University of Alabama

University of Alabama

Saturday, January 10, 2015

10 Things I Learned My First Semester of College

Well, I seem to have really missed the mark on updating this blog. However, now that I think I have this whole college thing under control (sort of), hopefully I will be more diligent on posting well and often. Speaking of college, I've now officially semi-successfully completed my first semester of college. Which is weird. I'm one-eighth of the way done with my collegiate education. And then I'll be in the real world, with an actual job, and adult responsibility. Something about that seems a little terrifying to me, because this first semester has flown by. It has been amazing and way better than I expected, and I don't want the next seven to come and go so quickly even though graduation seems like an eternity away. I wanted to take time to reflect on this first semester, and what I've learned in and out of the classrooms. So, without further ado, these are the ten things I learned my first semester of college.

1) Don't be afraid to put yourself out there if it means making friends.  It's your first week of classes and you walk into a lecture of 100, 200 or maybe even 300 or more students. If you're like me and at an out of state school, your odds of knowing anyone are basically zero. So you find a free seat somewhere and nervously look around to see all these strangers you're spending three hours with a week for the next four months. And guess what? They're doing the same thing. If you don't know someone, then (surprise) they don't know you either. The best thing about new classes is that 99% of people are in the same boat as you. Don't be afraid to ask someone's name, hometown, and major over and over again. If you're lucky like I was, some of these awkward first encounters can turn into some pretty awesome friendships.

2) You actually do have to pay attention in class and study in your college classes. Confession: I was that kid in high school. You know, the one that doesn't take notes in class or even pay attention, doesn't open a book to study for hardly anything, takes math tests in pen, et cetera... but still pulls out a high GPA and squeezes their way into the top percent of your graduating class. So imagine my surprise when I take an astronomy class first semester (assuming it'll be a pretty easy science class for someone who literally hates and is terrible at science), go to class every Tuesday-Thursday, sorta pay attention and maybe jot down a few notes, complete the homework, but don't study for our first test expecting to get an A or at least a high B, and come out with a 70 on the first of four tests for the semester. Yep, that's right. Seventy:  seven-zero. But the teacher assures us that he expected us to do poorly on the first test so I continue the same method expecting different results - yes, I know this is commonly referred to as insanity. Second test rolls around and guess what? I got a 60... oops. My next test was even lower than that but I did try to study.  However, I wonder what would've happened if I had worked as diligently during the whole semester as I did during finals week. College is a whole different animal than high school. If high school is a bear, then college is like that angry pack of wolves from The Grey, so channel your inner Liam Neeson and get ready to kick some butt, even if that means having to go to the library instead of dinner with all your friends.

3) However, it is okay to have fun and hang out or go out with friends on the weekends, and maybe even during the week. Don't let yourself be one of those people that studies and take notes 24/7. College is of course, first and foremost about your education and getting a degree. But after that, there's so much more. College is also a huge social experience. Work hard during the week and be aware of any upcoming deadlines and due dates you have, but don't skimp on unwinding on the weekend or even on a weeknight. It's okay to see a band until 2 o'clock in the morning on Friday night or go to the football game and tailgate on Saturday or stay up late watching movies with your friends on a Wednesday, as long as it doesn't effect your class schedule or ability to function when day time rolls back around.

4) BUT, don't let whatever your plans are for Friday and Saturday night effect your plans on Sunday morning. My faith should always come first. If I go with my friends to a band after a late night football game and a full day of tailgating, and they suggest Waffle House or Quick Grille at 3 or  4 AM and I have to be up for service in less than six hours, I have to know that it's okay to call it quits and leave the gang early. If what I'm doing on the weekends affects the plans I have for small group, college ministry, church in the morning, or my quiet time alone with the Lord, I need to reevaluate. God should be your first priority and that may mean having to sacrifice in other areas.

5) Get involved in a church ASAP. I cannot stress this enough. I was blessed enough to grow up in a great church and to be surrounded by amazing fellowship, and I knew I wouldn't have that here without trying. But God is so faithful, and provided me with a church home right away. And, just because He is so good, He gave me another college ministry to get involved in too. And I know that I was lucky in finding this. I also know that God doesn't lead His people away from Him. Wherever you are at school or in life, there is something somewhere for you to grow spiritually. Without my new church families, I don't know what my life would be like right now because they have challenged me, pushed me, and helped me grow in ways I didn't expect and that has been so essential to my success in this new season of life.

6) It's okay to take a couple nights off. I mean this in more way than one. I learned that it's okay to not have to have something to do every night when it comes to youth groups. I have small group on Tuesdays, the Well with Calvary on Wednesdays, and Ecclesia with Capstone on Thursdays, plus service Sunday morning. So making the decision to not do another small group on Mondays was a decision I had to make so that I could have night where I can just relax and have open for other things that don't require as much as a commitment. Taking a night off might also mean that you skip the band party everyone is going to at Phi Sig or Chi Phi or wherever because you've had a long week and really just need some alone time. It's okay. There's always going to be another party or another movie night or another dinner or another whatever else you're scared of missing even though you totally should stay in.

7) Even though you think you're on your own now, don't be afraid to call your parents, and take their advice. I moved to school six hours away from home so my time spent at home (and with my parents) is few and far between. I have loved the new found independence and responsibility, don't get me wrong... BUT, there are things that even nineteen year old me doesn't know. Big shock there, I know. Whether it's been roommate drama, troubles dealing with a teacher, having no clue how to lease an apartment, needing to cry about being overwhelmed, or just to brag about how awesome college is and how you never want to do anything else (even though you secretly do miss mom's hugs and dad's teasing), my parents have always been just a phone call away whenever I need it. If it's a less than five minute conversation while I walk across the quad or an extended discussion spanning almost an hour, your parents and the time you spend talking to them is invaluable and something that not only they, but also you, will cherish.

8) There are tons of fish in the sea. I am on a campus with roughly 35,000 people, and past that there are almost seven billion people in the world. Keeping that in mind, not every person you talk to will want to be friends with you even if you didn't do anything wrong or awkward. Further, not every person of the opposite sex will be interested in you either, despite your interest in them. But good news, one person isn't the rule, but the exception. So the boy you met in the dining hall that didn't ask for your number or the girls you tried to befriend in you biology lecture who didn't ask you to be in their lab group are not the end all be all. There are tons of fish in the sea, so if one doesn't bite, just rebait and be patient.

9) You're going to mess things up. You do not know everything. You are going to eat way to much pizza your first semester of college and not go to the gym everyday.  You are going to stay out way to late and almost miss (or completely miss) your first class. You are going to say the wrong answer in class in front of 30 people or 300. You are going to forget to go to your class on Friday because for whatever reason you thought it was just a Monday-Wednesday class. You are going to forget the formula for your calculus test and blank on a few answers once or twice. You are going to lose your student ID at a party or park in the wrong section and get a ticket. You are going to mess things up, because you don't know everything.

10) But that's okay.  Despite all the mistakes you make your first semester of college, and the inevitable mistakes you will continue to make during the rest of your college experience and in the many years to come, it's okay. It's okay because you don't know everything and sometimes in order to learn you're going to do it the hard way. College is one of those great places where you can make mistakes and move on and figure it out one day at a time. College is about growing up, learning who you are, and becoming who you want to be. That's not going to happen without making a few mistakes on the way. So know that it's going to be okay and it's not going to last forever.

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