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Surviving College

I received a few comments about my college days and so I want to expand on my successes and failures during that time. This was many years ago for me, however I still remember and so I will share.

I chose to attend college, for my undergraduate degree, at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, MI. All of my high school friends took different paths. So here I was, this small town girl once again going off on her own. I remember thinking that I could handle it. I just spent an entire summer in Washington D.C. on my own, and although at times I was homesick, I stuck it out and it turned out to be an incredible experience. When I missed home, I wrote letters or called. Easy fix, so I figured I could do that again.

As the end of my Senior summer was approaching, I began to think more about college. I was having doubts as to whether I wanted to leave home. I had two choices; stay home and attend the junior college where many of my friends began their college education or, step outside my comfort zone and go to the college of my choice, where I would have the opportunity to be who I wanted to be. College, in my eyes, was a place where no one passed judgement. I could dress the way I wanted, attend classes I chose to attend, meet people with the same interests as me or not, and become this independent person, ready to take on life’s challenges. That sounded pretty good to me and so, off I went.

I got involved in college life immediately, as it kept my mind occupied and not thinking about home. I became extremely social in college; attending many “Greek functions,” participating in the Tech’s Winter Carnival and Homecoming events and attending aerobic classes at the student complex center. There were plenty of opportunities to meet people and just get away from the stress of classes. My social life became more important to me than attending classes and thus my grades suffered my first couple years. I believe part of my letting loose was because my parents had such high expectations for me growing up. I wasn’t rewarded for good grades, I was expected to earn them. I was expected to be that perfect child; spending my free time working or studying. I am not complaining about this because I was raised to have high values, to treat everyone kindly and without judgement, and to have a work ethic stronger than most. At the time, I didn't understand why my parents didn’t allow me to be as free as I wanted. But now, I am thankful that my parents were tough on me, as it has given me the strength to “Be brave enough to make a change.” I stand up for what I believe and my strong work ethic has opened many doors for me.

I don’t have any regrets about college. If I had it to do all over again, I would be just as social. I met so many people and just had fun. Life should be filled with laughter and not always so serious. I now tell my students to meet as many people in this world as they can. We learn so much from each other. I know that making friends from all over the world educated me. I have been able to bring many of these experiences into my classroom, as teaching moments.Those times were opportunities to see the world through others' eyes, like when one of my international friends tried to walk up to a skunk and pet it, as she had never seen a skunk before. She actually thought it was a cat. Or, being present when another friend experienced snow for the first time. These moments are unforgettable because they remind me of our uniqueness in this world. It reminds me to never pass judgement, as we see this world through different lenses.

So, my advice to new students (and it is the one piece of advice I wish I had been given) is this: Treat college as an 8 to 5 job! You are going away to college. You do not have your parents there to keep you on track. It is time to be an adult and be accountable for all your actions. Even if you don’t have class some days, get up, have breakfast and head to the library. Study, get ahead in your classes. Take an hour off to have lunch, but then get right back to work. In between classes, go to the library and study. If you don’t have work to do, study anyways - review or read ahead. At 5:00, if you feel your work is complete, head home. Now you have your evenings free to be social or earn money working. Never leave campus before 5:00 and make sure you are there, ready to work at 8 am every day. And, remember to laugh as much as possible!

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