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Things I learned in college, outside of the classroom

By: Donnamy Steele

Four years ago, I packed up my life and moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama for college. I was 18 years old and had no idea what the next four years would hold. As my graduation ceremony approaches, I took a trip down memory lane and thought about my college experience. I realized that I have a few regrets that could have easily been avoided, as well as choices I made that I am now so thankful for. There is only so much that a brochure can prepare you for. The rest, you have to figure out as you go. Here are a few things I learned, outside of the classroom, while at the University of Alabama.

1. Don’t take life too seriously.

Yeah, you’re preparing for adult life – but you aren’t there yet! It’s okay to have fun and break free from your routines. During my freshman year, I went to class, to work, and to my dorm. I worked hard and tried to maintain good grades, but I let it control my experience. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I started to carve out time for myself and to have a little fun. When I did, everything changed. I stopped being so hard on myself and I made time for academics and fun. Life can be serious, but it can also weigh you down if you don’t take care of yourself. Don’t take life too seriously yet, you’ll have plenty of time to do that after graduation.

2. Call your grandmother.

It’s easy to get swept up in the moment and forget about the things that matter most. We’re getting older, but we forget that so are our loved ones. Call your grandmother, your grandfather, your parents, whoever – just make sure to stay in touch. Life is precious and moments can pass by in an instant, and it doesn’t wait until you’re ready.

3. Talk to strangers.

Being cautious should always be high on your priority list, but make sure it isn’t your only goal. Making friends in college can be intimidating and seem near impossible, but that’s when you step out of your comfort zone. Stop and talk to someone on campus. The person sitting next to you in class. Go get coffee, hang out, study together, whatever. Just get out there and don’t let anxiety hold you back from having a great college experience.

4. It’s okay to change your mind.

When I moved to the University of Alabama, I was pre-law with a political science major. I had this plan perfected since I was in the sixth grade, and at the time, it felt like the only option for me. In my first semester, I changed majors and switched over to English, making political science my minor. The following year, I decided to add creative writing as my second minor. Only a year before time to apply, I decided to skip law school and focus on my writing. I changed my mind so many times throughout college, and it took me a long time to be okay with that. At first, I felt like I was letting everyone down. I wanted the picture-perfect future and I let the importance of my education fade away. When I realized what I was doing, I decided that being happy and proud of myself for following my dreams meant much more to me than being a snazzy lawyer with a lot of student debt. It’s your education, your future, your decision – choose wisely, but make sure you choose for yourself.