The first day of freshman year, I learned that wearing an official University of Delaware lanyard around your neck is a serious social faux pas.

I remember leaving my dorm room in a burst of false confidence, empowered by the fact that I was no longer required to wear a 100% polyester school uniform, inspired by the singing omelet-maker in the Russell dining hall, excited for the prospect of basking in professorial intelligence with one hundred other co-eds.

As I crossed Academy Street at the peak of morning pedestrian traffic, someone behind me muttered “Freshman are so painful sometimes, walking around with their lanyards hanging out. Like, just stop.”

I discreetly ripped the lanyard off of my neck and shoved it into my pocket.

“How to avoid blatantly advertising your first year status” was the first big lesson I learned in college. And it was followed by a series of equally important lessons.

How to make a dining hall salad edible.
How to subtweet.
How to write a 20 page research paper on the media’s sexist depictions of Hillary Clinton and its influence on her overall public narrative.
How to become addicted to Dunkin Donuts pumpkin swirl coffee.
How to use a sledge hammer.
How to sleep in a room without air conditioning.
How to prevent New Jersey stereotypes from influencing your friendships.
How to wear Sperry’s.
How to heal blisters caused by Sperry’s.
How to pretend you know what you are doing when you order your first cheesesteak.
How to pull an all-nighter.
How to remain calm during class registration.
How to make a second home that’s 2,109 miles from your first.

College has taught me a lot. The list could go on. But as I near the end of my undergraduate career, I’ve also come to the conclusion that there are things that I haven’t learned in college, things that I could never have learned in college, simply because I was too caught up in learning the stuff that felt required, the stuff that made all of this possible.

It’s funny how when you take a minute to look up from your day planner and close the mental file cabinet of color coded stressors, you realize that you might have missed some big lessons in the past four years.

Freshman year Erin. Yours truly has come a long way.

Freshman year Erin. Yours truly has come a long way.

So for the next few weeks, I’ll be writing about the things that I didn’t learn in college. The “how-to’s” of this messy thing that can only be described as “real life”. The essential wisdom I wish I had recognized earlier. The stuff that I missed along the way.

I’ve learned a lot in the past seven semesters. But the biggest lesson that I have learned is that school can’t teach you everything. Part of this whole “learning” thing is about you.

~Erin Dugan

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