Last week, I finished my sophomore year of college. I’ve been going to a small Christian college for two years now, and it feels pretty surreal. I’m now the older, experienced college student that MTV likes to make television shows about. Now that the semester’s over, I’ve been reflecting on the past two years and how much I’ve grown since the first time I left for college. Here are just a few things I learned that may or may not be more valuable than the actual education I’ve received.
1. Close friends are essential, but not everyone has to be close.
Most college freshmen latch onto a group pretty quickly. It can sometimes be more of a defense mechanism than an actual relationship building tool. But, being able to fully confide in two or three very close friends makes having other friends a lot easier because you’re not constantly dumping your messes onto the next person in line to listen.
2. Healthy relationships are mutually supportive.
I love people. Sometimes, to a fault. It’s okay to have friends that need some extra help, and it’s honorable to want to be their supporter- just as long as you’re their supporter and not their doctor. It’s not your responsibility to change anyone. Be a light in the lives of your friends, and love them as much as you can, but don’t kill yourself over their personal growth. You can only do so much. You’d be surprised how quickly a friendship turns toxic when it’s one-sided.
3. Hometown family and friends need love, too.
Hopefully you’re not some post-apocalyptic renegade who has absolutely no family or friends back home. If you are, then this is awkward and I am sorry. Anyway, it’s easy to become disconnected with your loved ones while you’re at college, especially if you go to school more than an hour away from your hometown. Fight the urge to drop off of the face of the Earth, and send them a text once in a while. They need it more than you do.
4. Find your polar opposite and learn from them.
Super uncomfortable, sometimes tricky, but so very worth it. Business students, make an art major friend. Extroverts, reach out to the wonderful introverts. You could stick to your usual butter and toast, but why not mix it up once in a while and try the yogurt?
5. Reconcile as soon as possible.
This lesson was forced upon me because I go to a tiny Christian college, and you see everyone every day. Everyone. Every. Single. Day. I can’t avoid anyone, and even if you can, you shouldn’t. The longer you go unresolved, the longer it will eat you up. If someone hates your guts for standing up for what’s right, then by all means, cut that person out. But if it’s over something dumb (and it usually is), then go and fix it.
6. Also, forgiveness does not mean “go back to normal”.
You can fully forgive someone and move on from a tough situation and not go back to being their best friend. Be smart. If someone hasn’t really changed much after it hit the fan, it’s okay to not be close with them anymore. Just make sure you’re not being friendly to their face, but also dreaming of their demise.
7. Honesty goes a long way.
Whether it’s a job interview, a roommate confrontation, or your basic, every day interactions, integrity builds bridges and mends fences. You’ll earn respect by giving respect, strengthening relationships along the way. It’s a simple truth, but it’s truth nonetheless.
8. Be present.
College is really weird. To me, it’s like this strange summer camp where you have to take classes, and most of your friends are right on campus. But, you eventually go home. You still have your friends from back home, but all of the people you’ve lived with for most of the year live across the state, nation, and even across the world. You get four(ish) years to spend time with these people, and then you have no idea what happens next. Leave your door open sometimes. Appreciate the connections you’ve made in such a short time and just go with it.
Live in love. Enjoy your summer!