Here in my last semester at UD, I find myself doing a lot of reflection about my time spent here in college. It has been a long journey filled with highs and lows, and so many learning experiences. I have worked very hard to push myself out of my comfort zone and grow as much as possible. That’s what these years are for, right?

Some lessons I’ve learned have been little, like the necessity of tidying your room and the importance of getting enough sleep. Other learning experiences have been bigger, such as the value of confrontation in relationships and how vital it is to put your own needs first.

These last few years I have met so many important people: people who impacted me greatly in a short period of time, and people who I know will continue to grow with me and teach me lessons long after graduation. Of the lessons I have learned from others, these are the few that stick out:

  • Don’t judge a book by its cover (this one seems intuitive, but some very important people have proven this to me, time and time again).
  • Some people will not be in your life for long, but you will carry their lessons with you for the rest of your life.
  • Every single person you meet is an entire universe. We all have strengths and weaknesses, moments when we feel like heroes, and moments when we feel like the bad guys. Caring about someone is sticking it out with them.
  • Some people will resist your growth or try to hold you back because you are changing too fast for them to keep up with. Not everyone will understand the decisions you make. Do what’s best for you anyway.
  • How other people act toward you is usually more about themselves than about you.

College is also about trying new things, which is so easy for some people but so difficult for others. There is no way to stress enough the importance of being gentle with yourself and patient with your progress. Your path does not have to look like anyone else’s. One way I really left my comfort zone was joining a sorority. Everyone in my life could tell you that they never expected me to go through sorority recruitment, much less live in my chapter house for two years. My sisters and the experiences I’ve had in my chapter have taught me numerous lessons, including:

  • You will never grow if you never confront what makes you uncomfortable.
  • When you struggle to find your voice, practice in a safe space and lean on those close to you for support.
  • It’s okay to put effort into things and for them to fail. At least you tried.
  • The right people will see who you really are, rain or shine. If you stand in your truth, you will attract people who resonate with you.
  • It is okay to go against the grain, to make waves. Nothing will change if no one speaks up.

I have worked hard in my classes. Graduating a year early with Honors is no easy task, and those around me have seen how much energy I put in. At a certain point, they question why. Why graduate early, why Honors? I know that I can face those questions, and even doubts, as long as I stand in my truth that I am doing what is best for me. I know that my hard work will pay off, decrease any financial burden of staying an additional year, help me get a job, and challenge me to be a more disciplined, committed person. I’ve learned a lot of information throughout my academic coursework, but I’ve also learned lessons from professors, classmates, schoolwork, and independent research, such as:

  • Being in the position most of us are in means that we hold more power than we think. It is important that we use our platforms to fight for people and beings on this planet who are being mistreated and who don’t have a voice.
  • If you need to change your mind about your major, go for it; there are support systems in place. But at a certain point, finishing your degree is the name of the game. It’s okay if you aren’t 100% about what you want to do with your career. Just see this through.
  • Some professors will be so supportive and flexible with you, while others will be strict and really challenge you. Both are important. If nothing else, you will learn how to work with various types of people, who you will face throughout your career.
  • How you act in group projects reflects how you act in real life. If you always put in the most work, you might reflect on your boundaries. If you let everyone else do the work, you might reflect on how you treat the people in your life.

Overall, I have grown immensely in the past two and a half years. By the time I graduate this May, I will seem like a completely different person than who I was in high school, and I am incredibly grateful for that. The people I’ve met and the lessons I’ve learned have been more life-changing and valuable than I could possibly express, and the experiences I’ve had have shaped the person I am. If I could encourage any incoming college students to do anything, it would be to get out of your comfort zones. Experience as much as possible. Enjoy every happy moment, and in every negative moment, find two things: a lesson and a silver lining. You will learn life lessons whether you’re ready or not, but you can choose to enjoy the ride.

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