I remember my first semester at college. At 18 I was untraveled, ignorant, and had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had the same blind and arrogant self confidence I have always had for some reason. Honestly, the first year was the toughest and I don’t think I really knew what I was getting myself into.
To be honest, the first time I stepped on the college campus was the first time I had ever been on a college campus. Neither of my parents had an education so I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what college looked like, what I should do, or anything. Really, it was a miracle that I somehow applied, took the SATs, and was accepted. I guess you could say that I always knew I was going to college, but I kind of just stumbled into the place. The whole reason I chose the University was based on name and prestige. I couldn’t go to the same place everyone else was going – I had to do better – I’ve always had something to prove to myself.
I remember pulling up to campus – expecting some massive gateway entrance to the school. I didn’t even realize I was on campus. Finally I found my dorm room and was equally surprised. It wasn’t like TV, the dorm room was more like a prison cell I was going to share with a roommate. On the bright side, I had met my roommate and we hit it off. Looking back, my ignorance to the whole college process is laughable. I had never even visited a single college campus! I basically did like a good student and followed the advice of councilors and professors – luckily I had good advice.
My high school educational system was a joke too. I thought I was prepared. I had studied very little through high school and thought I could carry those same habits through to college. Wrong. That first year was an eye opening one. To be honest, I stuck it out due to pure desire and unwillingness to quit. I was homesick, I felt out of place, and it all felt strange.
I did do a few things right. For starters I got a job (after a couple months) which kept me occupied. I don’t think I was meant to do nothing – when I’m working I am actually much happier. Perhaps out of habit. Another thing I did was join the wrestling team. I eventually made it to the first team and had the opportunity to travel here and there. Most of my best friend today came via my job and extracurricular activities. If I had stayed cooped up in the dorm room all year, I might not have made it. Looking back, I can’t believe I thought I wasn’t going to have a job – the shit I did at that place was some of the best memories I have. I think I value people who value hard work – like minds, I guess.
It’s also funny looking back on my time in college in detail. At first glance the only thing I recall was my last two years – which were by far the best. Mostly classes I loved, drinking stories, etc. When I think of it in detail though – there were certainly some tough times, especially that first year. I think there is something about memory that makes me look back on things a certain way. I tend to ignore the bad parts of life and focus on the good. I know people who do the exact opposite so I’m thankful for my predisposition to be positive.
Hell, just to see the contrast of the first two years of college versus my last two is light night and day. I came into my own those last two years – I really figured myself out. I think that is what college is all about though, no just lessons learned in the classroom, but about life and about yourself. I can guarantee had I stayed at home and attended the local University like many of my friends – I would not be anywhere near the man I am today. My thoughts have changed and in many ways I am a different and better person. I guess I got my money’s worth.
So what would I tell my brother-in-law if he was to happen upon this blog? I would tell him to stick it out and enjoy every second of it. I would tell him to put himself out there and get out of his comfort zone. I would tell him to do things he normally wouldn’t do and to make memories worth remembering. I would tell him to read every page of every textbook and to appreciate the education many people take for granted or never have the opportunity to receive. I would tell him to use this time to grow.