Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Reflections of a College Graduate

When my parents dropped me off at the airport in Chicago back in January of 2005, I had no idea what I was in for. All I knew was that I was starting a shiny, new adventure at BYU-Idaho in which I would have no parents and few responsibilities.

While I was mostly right about my "no parents" assumption, I was very, very wrong about the responsibilities. Suddenly I had to meet new people, attend classes, do homework, and feed myself three times a day. Feeding myself was especially a struggle due to the strange hours kept by the Galley (BYU-I's old cafeteria).

Classes weren't much better. That first semester, my grades were so low that I was later able to petition to have the semester removed from my transcript.

I've learned a lot in the years since that fateful drop-off at Chicago Midway, and I'd like to share some of my insights. Even if you take nothing from this, at least I'll remember what I've been through.

1. A boy's maturity level can be determined by whether he knows any of the girls in his contact list.

I met a boy my first year who "collected" girls' numbers at the beginning of each semester, and if they never called him to hang out, they would be deleted after a month or two.

"Who is 'Girl from BK'?" "Oh, you can delete her, I never caught her name anyway."

2.  Always say "thank you."

At BYU-I it is common for boys to hold open doors for girls, even if they don't know each other. This basic courtesy can go one of two ways: either it will be really weird because the girl acts like the door is always propped open, or a pleasant exchange takes place started by a very simple "thank you."

3. Never fall asleep in a public place.

You do so at your own risk. You might find pictures of yourself sleeping on twitter, instagram, facebook, or pretty much any other site that hosts pictures.

4. Just do the homework.

Even if you get a bad grade, it's better than a zero. Plus, if you've turned in something, the teacher is more likely to let you redo it.

"But I don't have any time to do homework today!"

5. Learn how to spell.

I happen to know from personal experience as a TA that when you mean "calendar" and write "colander", the TA is going to laugh and post a status on facebook about it.

6. Do your dishes.

If you don't, your roommates will resent you and members of the opposite sex are less likely to visit in fear of smelly sinks.

7. Offer free food.

Need help with something? Moving? Packing? Tutoring? Just offer some pizza or another treat and you'll get people dying to come to your aid.

Well, you do have to exchange a small service, but it costs zero dollars!

8. Use facebook.

Social media has changed the face of human interaction. It's addictive and annoying sometimes, but it's also a great tool. If your party/service activity/relief society is on facebook, you're bound to get a lot more involvement--especially from the younger generations. My last relief society had its own facebook page, and I can't tell you how easy it was to advertise projects I was doing or ask for things I needed.

9. Be positive.

If people think you're a happy person, it'll take you a long way. Even in my 8 a.m. classes I learned to sit in the front row with a smile on my face. This attitude got me jobs, friends, extra help, and As in my classes. In the next couple of years it will get me great letters of recommendation (which many professors have already offered to me personally without my asking), good jobs, and hopefully a great grad school program.

10. Not everyone is built for college right out of high school.

This is probably the toughest thing I learned in my time in college. From 2005-2007 (my pre-mission years) I was an OK student, but a much better employee. I worked at a number of establishments during these years, and I was always better at work than at school. My parents just expected me to immediately go to college, so I did. I didn't think hard about it or ask to put it off at all. It never even occurred to me that I could enter the workforce first. If I had, I would have saved my parents a chunk of change on those first few semesters. Maybe I could have found a job close to home and taken a couple of community college courses to get ready for the responsibility of going to college. Even after my mission, I went back mainly because it was what I had to do. It wasn't until that semester ended when I moved to Utah and took a break from full-time school that I realized just how ill-prepared I was for the coursework I had been taking for years.

I'll bet you can guess which one I was willing to sacrifice for those first years. (Hint: it wasn't social life.)

When I returned to school two years later, I was finally ready to learn. By that point I was over my credit limit and could no longer take the "fun" classes I always wanted to take. I still want to take French, ceramics, and graphic design, but I couldn't do that while working on my degree anymore.

I wouldn't take back the time I spent in Rexburg those first 3 years, but I do wish I had felt like I'd had more options. All that time spent on my first major, Vocal Performance, meant nothing for my eventual degree in Spanish and ESL Education. I didn't retain much those first years because I just wasn't ready for it. Even now, after all that work, my degree doesn't guarantee I'll have teaching jobs for the rest of my life.

Basically, I'm just trying to say that I don't understand the pressure to get a degree. Education is important, I know, but it's more important to live your life in the way you're supposed to. So I guess that's my last bit of advice.

11. Live your life the way you want.

I don't resent my parents for shipping me off to college so fast--in fact at that age I was dying to get out of the house and try adulthood on for size, but there were other ways to do that. Maybe if the societal expectations weren't placed so heavily on obtaining a college education the kids who just aren't ready wouldn't feel so inadequate in the world. Maybe I would have waited. Maybe I would have had room for that French class. All I can do now is press forward and hope that Rosetta Stone works as well as everyone seems to think.