“A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library.” ― Shelby Foote
While I did spend quite a lot of time at the library this semester, I did manage to have some fun. I branched out and realized that there’s a lot more to my campus than just the library with its Starbucks, the dining hall, and the recreation center.
I grew up and grew into myself a lot this semester. But, I still have a long way to go. Finding focus and purpose in exploring things (networking, internships, areas of study, campus events, lifestyle habits) and opening myself up to the joy of learning new subjects (World Politics, vegetarianism, nutrition, exercise science, mental illness, traveling) saved me from myself. Without trying to apply this “make-everything-a-learning-experience” attitude, I would’ve been miserable.
So, for this post, I thought I would count down my best learning experiences and greatest memories from the semester.
6. Job and Internship Fair
Normally, networking events are something that you see in the university campus events emails and ignore thinking: I don’t need to attend, I don’t have time, and it’s not worth wasting an afternoon when I could be doing something else. In reality though, networking is what college is for, and (in my opinion) more students should be making it a priority, regardless of grade or major. That’s why I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and attend: to network and meet potential employers. Even though the fair yielded no jobs or internships for me, I was able to make connections and get my resume out there. Sometimes, that’s all you can do: try to plant seeds and get your foot in the door. You have to start somewhere.
I’m so glad I went; not only for the learning experience, but also for the connections I made outside the fair that day. Attending the event meant dressing up, which I elected to do for the whole day. Upon exiting the bathroom before class that morning, I ran into a woman with which I was dressed almost exactly alike: black blazer, black trousers, and dotted white blouse. We had to take a selfie. She then introduced herself and asked me to send her the picture, which I did. It made my day. Just goes to show you never know who you’ll meet and connect with, or where.
5. Adventure Club Hikes
Hiking showed me that I can conquer mountains, both physically and mentally. The refreshing air both rejuvenated and burned my lungs as I struggled up steep trails and climbed over rocks. The exertion both improved my strength and helped me practice motivation. I kept telling myself: “If I could only just get to the top, then it’ll all be worth it. That’s where the view is. That’s where the reward is.”
For me, it was all about getting to that view. I could survive the longest trail as long as there was something to see at the top: a rock to sit on, a picturesque panorama to capture, and a deep intake of fresh air with friends. Somehow, I always managed to be the first one on the ledge, dangling my feet over the side of the mountain, which was no longer imposing.
4. Spring Break in Nevada and Utah
I’ve already talked a bit about how this trip changed me in my post: Mountainous Adventures in Vegas and Utah. But, I had to put it back on the list because it was the trip that made me learn and accept the most about myself. On this trip, through multiple stressful and anxiety-ridden situations, I found a new rock bottom. But, I survived. I finally acknowledged my faults and accepted them, I stopped ignoring my thoughts and feelings in favor of trying to be completely acceptable to others, and I made a new commitment to myself: to be better, to do better.
3. The Reflector
The staff on the Reflector, our university literary journal, are some of the most magical and inspiring people I’ve ever been privileged to meet and get to know. Our editor-in-chief, whom I got to know toward the end of the semester, is one of the most dedicated and hardworking people I know. Plus, she has so much passion for the magazine that I found myself channeling that passion into wanting to write and get more involved in the publication of the journal.
The other staff members that I got to know, too, also became friendly faces that I could say “hello” to around campus. We became, not only a closer club, but a pseudo family that would gather every other Thursday to exchange puns and thinly veiled, teasing insults as we discussed what was up next on the agenda. I began to look forward to these meetings because it meant that I was part of something: something that was bigger, something that mattered; not only to me, but to other people like me, with whom I could connect.
2. 10k Training
If you would’ve told me at the beginning of the school year that I would finish out the semester running for an hour straight at an almost 10-minute mile pace, I wouldn’t have believed you. At that point, at the beginning of my training for the 5k, I didn’t even think I would continue. But, winter came and I decided to keep going. I could do 30 minutes, what was 30 more?
Training for the 10k was different than the 5k. With longer runs, I took to listening to podcasts instead of music, and now I’m obsessed with them. I stopped training to make the distance within the time, and just focused on enjoying myself and listening to the podcast when I ran. That made all the difference: I became addicted to running. Now, I can’t imagine my life without it. And, with every run, I get to learn something new with whatever podcast to which I decide to listen.
1. My Mentor
Without a doubt, the best thing that happened this semester was getting to meet my mentor. Through an alumni interview project, which was how we got connected, I learned some valuable career advice. Through keeping in touch, which I wanted to do after how well the interview went, I learned about an incredible person. She’s truly an inspiration and has influenced me to really reach for what I want in life: career, college, and lifestyle, and embrace who I am.
Thanks to her, I’ve started to look forward to the future and even the potential struggle that comes with being a writer and having to take on multiple jobs to sustain an income (sad fact of life). Thanks to her, I found someone that I can trust and in which I can confide (which is usually hard for me to do). She accepted me right way, listening to my struggles with an open mind and understanding ear, giving me advice, and answering all of my questions. Thanks to her, I’ve opened my life to vegetarianism, classical music, environmentalism, and urban living. And, thanks to her I’ve never been more inspired to put more effort into my life and go after what I want.
All of these highlights redeemed a semester that, otherwise, would’ve been pretty bleak. I realize that not everyone has the same experience and outlook on similar events in their own lives as I present in this post, but I believe we can if we just look at the opportunities instead of the difficulties. To me, the connections I’ve made and transformations I’ve experienced, though not what typical people might consider fun, are even more invaluable than the celebrations and happy days. I know that these memories and learning experiences will stay with me long after the smaller, happier ones fade. I know that I will continue to remain grateful for each and every one of the struggles, triumphs, and connections. And, I know that I will take these lessons and connections with me into summer and the next semester and beyond, because they made who I am today.