December 22, 2018

To be honest, I was terrified of starting college.  I was terrified to move to a new state, terrified to attend a huge university where I knew practically no one, and terrified to create a new lifestyle on my own.

I didn't know how--or if--I would adjust to such overwhelming changes, as stepping out of my comfort zone isn't always my cup of tea.  Of course, attending college has required me to step out of said comfort zone daily.

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It wasn't easy or automatic, but I settled into a new routine.  I started to develop new habits to suit my lifestyle.  I started talking to the people around me.  I started exploring more of the campus and the surrounding area.  And eventually, I started to really, genuinely enjoy college.  In fact, I haven't been so content with life for quite a few years.

Here are a few of the lessons that I've learned along the way.

1. You are capable of far more than you can imagine.
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Doing things for the first time usually makes me a little anxious, so I wasn't sure how I was going to fare in college, where doing new things on your own is a regular occurrence.

What I have discovered is that, when push comes to shove, I can do whatever I need to do.  I may be very anxious or even a bit terrified, but if I have to do something, I have to do it.

Just in one semester of college, I have accomplished so many things that I once believed I was incapable of doing.  The best part of stepping out of your comfort zone is that it becomes successively easier with time, until something that once terrified you becomes laughably easy.

2. Making connections matters.
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Really, it does.  It is more difficult to network as a freshman because of your general lack of experience, but that shouldn't deter you from trying altogether.

With a little bit of determination and a whole lot of luck, I made a few connections that led to a position in a lab at the veterinary school.  I am so grateful for the chance to learn and work there on a weekly basis.

Most universities advertise a slew of career fairs and networking workshops, so making connections doesn't have to be as daunting as it sounds.

3. Be kind whenever possible--and it's always possible.
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Living with three other people quickly made me realize how selfish my thought processes can be.  It's often our first inclination to assume that we are in the right and others in the wrong, but that's often so far from the truth.  It takes more effort to put yourself in another's shoes and see things from his or her perspective, but that extra effort is never wasted.

Ultimately, being in college has forced me to acknowledge that I don't always empathize like I should--but realizing you have a problem is the first step in solving it.

This has been a whirlwind of a semester, and I can't wait to see what the next few months will bring.

What did you learn in your first semester of college?


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