Last August, a few days after my 18th birthday and a few weeks before I started my first year of college, my cousin had one piece of advice for me.
“Make as many connections as possible!” she advised.
I took her advice to heart at the time, but I never would have imagined how much that small piece of advice would mean to me now, nearly eight months later.
As the 2013-2014 school year draws to a close, I can’t help but reflect back upon my first year in college. From the people I’ve met to the challenges that I’ve had to overcome in the process of getting to where I am today, the past eight months have been some of the most exciting, most challenging, and most frustrating months of my life.
That being said, I wouldn’t change a single thing.
Looking back, I don’t think my cousin could have given me better advice to begin my college career. Sure, classes are important. After all, the whole reason we go to college is to get an education. When it’s my turn to put on a cap and gown and receive my diploma, my thoughts aren’t going to wander to all of the hours spent in class listening to lectures. I’m not going to care that I didn’t finish with the perfect 4.0 that I imagined when I first arrived on campus.
What I will think of are the people that I have met during my four years at Illinois College.
It is thinking of the people that I have met the past eight months that brings out a bit of sadness.
In high school, summers served as a time to spend time with friends without worrying about having to go to class.
In college, it’s different. I’ve realized that most of my friends will be scattered across the state. Some will be on the other side of the country and some will even be returning to their homes out of the country.
That’s not to say that I’m not looking forward to being around my high school friends, because I am. It has only just occurred to me in the past few weeks how strange it will be not to see everyone that I have grown accustomed to seeing on a daily basis.
There are remedies to the distance, though. Technology has come a long way in recent years, making it easier than ever before to stay in touch with people who are seemingly worlds away. The way I see it, texting, Facebook, and Skype will be able to keep me in touch with my friends until we meet again. Until that day, when the last day of finals comes, I plan to make the most of the time that I have left with my friends here.
When I started my Illinois College career last August, I never imagined how many people I would meet in my first year or how natural my relationships with them would become. For the most part, though I have known my friends here for less than a year, it feels like it has been much longer than that. We’ve bonded over late-night study sessions, lunch dates at the coffee shop, bus rides to western Illinois, mutual suffering through chemistry class, and hours spent working together.
Twenty years from now, those will be the times that I remember.
Some of the knowledge I’ve gained over time will fade, but the friendships I’ve made will last a lifetime. I probably won’t remember how to differentiate or integrate calculus problems, but I will remember the friend who gave up hours of sleep because I just needed someone to listen to me.
I’ll also remember those who helped me acclimate to college. From the friends I made in my first-year seminar to those who made me feel welcome and comfortable in choir, many people have made an impact on me in the past eight months, regardless of whether or not they know it.
The thought that the exact same group of students will never be together on IC’s campus is a sad one. I’ve made friends with people in every class and, more likely than not, I won’t see some of the graduating seniors again after May.
However, this ending is also a beginning.
In August, a sea of new students will arrive on campus, all ready to begin their college careers. As a returning student, I will make it my goal to be the type of friend to new students that upperclassmen have been to me this past year.
After eight months as a college student, I feel like I’ve made my family and friends proud. I’ve been the type of student that my mom has always encouraged me to be. I’ve been the type of friend that I would hope my friends would want to have.
Most importantly, I’ve made myself happy.
In the end, that’s all that matters, right?