I graduated from college last week.
Still hasn’t hit me yet.
But as I go through memory lane, I can’t help but think about missed opportunities, a few regrets, and some setbacks which stemmed because I lacked this one thing:
Looking back, these are a few things I wish someone told me before I started college.
1) College is not a bigger high school.
I don’t know about you but I thought that college was just a glorified high school.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
My perception of Andrews University was largely shaped by my high school experience. I always used to compare college as “harder”, “bigger” and “better” than high school. While all those are certainly true, I wish someone would have told me that university life and high school life are two entirely different things.
In high school, you had to go to classes. In college, you didn’t.
In high school, you had to keep your room habitable. In college, nobody cared as long as you don’t die of some fungal disease.
In high school, you are used to taking orders from teachers. In college, you have the wherewithal to start a revolution if you wanted to.
The freedom is palpable in college. You could do whatever you want. Which leads to the next thing I wish someone would have told me before starting college.
2) You are not an island.
I wish someone would have told me that while I had the freedom to do whatever I wished, I couldn’t do whatever I wished.
Let me rephrase that.
Just because I COULD do what I want to do, didn’t mean I SHOULD do what I want to do.
Why? Because even if I wanted to, I could not be an island all by myself; I am inevitably going to be a part of a community. And being a part of a community means enjoying privileges but also having responsibilities.
Andrews felt like one humongous family. With just 3500 students, it’s very likely that you’d bump into the same person more than once in the same day! Because of such a small community, I felt more responsible for those I communed with. This sense of responsibility only deepened as I served as an officer in our student association. I wish someone would have told me that while I had the freedom and independence to do what I wanted to do at school, I should be mindful of the community I was going to be a part of. Knowing this earlier would have alleviated some stress.
3) Be yourself.
I was bullied in high school.
I wanted to fit in. Bad. So I tried to be someone I wasn’t to win the approval of others.
Unfortunately, I packed this ideology in my luggage and carried it with me to my dorm room.
I wish someone would have told me that I didn’t need to pretend in college. I didn’t need to be someone I was not.
I wish someone would have told me that it was perfectly fine to be me.
During my freshman and sophomore years, it was a harrowing experience trying to emulate what mr.popular, or mr.hipster was doing. But I began to take pride in my fresh-off-the-boat self when someone mentioned that I had a “cool” accent and a not-so-shabby fashion sense. That was the beginning of a journey that I’m still on. I realized that the more I valued myself, the more authentic I was. And the more authentic I allowed myself to be, the more effective I was as a leader.
Authenticity is currency. I wish someone would have told me that early on.
4) Get involved.
Nothing is detrimental to the joy of college life than passivity.
I wish someone would have told me that before I came to Andrews as a freshman.
Most of my cherished college memories are centered around the co-curricular activities that I had been a part of. I wouldn’t have had the joy of working with different teams, meeting new people, and pushing boundaries if I didn’t take an initiative to get involved and serve. However, one of my few regrets in college was that I didn’t get involved sooner.
I wonder how much richer my college experience would have been if I’d made Carpe Diem my daily goal the first day of class.
Get involved. Early.
finally, I wish someone would have told me that…
5) Education is not the most important thing about college.
You heard me.
Can I be honest with you?
I can distill EVERYTHING I’ve retained academically over the past 4 years into a 2 page paper ( Times New Roman, Double-spaced, Headings the size of Africa. 12pt font. periods sized 13).
I have forgotten most of what I have learnt in my classes. I have forgotten the contents of most of the papers I’ve written. I have forgotten most of the sermons I’ve listened to at church.
But what I am not able to forget, will take with me for the rest of my life, are the relationships I’ve made with the wonderful people I’ve met over the years.
The $46,000 I owe to the government is worth it for the close friendships I’ve made in college. Hands down.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m utterly grateful for the education I’ve received. It’s been nothing short of a miracle and a blessing from God. But I’m convinced that it’s not the most important thing in the college experience. If anything, the education I’ve received has made me a well-rounded individual to better relate to others in the global village.
I wish someone would have told me earlier that the “A” in Theology I was only worth it if it helped me engage empathetically with others who think and believe differently.
Education is important. Relationships are more important.
These are just 5 of the many things I’ve learnt from my college experience. But enough about me. What about you?? What have you learnt from your college experience so far??