The past 8 months have been some of the most joyful, yet challenging months that I have ever experienced. When I first pictured what college would be like, I never thought it was possible to grow and learn so much in such a short amount of time. Yes, I knew that college meant lots of change. I expected to be consumed with homesickness and believed that the year would pass by at a snail pace. Little did I know that it would fly by and that the previous 4 years that I had spent in high school would become a very distant memory. Here's a list of the top 10 things I learned this year:
1. Listen to your body.
This is singlehandedly the most important thing I learned this semester. The first 3 months of college were heavenly. I ate whatever I wanted, stayed up too late, and took long naps in between classes. I was LIVING. After Thanksgiving break is when it really hit me. I was experiencing anxiety like never before. Panic attacks became the norm, and my appetite was gone. Before I went back to school for the second semester, I finally visited the doctor. I found out that the side effects of one of my allergy medications were behind all of the struggles that I was facing. I was relieved to find out what was wrong, but I was also angry with myself for waiting so long to bring what I was experiencing to someone's attention.
From this experience, I learned to listen to what your body is saying to you. Make time to rest and take care of yourself. The transition into college life is hard on your body. It means moving to a whole other town, and for many, a different state. It's being away from your mom's wholesome cooking to a life of dining hall meals and delicious fast food (Chick-fil-A, I love you). College is staying up too late and enjoying naps all day. It's simply wonderful but can be hard on your body. Take special care of yourself. You only get one body, and you're responsible for the love you give it.
2. The "freshman 15" does not have to happen to you.
When I first arrived at school, I made going to the gym a priority, but what really saved me from gaining weight was that I walked everywhere. I avoided the bus like the plague. Not only was I too impatient to wait for the bus to arrive, I also loved the fresh air I got when I walked. It gave me time to clear my head, or of course, call my mom to chat. I think walking everywhere is what saved me from gaining any weight this year. I log miles and miles a day since my campus is huge.
Bottom line, I believe the freshman 15 is a choice. It's a product of laziness, late night snacking & drinking, and the endless food choices made available to us college students.
3. Don't second guess yourself.
Liberty University is a conservative, Christian school. It's a dry campus that has a curfew and a dress code for classes. It doesn't quite represent the "typical college experience" but choosing to attend Liberty was one of the easiest decisions of my life. I was in love with the school and knew that it was where I wanted to spend the next 4 years of my life. Very quickly, however, some of my teachers, college counselors, and friends began voicing their thoughts. They weren't shy when it came to sharing their negative opinions. One of my teachers even insulted the President of Liberty, Jerry Falwell Jr., to my face. It was beginning to get to me. I started thinking that I had made the wrong decision. I was completely second guessing the choice that at one point was crystal clear.
After all of that, I thank God every day that I went with my gut and stuck with my decision. This year was so wonderful. I learned so much about myself and what's most important to me. I grew closer to the Lord and am proud of the person I have become this year. On top of all that, I can reflect upon the past months and know that I made good choices, and that's more important than the opinion of people who I'll most likely never see again.
4. Don't overdo it on the credit hours you take-- no matter how tempting it may be.
When I registered for spring semester, I signed up for the maximum amount of credits that I could. I thought that I could handle it and that it was no big deal. Little did I know that 4 weeks later I would be drowning in schoolwork. Be diligent with completing your classes so you can graduate on time, but make sure you really evaluate what you're signing up for prior to diving into the classes. Keeping in touch with your advisor is extremely important as they will be able to make sure you're on track with earning the credits you need in order to complete your degree.
5. Get involved in all of the organized freshman activities first semester.
Not having a positive attitude about all of the orientation activities at the beginning of my freshman year is one of my biggest regrets. I thought all of it was so lame. The hall dinners, the ice-breaker games, all of it; lame, lame, lame. I had no idea how many people I could have met if I had actually participated. So, if you're starting college soon, put on a smile and go meet people at those organized events. Trust me, everyone feels awkward and alone; so go make friends!
6. It is okay if the people you meet the first few weeks of school aren't your forever friends.
One of the most difficult things to accept when it comes to college friends is that they come and go. At the beginning of freshman year, everyone wants to be friends with everyone. While this seems great at first, it's important to remember that these people may or may not stick around forever. Let them leave if they want to, and cherish them if they stay.
7. Pray about everything-- and then listen to what God is telling you.
Prayer is the #1 thing that kept me on my feet this year. However, there were plenty of times that I would ask God for answers and he would give them to me, but I would ignore. Sometimes He wouldn't give the response I was expecting, or the one that I wanted. I would push Him away and continue on doing what I wanted. I realized that trusting His plan for me is always going to be 100x better than the plans that I have for myself. "Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will act." Psalm 37:4-5
8. Get out of your dorm room.
Go to the library, go on a walk, go grab some coffee, go to the gym. Just leave your room and get out and about on your campus. The majority of people that I know who don't enjoy college spend all of their time in their rooms thinking about how much they would rather be home. Sometimes I catch myself doing this. Right when I do, I hop up and go somewhere. Anywhere.
9. Keep a journal.
I didn't start journaling until the spring semester. I used it as an outlet to talk about the anxiety I was experiencing, but I realized how awesome it is when it comes to documenting everything that goes down throughout the year. Make it a habit. Don't just write when you're at the peak of happiness or at your lowest low. Write even when life is just going okay. The feeling of completing a whole journal and then reading your past entries is so cool.
10. Eating meals by yourself isn't weird-- it's totally normal.
Once I realized that it was okay to eat meals by myself, life got so much easier. There's this whole stigma around sitting at a table by yourself for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Trust me, it's okay to not always have plans 24/7. Stop worrying about who you're going to eat your next meal with and just go eat! Then get back to what's on your to-do list. I promise your days will be 10x more productive this way.