• Hannah

15 Things I Learned in College

Sometimes I like to reminisce on my college days and remember what life was like back then. I attended Illinois State University in the less than exciting, town of Normal, IL (ironic, right?). Normal is surrounded by corn fields and wind turbines -- and rightly so. It is the windiest place on the planet. I vividly remember walking through the "wind tunnel" from the dining hall at Watterson Towers to my Hewett dorm, doing everything I could not to lose my to-go container and send my lunch flying across College Avenue. I swore I wouldn't stay in this part of the state for long after graduation largely due to the wind! But here I am, 5 years later, still in Central Illinois, because I met the love of my life whom I now get to call my husband!

I spent the majority of my first semester of freshman year sitting in my dorm on Friday nights with my roommate, eating candy, and making stupid videos on our iPhones. I hit up the occasional "Up Late at State" events, napped a lot, and spent a lot of time with my high school boyfriend who attended a college on the other side of town. I made the 4-hour trip back home to visit my family every chance I could.

That boyfriend and I then broke up and I almost quit. YEP. Almost packed everything up and moved back home - but then we got back together. But then I still struggled. And thanks to my mom, I went to counseling - and it helped, a lot.

I was finally able to get out of my comfort zone during the second semester & started doing more "college" things - and that's when life really opened up.

College was a great time, but I definitely struggled a bit and learned a lot about myself along the way. People can give you an idea of what to expect in college, but your experience will never be like someone else's. College is everything that you make it out to be, and instead of people telling me what to expect, I wish they could've given me insight on what they learned during those 4 years. So, here I am -- sharing the 15 things I learned in college, in hopes that it can help someone else.

Being away from home for the first time is really hard.

-- I bawled my eyes out when my parents left on move-in day. I woke up at 5am the next morning & called my mom begging her to come get me. When you've never been away from your parents for more than one night & knowing you won't see them again for 2 more weeks on your 3-way Labor Day weekend - yes, it's hard. I cried every single time I had to go back to school after visiting home for a WHOLE YEAR. Thank God for phone calls and Facetime. Being away from home always sucks, but it gets easier over time, and it just makes it that much sweeter when you do get to go back.

Living with people is hard.

-- My sophomore year I lived with 3 other girls. That's 4 people under one roof that can't come to an agreement with the thermostat. It's dirty dishes piled up so high in the sink that you can't even turn on the faucet. It's A LOT of sleepless nights because someone wanted to have friends over at 3am for a dance party in the kitchen. My decision to move into an apartment by myself was the best decision I ever made [aside from marrying my husband! ;-)]

High school does not prepare you for college.

-- Point blank period. Sure your math classes may help you know how to solve an algebraic equation, but my English class in high school had me writing papers for days while my English 101 college level course had me drawing pictures with crayons and baking chocolate chip cookies. The ACT has no weight in college. Your professors won't care that you had a 4.0 GPA if you can't figure out how to make it to class on time. And just because you were the prom queen doesn't mean people will be lining up to be your friend if you don't put yourself out there to talk to them.

You may love subjects in college that you hated in high school.

-- Science was my least favorite subject in high school. I didn't understand it. I was so bad at it. I dreaded the thought of taking biology in college because I anticipated it to be so much harder. I was so wrong. Biology in college was fun. I got to dissect things and my professor was hilarious. And now, I have a science degree! Keep an open mind, you may be surprised!

You do have time to be a good student, sleep, and have a social life.

-- Everyone always said you can choose two of those things, but not all three. This could not be more wrong. I graduated Magna Cum Laude, got plenty of sleep, and still went out on the weekends.

Don’t be afraid to admit there is something wrong and ask for help.

-- Remember that boyfriend that broke up with me during the first semester of my freshman year? This was right around the time that I was really homesick. This was also when I found out that I didn't get accepted into the academic program I wanted, for the second time. This was when I hadn't made a whole lot of friends yet. I fell into a dark depression and I was trying to hide it from everyone I knew. Finally when things got to be too much, I broke down to my mom - who did what any mother knew to do when her child was 4 hours away. She encouraged me to go to counseling. So I did. And it was scary and hard and I didn't talk for the first several sessions, but once the walls came down - I was free. I was able to heal, and I am forever grateful for that experience.

Don’t peg your entire future on a guy.

-- I hate to admit it, but the main factor in my decision to go to Illinois State was that my boyfriend was going to be down the street. I dreamt that we would go to school in the same town, eventually move in together, get married & live the happiest little life. I didn't know if ISU was the place for me, but I wanted to be with him, and this allowed me to. Well - fast forward to junior year & we weren't moving forward. We were stagnant and unhappy. It was the hardest breakup I've ever endured, but it wasn't the last. More boys came and more boys went - I got hurt again, but I grew from each one. And the minute I decided to be single and let myself just be - it was the most exhilarating and freeing moment. While I didn't know the reasoning back then, ISU ended up being just were I was meant to be, because later God led me to my sweet husband - someone whom I would've never met had I not been living in good ole' Normal, IL.

Don’t be shy, make friends & keep them close even when you graduate.

-- Good friends are hard to come by. I keep in touch with two people from high school. And I'd be lying if I said there were many more than that that I keep in touch with from college, and quite honestly - I could be a lot better about reaching out to them now. People move away, life gets busy, but when you find yourself a few good pals - hold them close. They will be the ones standing next to you on your wedding day.

You don’t have to drink to have fun.

-- It's no secret that a lot of weekends in college can be spent dancing on catwalks in bars or playing flippy cup at the coolest frat house on campus. Sure, those nights are fun until you're waking up the next morning with your head in a trash can after begging your friends to take you to the ER 6 hours prior. Some of my most enjoyable nights were spent doing my nails and watching movies with my girlfriends, or getting froyo and walking around campus. You need a balance!

Take advantage of the dining hall.

-- I never imagined I would have unlimited access to so much food (that my parents paid for, thanks mom & dad). I only wish I could go back to the days when I didn't have to cook and could get a really decent meal just by swiping an ID card. You will miss this. Use it OFTEN!

Office hours are important.

-- I was struggling hardcore in my European History class that I had absolutely zero interest in. The tests were God awful and the readings bored me to tears - not to mention I couldn't really follow them to save my life. The professor was quirky, but he always mentioned how important office hours were. I decided to go one day before a test in hopes to review the material with him. This was my first time attending office hours for any class, but it definitely wasn't my last. When I walked in, several other students from class were present, and the professor literally reviewed the entire exam with us that day. He then put a *star* in his grade book next to our names before we left. When I received my test results back, I discovered that I had received extra credit, just for coming to office hours.

Professors are kinda cool.

-- Getting to know your teachers outside of class is wild. Some of them are too funny to handle, some of them can dance like nobody's business, and some of them actually do have kind hearts although they're a drill sergeant in class.

Working out is good for you.

-- Especially when you discover an ice cream shop in walking distance to your apartment. My high school workouts consisted of track practice. When I went to college, I opted for a nap more than I chose to go on a run. Once I realized that exercise can be fun & really makes you feel good, my world was changed. Now with a degree in Exercise Science and a second degree as a Physical Therapist Assistant, fitness & being healthy is a huge part of my life!

You may graduate and still not know what you want to do.

-- After I graduated, I thought I wanted a career in cardiac rehab. A year later, I changed my mind & went back to school for physical therapy. There's no shame in the desire to continue learning. Go where the wind blows you.

These are some of the best years of your life, embrace them, & make memories because you'll never experience anything like this again.

-- College is fun but it's hard. I figured out who I was. I met wonderful people and learned amazing things. The memories I carry, I will cherish them forever.

And when it's all said and done...

Graduation will be one of the most emotional days of your life, but you may not feel it until a day, a week, a month later. You'll never want to leave but can't wait to be done at the same time. You'll be so happy to never have to study again but will be terrified of stepping out into the real world. You'll miss what it's like to be a "college kid" but will hate being surrounded by actual college kids when you go back to visit.

This time is precious, and you'll never get it back. Make the most of it.

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