10 Things I Learned in College

Ever since I graduated, one question is often asked in a good chunk of my conversations:

  • “Now that you’ve graduated, what are you planning to do?”

Whether it’s at family gatherings, one-on-one lunch dates with my friends, or during friendly conversations with strangers I meet at the gym, the topic of the future will most likely arise.

Because I am constantly reminded to establish my career, thinking and planning about the future has been a full-time job (with unpaid over time). I find myself preoccupied in brainstorming, planning, and moving ahead that I haven’t gotten a chance to look closely at my four years at the University of California, Riverside. I merely glance back to my college days seeing it as a vague memory. I forget that I have learned and grown the most (by far) studying at UCR. With that said, I want to take a short break from all this future talk and reel in 10 things I’ve learned in college:

1. The Freshman 15 is not a myth.

I denied it. I did not believe it. So, I failed to avoid it.
But unfortunately, the Freshman 15 is real. It was a sneaky and gradual shift up the weighing scale. I don’t know how it happened but here is my guess: Despite the mediocre taste, dormitory food was way too accessible.

It is a phenomenon known to hit many, so lucky are the ones who were not hit by the plague.

2. Do not ever buy your textbooks at the book store.

New textbooks are painfully expensive. I remember my first year of college, I dropped so much money getting brand new books that I barely touched. I found other ways to obtain required texts, such as renting them and buying used copies. My most used method is checking out the textbooks from the library and dedicating a portion of my life at the scanning station, slaving away and scanning each book.

Thankfully UCR has high-tech scanners.

3. You will take your schedule for granted.

How I took my schedule for granted is that I didn’t realize that flexibility in schedule is a gift. One quarter, I’ll have a back to back schedule. The next quarter, I’ll be lucky with a one-class school day. There was no set routine as schedules were always sporadic. The levels/intensity of stress continually wavered. So to all still in college, take advantage of this flexibility. The 9–5 schedule in the postgrad life makes the days fly and the weeks go exponentially faster than days in college.

So here’s my 2 cents: Make every day worth it.

4. The worst time to be in a relationship is your first year.

Freshman year is the favorite year of a lot of students. This was certainly the case for me. Although this is true, I know that I could have created more experiences if I was single. Freshman year is the perfect opportunity to get out of your comfort zone because every other freshman is also using that year to get out of their comfort zone.

When a person is in a relationship especially in freshman year, it becomes instinctual to prioritize school and their significant other. Joining sororities, volunteering, or joining a million other clubs become less interesting.

5. You will become incredibly confused.

Me throughout my four years of college in terms of my career:

“To do what it is I dream to do, to do what I’m good at, or to do what is practical? Life is short, should I chase after my dream? But they say to do what you’re good at. I’m sure I’ll excel in what I’m good at. But security is important, so should I do something practical?”

6. College is nothing without your friends.

The truth of the statement above cannot be elaborated more.

7. You have to fuck up at least once.

The difference between starting off at a community college and starting off in a university is that in a university, you are bound to fuck up at least once in some aspect of your life. It is important to fuck up, because thats when you really grow. For me, it was academically during my freshman year (thankfully I learned a lot from this one big fuck up). Usually the people who fuck up are the ones who moved out of the family nest to independency.

8. You come to terms that it really is okay that you are not destined to become a lawyer or a doctor.

A lot of us started off thinking we’d eventually go to med school or law school. Personally, I thought I was going to be a doctor. I remember sitting down in my chemistry class while the professor explained how there will only be a handful of us who will go on to pursue medical school. I thought I was going to be amongst the handful. Clearly I disregarded the fact that I hate science, I suck at math, I’m a crybaby, and blood makes me queasy.

When I first realized I wasn’t going to be a doctor, I labeled that time period as “settling for an easier career path”. Ultimately it is true, I am settling for an easier career path because being a doctor is really difficult. But more importantly, I knew that the only reason why I wanted to become a doctor is because of the street title and because Cristina Yang is my idol, not because I had a genuine interest in saving lives.

So here I am, at 23, pursuing another career path that doesn’t involve blood and needles.

9. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what university you go to.

“I can’t believe UC Reject is one of the only schools I got into”.

I know a lot of people who go to UCR can relate. I thought I wanted to transfer out of UCR after 2 years, and I am very thankful that I didn’t. But as time progresses, it becomes less impressive when I find out that someone goes to UCLA, UC Berkeley, or USC (Harvard is an exception. To this day, I am still very proud and continue to showoff that my sister got admitted to Harvard).

I know this applies to a lot of college students and graduates, and my assumption is that we focus so hard on ourselves that the business of other’s are no longer our concern.

10. You realize we are paying so much because absolutely NOTHING will EVER duplicate the university experience.

I just graduated, and here are some things I know I won’t be able to do anymore: I will no longer be able to live in a dorm with people that have like-minded goals and interests. I will no longer be involved in clubs that give me lifelong memories and friends (EG: PCN). Nor will I be able to make last minute plans for a late night adventure, go to sleep for 10 minutes, and walk to school for lecture at 9 AM (Note: This was a freshman thing, I sleep at 10 PM now). When’s the next time I get to choose what I want to study and what classes I want to take, from amazing professors? Or the next time I confine myself in the 24 hour library during finals week? Or be in a lecture hall with 200 other students?

College was a great chapter in my life. However, to say that college was the best time of my life would be a lie. I don’t look back wanting to relive every single moment of my time in UCR. I know that there are bigger things out there for me.

Is college too expensive? Yes. Was it worth it? Definitely. I know that many people do not have the means of going to a university. It really is possible to move up the corporate ladder with just a high school degree or save money by starting off at a community college. I think about where I’d be today had I done either or, but then I look at pictures like this:

And I then realize that had I decided to not go to college, no job, salary, car, or fancy vacation at that time would ever worth more the experiences I made in my four years at UCR.