Things I’ve Learned Since Starting College

College had been a goal of mine since I knew what it was. Growing up, that was always the ultimate thing to shoot for. Grades mattered because of college. Jobs mattered because of resumes and college applications. Relationships with adults mattered because I had to learn how to work with teachers. My parents were always very supportive of my schoolwork and effort. I was held to a high standard to perform well academically, and it was hard sometimes. But once I could show my parents I cared about what I was passionate about, they let me explore my interests. I strayed away from math and science and started caring more about music and art.

Now I’m here. A nineteen-year-old in suburban Iowa. I can’t say this is where I imagined I would end up, but it has been a pretty interesting past year and a half. And I’ve learned a lot.

Living in a Shoebox

Living in a dorm can feel like living in the Shire sometimes. But I love it. I love living in the same building as all of my best friends. I love having a little mini family to come home to. I LOVE decorating our space. It was really important to me to take time to make our dorm look good because I wanted to feel comfortable in the place I live 7 of the 12 months of the year. That’s another way in which I have excelled in college: not being homesick. I really love my dorm and I am proud of how I have made it feel. I thank Pinterest for helping me make things look cool, as always. But I have also come up with many tricks and tips in other dorm aspects.

Storage, storage, storage

I bought lots of extra storage options for my room. We all get a dresser, but I also purchased an extra set of plastic drawers for under my bed and a tall side table with three cubbies/drawers. I use the plastic drawers for things like extra sheets, towels, and cleaning supplies. This way, I can keep my clothes separate and organized in the closet and dresser. The side table is awesome because it is high enough to use with a slightly lofted bed, and I use it in place of a bookshelf and a medicine cabinet. I also use little bins inside my dresser drawers and desk drawers. This lets me keep my socks and underwear tidy, but also my makeup, hair products, and skincare. With drawer dividers, I can fit a ton more in a single drawer and it has been a huge help.

Other hacks

Having an air mattress in your room is very convenient. Don’t bring too many dishes, you won’t use them. Having lots of grab-and-go snacks is a good idea. Get a Brita that has a dispenser, not the pitcher kind. Get skinny hangers because you will be able to fit more in your closet. Get a hanging shoe organizer for your closet. White command strips are better than clear ones. Power strips are awesome. Get multiple phone and computer chargers: one of each to keep in your room, and one of each to keep in your backpack. Keep an umbrella in your backpack at all times. Get a towel wrap and a plastic shower caddy. Double-stick tape works well to hang pictures and doesn’t ruin the walls, but may need to be reapplied often. A wax melter is a safer option than a candle. Find a mirror that will hang on the outside of your closet. Pack more dresses than you think you’ll wear because people love it when you offer to borrow them out. The answer is always yes: get a disco ball for your room.

Becoming an Academic Weapon

I was someone who skated through the majority of high school. Everything came easy to me and there weren’t many options for challenging classes that were worth my time. When I came to Drake, I set myself up in a way that I would enjoy what I was doing but also was being challenged in a good way. My major is in a field that I enjoy. That is something I highly recommend doing. Don’t just pick something that will make you a lot of money, find something that actually interests you. You can also mix and match your majors and minors and that’s what’s really awesome about college. My majors and minor are pretty similar, but it has opened up so many more options for classes that interest me. I rarely skip classes because I look forward to what I am learning.

Something else that has really benefitted me is working hard to have a good relationship with my professors. This is more than just them not hating you. It is being able to have conversations with them outside of class, and about topics outside of class material. It is connecting with them to gain connections, a mentor, and a supporter. These relationships make me feel a lot more confident in my academic progress.

Another thing that I am still working on, but is still beneficial is my studying and time management habits. I never really practiced good study habits in high school, so I am still at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to classes where I have to memorize things to take tests versus a class where I am working on a lot of hands-on projects. My main tactic is lists. I am a huge list girl. I write down everything I have to do, in school and on a regular day-to-day basis. It keeps me organized, and my brain likes being able to check things off of a list. Another thing I figured out is to not do homework in my room. I still do occasionally, but only when it’s bad weather out, or I just have something quick to do. But designating my room as a place to relax and hang out instead of my study space has been huge. I can completely separate those two aspects of my day in my brain with the separation of those physical spaces. My usual go-to is Starbucks because it makes me feel productive and I can usually find a friend or two to study with. It is also a good place to meet up for group projects. My other favorites are the top floor of the library, Carnegie, and the law library.

Finding Your People

Finding friends early in college is hard. You most likely won’t stick with the first people you like the first month of school. I was lucky because I had a group chat during the summer before and already knew a good solid group of 10-ish girls. I also met up and hung out with my roommate before moving in. Joining student organizations is also very popular. I joined the second largest student governing board on campus and it has been so awesome. I get to be involved in things bigger than myself. I get to meet people. I get to help plan events. I get to make a change for people on campus. Other ways to meet people are to just go to events. Colleges love to host free events for freshmen and I think they are really beneficial. I met a lot of people during welcome week events. I also make an effort to make at least one friend in every class that I take so I can have someone to work on homework with or to just sit by. another way is to just meet the friends of your friends, whether that be in the dining hall, a bar, or a party. A lot of people join greek life to make friends, but that wasn’t something I wanted to do. But I am still very grateful for greek life here on this campus. 90% of my friends are in a sorority or a frat and they have introduced me to so many people and it is awesome. I also met my boyfriend by knowing people through greek life and it was one of the best things to happen to me.

Falling in love in college

I never thought I would meet the man I want to marry in my freshman year of college. He has been my first and longest relationship, and hopefully my only. The hardest things to balance are boyfriend and friend time, and transitioning from dating at school to being semi-long distance over breaks.

Boyfriend versus friend time

I am so lucky to be with someone who puts in the effort to see me. He really values our time together and genuinely enjoys my presence. I really valued getting to know and like his friends and I think that has made me feel more comfortable spending a lot of time with him. We can hang out in large groups with his friends in the frat and I feel welcome, but also not like I am always with him by ourselves. It is just hard to find time to hang out with friends and feel wanted in that way. My friends and I are all very busy and when I need to relax, I gravitate toward seeing my boyfriend. I also had to accept that I don’t have to overwork myself to get people to like me and that if they want to hang out, they will ask. On the flip side, I am working at getting better at reaching out more to do things with people. Living with more than just one person has been really beneficial in that aspect because I can always go to my roommates first to ask if they want to do something. One thing that I enjoy is having activities that I only do with him or with them. I tend to be lazy with him, watching movies or napping. We also go out to eat for date nights a lot. I feel safer going out at night with him, and then going home with him. I tend to get coffee and do homework with my friends more and get ready to go out with them often. They also like to go to big campus events with me more than he is. I think now that I am older and am farther into my relationship, I am finding it easier to navigate this balance.

Semi-long distance

To have my first relationship be semi-long distance has not been easy. We see each other every day for months at school, and then have to go to an hour and a 20-minute distance during the summer. Communication is really important to us. It is hard to know how the other feels all the time when you are away, and you can’t hear tone of voice over text. We have been improving our communication with each other and it has really shown. I feel a lot more confident in our relationship when we have to be apart. Reassurance is also a big thing. It feels go to be told you are missed, and it is nice to hear when you look good. On the flip side, being apart during the week during the summer lets us have personal time. We can strengthen our personalities outside of the relationship and make sure we still have things that we can have to ourselves. It’s important to be your own person. I am really excited to keep working on this with him. I love him a lot and I am very proud of us. He makes me feel confident and beautiful. He cares about my successes and supports me in many ways. I am proud to be his and I am very grateful for him and all he does.

Published by ava leigh