As we pack our boxes to the brim, say goodbye to our beloved Fidos and Milos and strategize how in the world to fit three carloads of belongings into a 11 x 13 space, we can mask a sense of anxiety under blankets of excitement and adrenaline. Underneath all of the excitement, there is a fear of the unknown. High school and all the comforts of familiarity are long gone; it is a new world with new people and new adventures. You may sit on your bed and wonder how this day came so fast. Not too long ago, we were all once freshmen in high school, starry-eyed with high expectations. Then slowly but surely, junior year creeped around and the reality of our impending adulthood began to take hold along with the constant reminders about keeping up a good GPA and making a great score on the SAT. And now the big day is here. It seems that it has taken forever to arrive, yet at the same time, arrived at the speed of light.
You’ve hung up the lights and pictures in your room and everything is tucked away neatly. Your parents give you one last hug and you watch them drive away, your shirt damp with your mom’s tears. Then reality hits and guess what? It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to feel a twinge of anxiety at having to make new friends and take hard classes. It’s okay to realize that you have no idea what you want to do in life. It’s okay to go back to your room and cry.
What many of us newbies to the college world don’t realize is that college is so much more than awesome parties, going to class and making memories. Even more importantly, it’s about discovering who you truly are inside. Many of us may not realize it but you are more prone to learn about yourself when you are placed in a different environment. And while you may discover that you completely annihilate any piece of clothing you throw into a washing machine, I hope that you discover so much more than that. In college, there are so many passion-discovering activities that you can participate in. At my university, we even have a circus arts performance elective. You may discover that volunteering at daycares while juggling bananas is your favorite way to give back to the community. I suppose that leads to something even more rewarding that you may discover in college; how to serve and put others first.
Because I attend a Christian university, service and leadership are enforced because as Christians, charity and putting others first is a prime foundation of our religion. But you don’t have to attend a Christian university to learn how to put others first. As a college student, juggling the course load, social life and sleep may lead one to develop a sense of isolation from all the brokenness and disheartening events of the world. Yet in college, we should not only learn about ourselves but learn about those in the world around us. Participate in community service projects, or if your university lacks such programs, create one yourself. If you go to a Christian school or regularly attend a church, go on a mission trip. Immerse yourself in the world and the people that live in it. Trust me, with one service project, the world will seem a lot more complicated, a lot more diverse and a lot less dense. Serving others will not only change your life but lead you to discover personality traits that you may have not been aware of.
While college leads you to discover yourself, it will only give you these experiences if you grasp them. Unlike your old school, everything college has to offer (except classes of course) is optional. If you let fear overcome you and shy away from all of the opportunities that college provides, you may find that your college experience is dull, two-dimensional and utterly depressing. While few of us may feel like actual adults, college is a “preview” for adulthood. Life and all of its respective opportunities will transform into what you make it to be.
The most important thing to remember however, is that we are all new to this together. The new experiences, fears and opportunities that college affords are equally overwhelming to all of us. However, college can be a lot less scary with a warm smile and a friendly face. Why not invite your dorm neighbors to breakfast or the person that sits behind you in English class to lunch? Why not join an intramural sport or a drama club? Why not present your poetry to a poetry slam group or join an art class? Life is full of “why nots” and “what ifs;" however, the question is not “Why not?” or “What if? The real question is “What will you do about it/with it?” College, like life, is so full of life changing opportunities that no one can afford to miss.
So, Class of 2020 (which I am a proud member of), let us all be scared, serve others and grow together. Let us blossom into a generation of adults who not only care about our success and our personal life but also the lives and success of those around the world, specifically those less fortunate than us. Let us walk with grace and humility, as we discover ourselves and the world around us. Class of 2020, I challenge you: let us make the world great again with our actions, speech and futures.
Lead Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons