This is the first in a hopefully long series on college life, meant for me to rediscover my most and least favorite things about 4 ridiculous years and hopefully give advice to those who want it. I’ll kick off with the good things, the quirks that I’m really missing during this year of study abroad when my finally-familiar campus and routine and a slew of other things aren’t here. So here it goes. Ok, hold on a second though. Disclaimer here, I attend a women’s college in the US and live on-campus (we’re made to), with a mandatory meal plan and some quality academics. So anything that follows is based on that experience or those of my friends, who also attend schools in the States and live on campus. Anyways, here it goes.
- You live in a built-in community of friends. You’re not going to like everyone, duh, but when your friend down the hall, or a study-buddy the building over wants to grab a slice of pizza at midnight or go bum around by the lake? You can do it in as long as it takes your to drag your butt from your room or wherever you collapse after class. And that is a rare and beautiful thing to have everyone so close by.
- You get a lot of free stuff. Even if it’s just pens, or fold-up frisbees of travel mugs, sometimes better things like flash drives and beanies and such, its often free. And while you don’t need all of it (especially the sucky stuff) this is one of the rare and continuous times you can expect this to happen in your life.
- Everyone knows your pain and (the good people, who are indeed plentiful) aren’t belittling about it, as opposed parents moaning about how “back in my day we . . .” or younger siblings and friends whining about all the free time you have and the adult stuff you can do. 10-page papers, bone-tiring all-nighters, that bitchy professor who has it out for you? We’re living it together.
- Free time, if you can manage it, is amazing. No curfews, no reporting to anyone, taking advantage of those hella nearby friends to grab and go on an adventure. There are a lot of opportunities to just enjoy your time if you can clear your schedule.
- The campus is hosting events all the time – dances, performances, speakers, you name it. Bigger schools obviously have more resources, but never has there been a weekend with nothing to do, even if it’s not to my tastes.
- Classes are up to you. Most schools have gen-ed courses that are mandatory – the basic courses in disciplines like math, science, english, etcetera – but afterwards? You have free reign of your schedule even amidst major requirements. A lot of basic background courses aren’t all that hot, but in the later semesters it feels nice to be able to narrow down from an exciting list of courses rather than having your classes thrust upon you.
- Everyone has no clue what’s happening when you get there, and it’s the most level playing field you can get. Orientation time is a wide, wibbly-wobbly ocean just tossing about with crazy waves. Where is anything? Who is anyone? Who am I, and what stupid ‘nice-to-meet-you’ fact do I have to share in the endless round circles of introductions this time? It’s terrifying, and you might be nervous/homesick/a myriad of other emotions, but so is everyone else. So buck up, throw out a line and meet some other ungrounded loser to get through it with.
- There are always new people to meet. The first few weeks of every semester is a mad shuffling period of many things – classes, papers, reports. And of course, friends. Whether it’s someone new in your building or your class, a transfer into the college or that person you’ve always seen across campus and finally happen to stumble in to, you can always make a new friend. And that’s so exciting to me, the fact that despite walking alongside the same rushes of people every day, I can always pick out a new face and find myself hanging out with a different person I never knew before at any point on campus. You’ll lose a lot of people as everyone really develops their identity and interests, but a lot of experiences are good ones and there’s always someone waiting around the corner.
- Everything is open late. Not necessarily dining halls, but if you need to get out of your room to study or just take a breath and the outdoors aren’t cutting it for you, a lot of academic buildings, labs and libraries are open until 1 am or later. If you have a class/special access to buildings, sometimes they never really close. It’s a nice option to escape your room, people, thoughts or whatever you’re getting out for.
- The resources, oh god, get your money’s worth. School size always has a role in it, but the connections? Oh man, jobs, internships, conferences, even things like peer review centers and the gym? Most of these (if not all) are included in your tuition and its all just waiting. Network with the wealthy alums. Cash in on that connection to score a dream internship. Go work out to your heart’s content without dropping $20+/month in the well-furnished gym. Tuition is always ridiculous, but (at least some of) the money goes somewhere you can take advantage of.
There are so many great things about college, and this is only the first in a long line of ‘The Perks’ posts. Don’t worry, you’re in for an equal share of crap too – that’ll come later as well. But for now I’m writing and thinking of all of these things with a fond smile, because the opportunity of going to college is a pretty great one with a loaded social scene on top of academics. So now I ask you, readers what do you love or fondly look back on about college?
Check out other posts in the ‘College Life’ series here (coming soon).