Today, hundreds of colleges and universities around the country are starting classes and I can’t help but to feel jealous. Yes you read it right, I’m so incredibly jealous.
If you are a student right now, listen to me and don’t take for granted these amazing years. I recently started Graduate school and although it is not the same –because I have serious adult responsibilities now that include a salaried job- just walking around campus gave me some kind of energy and motivation I cannot describe. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t enjoy studying or doing homework, but learning -learning is a beautiful thing.
So to all of you that are embarking on the college experience and to those of you who are in your sophomore, junior or even in your senior year, here is some advice I would give to my college self -some of these I did so it is my advice to YOU.
• If possible, attend a school that is away from home. It will be hard, but you’ll learn how to do things on your own (cooking, laundry…yup, you’ll thank me later). You’ll value your family and you’ll be very excited about coming home for summer and Christmas.
• Join a fraternity. I used to think that fraternity girls were air-headed and superficial; however,now I can understand that fraternities help you make lifelong friendships.
If you can’t see yourself as part of one, try joining a student club or a sport’s team.
• Complete extra-point assignments. They are a pain in the a**, but they will help you when you aren’t very good in class.
• Don’t be so nervous about making friends, everyone is! Don’t be a loner, try starting conversations everywhere you are.
• Study abroad. This is not the time to be scared and definitely not the time to give love relationships a priority -if you are considering studying abroad but can’t make your mind because you are SO in love- I can’t even. JUST GO. In my senior year, I was able to spend a summer in Paris (my long-life dream) and it was such a valuable experience that I urge you to do it. There is so much to see out there and once you are an adult it is really hard to take a long vacation.
• Live with roommates. They will eat your food and borrow your clothes and leave dirty dishes on the sink. But they will be there for you when you are feeling lonely, they will drink cheap boxed wine with you and they will make everything more fun. They will be your new –crazy, amazing- family.
• Get an internship or a part-time job (don’t work full time) to help you stay focused on your goals. These will help you gain experience once you are out. If you need so, request loans (don’t get more than what you need) as having a student loan debt is a smarter choice than having credit card debt.
• Find a mentor. Develop a close relationship with a professor or advisor (or an older student!) as they can guide you. Remember that you will need letters of recommendation when looking for a job or if you want to continue school and having these connections will be super important.
• Be yourself. My grandma used to say –“a donde fueres, haz lo que vieres”- (something like the phrase “when in Rome do as the Romans”) but I object. Just be yourself! Dress as you like. Do not try to “fit in”, instead, find a group of people who share your same interests. Last time I was walking around campus I noticed all the girls wearing leggings and I thought “damn! That must be so comfy!” so if you want to live in yoga pants and flip-flops…this is the time! own it! Be bold, be intensa.
• Love your body and take care of it. This is probably the only time when you will get away with eating chili fries and not gaining a pound, enjoy it. But also, what I mean by this is that you must take care of yourself: practice safe sex and do not engage in activities you are unsure you want to be part of.
UNIVERSAL GIRLFRIEND RULE #1: Don’t ever leave your friend alone!
• Don’t forget your roots and where you came from. Share your story so that people can understand how you see the world and ask questions so that you can understand theirs.
• Try to save some money. Yes, these are hard times and most of you will be broke. Spend your money wisely and attend as many events where there will be free food.
• Have fun! It is important to get good grades but don’t miss out on great experiences. The truth is that the hardest part of finishing college is not passing the classes but actually learning how to get through the system. Manage your time, spend a few hours dedicated to homework and studying and then go out and just have fun. These are the “good days” and you’ll regret not doing the things you really wanted to do.
If you are reading this and you wish you were going to college but aren’t (or you know someone in this situation) –maybe you think you cannot afford it or you just don’t know where to start- please contact me. I wish I could had someone there to guide me through the process so all I can say is that everything is possible if you really want it.
Be kind and best of luck in your studies!