This is a guest post by Jennifer Mleczko for Student Stories.
College is arguably the most stressful, confusing, challenging, and sometimes downright terrifying time of our life.
We live in an era of so many choices: different majors, minors, careers, employers, programs, internships, and jobs.
We hear literally everything: “If you have below a 3.0 GPA you can say goodbye to your career”, “No one cares about GPA anymore, it’s all about experience”, “What do you mean you’ve changed majors twice?”, and the all-encompassing, petrifying question of “What do you want to do with your life?”.
Although no mandrake root potion can help make it any less petrifying, there is something that all college students need to keep in mind: College is a beautiful thing.
Although people will have various “rules”, “expectations”, or “do-this-or-you-will-fail” ideas, college is what you- the student- choose to make of it.
There will be no other time later in life where not knowing what you want to do is perfectly okay. It is a time where you can spend whole semesters in other countries learning about different cultures, meeting new people, exploring the world, drinking sangrias, and it all still counts towards your education.
College, when done right, will show you that doors are open to new opportunities all around you.
Yeah, you can look in through a window at an opportunity, but why should you stop there? When college allows you to take a few steps through that door, try something new and experience something different.
The beauty of it all is that those steps can be retraced at little to no consequence, and you gained new knowledge about yourself and the world because of it.
Three major tips on how to make the most out of your college experience:
1. GO ABROAD!
I cannot stress this enough. It will not only change the way you perceive life, it will make you into a better person, it will challenge you, you’ll meet amazing new people and places, and you will have fun doing every bit of it.
2. APPLY TO EVERYTHING. Literally.
If something even remotely sounds interesting or like something you would want to do, go for it! It doesn’t matter if it’s not necessarily in your major, or if you’re not a 100% sure it’s for you. That doesn’t matter. New experiences will help you discover so much more about yourself (especially if you’re like me, with interests all over the place). If you get the study abroad trip, internship, or job- well more power to you!
3. NEVER LIMIT YOURSELF.
If there’s one thing to take from this article it would be this. Never ever, ever set limitations for yourself. You are never too shy, too inexperienced, not smart enough, not pretty enough, not fit enough, or just “not that type.”
If there’s one thing that would be detrimental to your life, career, and to the discovery of who you are, it would be setting any sort limitations on yourself. Period.
I, like many others, am passionate about the world, the way everything works, traveling, gaining firsthand experiences, making new friends, and learning anything new. I do all this in hopes that I will continue to learn and discover more about myself and additionally shed some good wherever I go. I do this trusting that my actions-big or small-make the world a slightly better place.
I have traveled to Australia, backpacked in Spain, Poland, Costa Rica, and have whitewater rafted down the Colorado River. I have seen glaciers, jungles, the Grand Canyon, the great Mayan pyramid of Chichen Itza, and have been to St. Peter’s Square.
I have worked in a variety of places –– restaurants, sales, research, construction sites, and at the President of Poland’s office.
Every new place, experience, and every person I meet and whose story I get to hear becomes a small part of who I am and want to become. Regardless, do I know what I want to do with my life? Not a clue. Am I ashamed of not knowing? Not at all, and neither should you. In an era so full of choices, how can a student expect to figure that out freshman year of college?
That is why college is a time to take chances, try new things, learn about the world, and more importantly take shots at every new opportunity, and lots of them.
I learned quickly that for everything that I was too scared to try or apply, I could be missing out on an incredible opportunity. You miss all the shots you don’t take. Even if you miss, you still have come farther than if you hadn’t shot at all.
To end on a personal note, last summer I decided to get off my beach chair and play some soccer in the sand with some locals in Costa Rica. There was three minutes till game over and we were winning by one. This bigger guy had the ball and was making a b-line for my goalkeeper, and I decided I would be the one to stop him. I lunged forward, tripped us both, and it ended up in me flying forward at quite the momentum.
Did I break my collar bone? Yeah, I did. But did my team win? Yes, we sure as hell did.