College isn’t all about the books, the exams, and the research papers. I definitely took academics into account when choosing which university to attend, but the non-academic part of college is filled with opportunities to learn life skills and random stuff I never thought I would need to know.
I’m a recent grad, and over the last four years, I’ve learned things outside of class that range from how to play beer pong, to how to deal with a car accident when your parents aren’t around the corner.
I’ve grown through all these small life lessons that came my way outside of the lecture halls and library.
For one thing — I got very resourceful when it came to street parking near my campus because I didn’t have a parking pass. And because of all that street parking, I became a parallel parking master. I barely made it past that part of the driving test in high school, but now I’m a pro.
Before college, I never got past that unrequited surface-level crush, the kind where I liked someone mostly for their looks — but barely knew their personality. It’s the kind you get over in a few weeks. I had one “boyfriend,” if you can call him that. We dated for four weeks and only went on one real date — to see Eat, Pray, Love in theaters.
College taught me that real romantic relationships take a lot of work and time and patience.
I learned what it’s like to fall for someone and have combined emotional baggage, formed from being mutually overwhelmed. When I was younger and probably more naive, I assumed that if you cared for someone, no opposing forces could be a match for your love. That’s simply not the case — no matter how much you care for someone, and how much they care for you. There are so many different variables to consider in a real, adult, strong relationship. You need to be ready to be with someone else, which sometimes means you first have to learn how to be with yourself.
My friendships and relationships with my roommates also took a lot of work and patience.
These weren’t friendships based on convenience — these were the people I deliberately spent time with, people I wanted to learn about. I feel much closer to my college friends than I ever felt with most of my high school friends. I know my college friends more intimately — their secrets, mannerisms and habits, how they want to be comforted when they’re sad, how to communicate with them during a disagreement or hurt feelings.
I was lucky to have five roommates that I still love to death. I’ll miss that kind of extreme comfort that let me be in the shower while someone else brushed their teeth two feet away.
But as much as I adore them, I don’t want to live with five other girls for a while.
It’s as hectic as it is wonderful. We certainly discovered the value of chore charts. Always make a chore chart if you live with multiple people, and make sure you and your roommates are comfortable (gently) calling each other out when people don’t do their chore that week.
I learned about the perspectives of people from different cultures.
I met a lot of people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, races, and religious viewpoints. One of my roommates, who is a first-generation American with Chinese parents, would tell me stories from her childhood, remembering when kids said her mom’s homemade food smelled bad, or mocked her parents for not speaking perfect English.
Once I moved out of the dorms, I learned how to grocery shop — an activity I used to abhor, and I actually started to really enjoy it. I gained a bit of cooking knowledge — I’m a little more creative in the kitchen than I was when I was 16, but I’m not the next Rachael Ray. If you have a Trader Joe’s near your school, get the “I Love Trader Joe’s College Cookbook” and thank me later.
In college, I discovered I most likely never want to live in Southern California again. For all the great restaurants, beautiful beaches and Disneyland trips, the traffic is just not worth it to me. I had an amazing four years at my small school in a cute little town, but I’m ready to live in a city and go somewhere new. Because I spent the last few years learning how to be independent, I feel confident that I can start over anywhere I want and thrive.
I’ll miss college and all the life lessons it taught me — but I am beyond ready for the next chapter of my life.