study methods, I'm quite possibly the worst person to give advice on this. I never really had a method set in stone, I just did the work by the due-dates and called it a day. When it came to tests, I reviewed notes and PowerPoints given by the Professors, but that's really about it. Since I loved what I was studying (and since I was pretty good at it I would say), all of my course material came very naturally to me and a lot of the times I really enjoyed the projects and assignments I had to work on.
There were times in which I thought it was all over for me, that my three-year plan would be debunked and I would have to do an extra semester or year. The last day of my sophomore/junior year, I literally cried for 8 hours straight. E I G H T hours because I thought I was going to fail all of my classes. We've all been there, so if you're in that gist, don't worry...it passes.
I didn't begin my blog until my sophomore/junior year of college (March of 2018), and when it comes to balancing the blog and school, I found a good mix. I almost treated my blog like a class assignment, which helped me not only stay on schedule but work it into the mindset of school that I had been in at the time. Because I was so used to completing assignments for class, I got used to the idea of "completing assignments" for my blog...and in this case, they were just really fun "assignments." Classes and coursework were always put first, and the blog was like that really fun project you get to work on all year and it's the only thing you actually want to do because it's joyful and exciting but the other work has got to get done too; so I guess you can say I figured out how to handle it in the best way for me.
Let's talk my college social life:
Oh, boy. I have a lot to say on this one. I don't want to come off as a prude with any of my words in this part of the reflection, so I'll try to be as modest as possible, but I'm going to be completely 100% honest about my experience. No tea, no shade, just facts (from what I've experienced).
We all have the same expectation that when we get to college, a group of friends is quite literally just going to be handed to us and they're going to be our best friends forever until the day we die. Well, not handed to us, but you know...we'll find that forever group. Anyway, we live college vicariously through others (literally, social media allows us to), but when it comes to our own college social life experiences, it's entirely different for each and every one of us.
I was smacked hard in the face with reality when I realized my expectations were nothing compared to what I actually experienced. When I left high school, I thought that cliques were done, "popular" groups weren't a thing anyway, and that students in college were just students in college. Maybe it's just where I've attended, but I can say with a full heart after attending two ENTIRELY different colleges (setting, people, area wise), cliques do exist, "popular" groups of people exist on campus, and I am just far too independent and mature to involve myself with any of those type of people (that kind of sounds very "full of myself-ish" but if you've experienced college cliques or college "popular's" you know what I mean, lol, and you'll read later I pride a lot in being independent, which probably plays into this mindset). The high school phase really doesn't ever end for some people when they move to college and that's just that.
Making friends in college is hard. There, I said it. It's really freaking hard, especially if you're a very independent person like me (or intimidating I guess, because I've been told many times that I intimidate people...which how? I love Taylor Swift, dogs, and fashion. I'm sorry that intimidates you). But it was really hard for me. I tried, so. hard.
If you know me personally, you know that I am a very social person. At the U of M, I joined a sorority and a club, had an internship, a job, and a research grant with a professor. At SMSU, I had two internships and a job. I tried, in so many different ways, to meet people and to befriend them. But when you're far different from the people you meet (and different in the sense that you don't clique up, you don't share the same values and you personally allow yourself to be independent and they don't as much), it's extremely hard to maintain those friendships, and even make those friendships. I kind of always felt like an outcast in college social settings, regardless of where I was. Maybe it was the fact that I am independent, or for the reasons I just stated, but I felt a sort of longing to "fit in," and that never happened. Though I have learned that people are going to stab you in the back, people are going to value different things, people aren't going to be up-front with you, people are going to rid of expectations you may have had (for the good or the bad). But that's just life. (See: Taylor Swift's Grammy's Speech.)
This may come off as harsh, but I want to be as real as possible. My college social experience wasn't the greatest. In fact, it quite literally sucked. But it has really shown me what type of people I never want to associate myself with or work with ever for the rest of my life, and has also shown me the type of people that I do want to associate with and would love to work with in the future. And in all honesty, I'm glad in a way that my social experience wasn't the greatest because it taught me a lot about who I am and who I want to continue to be.
Last but not least, let's talk how college shaped me as a person:
I pride in being independent. I really do, and I credit that pride entirely to my time in college. Maybe it was because I didn't have a lot of friends, maybe it was because I didn't enjoy the party scene like others, maybe it was a mix of things. But college really taught me how to entirely depend on myself, and enjoy my own company.
In life, all you really have is you. I mean, sure, you have your family, friends, colleagues, pets and more, but when it comes down to it, it's really up to you to find who you want to be and to be your own favorite company when all else fails. I think college really taught me the capacity of who I could become, and how far my knowledge and skills can take me. I understand my social and professional boundaries more now than every before, and I find that to be an extremely important takeaway from my three years. Sure, I didn't have the greatest experience and it was not at all what I expected, but I've grown from it.
I not only pride in my independence found throughout my years in college, but I also pride in my growth and in the fact that maybe I am a little different than who I've been surrounded by and the social expectations I've placed on this setting, but I've learned that's okay.
And as Taylor Swift once said, "if you're lucky enough to be different, never change."