As the semester nears the end, I reflect on what college has given to me over the years. While we look at our classes as the place for an educational foundation, I believe the campus as a whole, and the venture out into the world of higher education, is an even larger classroom. Every day, from the second we wake up, until we lay our heads down for the evening, we are learning.
We gain a sense of career within the classroom, however outside the academic buildings, we also gain valuable life lessons. As I look towards graduation next semester, I reflect on some of the lessons school has given me.
College is the place we learn to love. Yes, many of us had those high school sweethearts and quite a few were not virgins upon entering their first year at Millersville, however I mean love in a larger sense of the word. For most, this was the first taste of freedom. This was the time that we truly could learn from one another, to experiment, to explore. College is where those life long partnerships truly start to develop. As the years pass, this is the time that proposals occur, rings are seen, the future is starting to develop and unfold.
Beyond loving others however, college is also the time that we learn to love ourselves. I have seen and heard many times from students around campus how at home they had to hide or suppress who they wanted to be, what they wanted to be a part of, and who they wanted to be surrounded by. Through our journey during our collegiate years, we gain a sense of self and worth. We begin to realize that we are living in an environment where each of us is accepted, welcomed, and no longer have to put up a facade for the world.
Another lesson college has taught us is independence and responsibility. Until our arrival at Millersville University, most students came from home where there was a ‘security blanket’ in place, many having cars, bills, and other parts of life paid for by parents or guardians. Upon arrival at Millersville, for many, this blanket was left at home, causing students to learn to take responsibility.
When bills or rent are due, it is on the student to manage a job, loans, or whatever source of finances they have to pay their way. For many, this has meant getting jobs or taking out loans, however with each, we have had to learn responsibilities that come with borrowed finances and maintaining employment. We as young adults have had to step up, learning how to write checks, manage apartment bills, cook and clean, and (for some only because they run out of clothes to wear) be able to do our own laundry. I remember freshman year a guy in my residence hall asking his roommate how to do laundry because his parents always did it. The fact students burn their mac and cheese because they don’t know to add water shows how dependent some were before coming to college.
A third lesson, and the hardest lesson for many of us, has been the lesson of loss. As students at Millersville, this lesson has been taught in many ways. The most common lesson of loss we have learned has been when a major or our schooling doesn’t work. Basically this translates to the dreaded ‘F’. Most students will see one of these at some point in their schooling, whether on a project, presentation, or paper. The lesson learned however is what went wrong and how to improve. Sometimes this means increased studying, tutoring assistance, or possibly withdrawing from a course or program. While this is difficult to do, sometimes admitting defeat in one area can open up our eyes to something better.
Loss has also been taught to some students the hardest way in college. While some felt the impact sooner, many did not experience the loss of a peer until their time at the university. Each semester, the student body dreads the campus wide email announcing the passing of a student. While each is tragic and heartbreaking, the lesson we learn is how to come together as a community and support one another. Loss also has taught this campus to never judge a book by its cover. We never know what someone may be struggling with in their life.
As I prepare to begin the final stretch of my college career, I reflect on these lessons as well as the many more I encounter every day. I know that come spring commencement, I will have learned so much more than just what my major has provided me with. I know that upon walking across that stage, the lessons I have learned at Millersville University will help carry me into a bright, successful next chapter of my life.