It’s that time of year again . . . school time! For those of you who are going back to your college campuses or perhaps just beginning your new college journeys, I have compiled a list of things I have learned, and wish I knew, while I was in college. I went to the University of California, Irvine. (For us Anteaters, zot zot!) There, I was able to meet the best friends of my life and discover my passion for education and community organizations. I hope these suggestions will help you out or, at the very least, make you laugh as you look forward to the amazing experience that will be your college years!
Remember how in high school you put things off until the last minute? Homework? Cleaning your room? College just means more procrastination . . . BUT do not let it consume you. YES, it is important to enjoy the fun that is in college, but make sure you turn in those extra-credit assignments (just kidding, almost NO ONE gives extra credit in college! However, do turn in your homework . . . especially if it is online — that dorm wifi always fails when you need it most!), go to office hours when your professor or TA has them, eat healthy (this might be funny, but you might find yourself putting off eating a hot meal for cold coffee and breakfast burritos in order to crank out that 22-page paper). Sometimes procrastination is inevitable, but you don’t want your college years to fly by without you even being able to experience them!
Friendships, both new and old, can get you through a lot.
I made a lot of new friends, and I was able to reconnect with my childhood friends (turning 21 is really fun with people you used to see in Winnie the Pooh and Sailor Moon shirts). You’ll most likely go through a few relationships, failing grades (or superbad class curves) and some really mean professors (there will be at least one that calls you out in a 300-person lecture — trust, this has happened to me), but in the end, if you have people around you that can make you laugh it off or cry with you through it, it’ll make you that much stronger. You’ll end up living with your closest friends, and it will be the best time of your life when you’re all staying up for 24 hours studying for an impossible final, but you’re ALL staying up for 24 hours studying for an impossible final.
Family is still important.
If you live away from home, this is especially true. I could spend weeks and months away from my family, and nothing beat the feeling of coming home to hear the particular shuffle my mother’s feet and the smell of my dad’s cooking. I think I never really appreciated my family until I went to college — only your family will love you through your messiness, smelliness and moodiness. P.S., thanks mom, dad and Kyle. I love you guys!
Don’t be afraid.
This one is a bit hard. It’s hard to speak up in front of people that you don’t know or go out of your comfort zone to meet new people, but you can learn things from meeting other people! Things like the best professors, easiest classes (to boost that GPA!), best places to eat, when the bookstore sales are and dorm secrets!
It’s OK to make mistakes.
If you do something dumb in college, learn from it, fix it (if you can) and try not to do it again.
For those of you going to graduate school, congratulations and . . . hang in there! I attended the University of Southern California (USC, Fight On!) for my masters of arts in teaching, and it was different from college (for me). Here are some of the things I learned:
It’s OK not to know things.
You are probably going in depth with a lot of subjects you just scratched the surface on in undergrad, only this time around, you are going into superspecifics about your choice of study. You’ll become, pardon my pun, a master in your area of study. It’s better to admit you don’t know something and learn it than pretend you know it and get confused or, even worse, pretend you know it and get called out by your professor (trust me, I was there). Your professors appreciate your honesty, as it allows them to adjust their pace.
- Your professors are “cooler.”
They see you more as equals now and will offer to discuss a paper over a beer.
Your masters will only take you so far. It is still really crucial to network and connect with others.
This is what you love.
It better be for that much money. Just kidding! This is what you will eat, breathe and dream about for a while. But you love it, and that’s what keeps you going.
There’s so much more in the world left to explore.
The most important thing I learned in undergraduate and graduate school is that learning never ends. There’s always a new thought or study, and I love that! You know you’re living when you’re constantly learning, growing and improving yourself. I think I loved education after high school because I had control over what I wanted to learn about, I made the friends I wanted to make and I found who I was and what I loved. I hope you also experience lots of love and happiness during your college years and find the path that will lead you to a long and fulfilling life!
Michelle Yamashiro is the JACL National Youth/Student Council Representative.
Originally published on September 19, 2014