College lessons learned outside the classroom

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I can't believe it's over.

I'm back home for the summer, finished with my freshman year of college. It was hard but so good.

The part that makes everything so sweet is that God has been beside me through it all, using every joyful or hard experience to gently transform me. Life is so good.

If you're headed to college for the first time in the fall and feeling exhilarated, hopeful and terrified because anything is possible, I hope these things I learned this year encourage you:

* Don't worry if you don't have friends right away. The first few weeks of college were hard because I was desperate for friends. It seemed like everyone else had tons while I was stuck in a group of people faking a smile, wondering if there was anyone like me in the entire 5,000-member student body. You will find true friends if you are patient and genuine. Don't compare your college experience with anyone else's or with what everyone tells you college "should be."

n Communication is key. Set expectations with your roommate early on. If he or she breaks your expectations, talk face to face about it. If you break the expectations, apologize. When I swallowed my pride and apologized to my roommate it helped us respect each other, hearing how each of us were feeling.

* Call home! Keep your family and close friends a part of your life. They have known and loved you for 18 years, and this is a hard transition for them, too. Show them you still love and need them.

* Don't believe everything your professors tell you. Some of the ideas my professors say is starkly against what I know is true. This freaked me out at first, but there was a moment where I had to give this to God and say, "I trust You to be the truth and have an answer for everything brought against you." Your professor is one person with a belief, just like you. Hear them out and learn from them, but don't feel like you have to agree.

* Let God share this experience with you. Find a community that shares your beliefs and will keep you accountable during the next few years. They will become lifelong friends. If you don't know God going into college, check out the different faith groups on campus and ask God who He is for you, personally. He's the best thing that's ever happened to me.

I know nothing beats learning things for yourself, and I hope you have an amazing first year of college doing just that. In the first weeks while your college experience consists of endless getting-to-know-you games, finding your way around campus and encountering college workloads, I hope you remember this and that it makes the transition a little easier. Oh, and you are gorgeous as you are. Remember that, too.

Mia Pohlman, a Perryville High School graduate, recently finished her first year of college at Truman State University where she wrote about her experiences.

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