First Year at University: What I Learned?
I was expected to graduate from my high school with a competitive average, quite a few leadership positions at a variety of student associations, and multiple excellence awards. I took classes with university-level material, proactively joined alumni talks, and reached out to older students to get a sense of what university would be like. I wanted to be on track, to be as ready as possible when the time came for me to set foot on the threshold of a new chapter, and I was persistent that I achieved this goal. The result was that I probably would have been able to make this goal a reality if I were not a member of class 2024.
Every class likes to deem itself unique, but the uniqueness of the class of 2024 is unparalleled. Accompanying our admission letters was the notice that university will proceed online in the fall of 2020. Upon hearing this, my first reaction was shock. It took me a few moments to comprehend that despite my efforts; I had failed to prepare for this.
I was unprepared to overcome the Zoom fatigue that stretched over the course of the year; I sat in front of my screen through countless lectures, feeling sick of squinting at the exchange of words through the online chats as opposed to conducting in-person conversations. I was unprepared to lose all the networking opportunities I had planned. I was unprepared to call people whom I have never hugged or hung out with my ‘friends.’ Every single tip that upperclassmen had given me about making friends, navigating through the labyrinthine campus, finding the best spot in the dining hall, and small talk to professors during office hours had become inapplicable thanks to the global pandemic.
It was in these moments that I realized the fatal flaw in my preparations – the most important thing to prepare for was learning to deal with the unexpected. Hoping that life would play out exactly as predicted would be a naïve idealism that would never become a reality; life is all about unexpected turns, surprises, and challenges. There will always be an accident unforeseen, or a problem unprecedented. We struggle in these moments and cry out for help, reaching for hope and gasping in exhilaration. We make invaluable relationships and put our integrity to test, clawing for help and thriving when we finally get through it all. It is like that old cliché in every romance novel, but it is true–often the crowning jewel that opens your eyes greets you when you least expect it.
Now I am not saying that diving into the unknown is a wise decision in every situation–it goes without saying that there is a fine line between taking a chance and putting the life of you or others at risk. Do not perform a brain surgery to see what surprises would be encountered. Do not walk into a neighborhood unfamiliar to you at midnight to see what treasures lie within. However, do appreciate the moments when you are expected to improvise, to be creative and flexible, and to think beyond what is already known to you.
Prepare for the life ahead of you as you like, but do not expect to have accounted for everything. Value the potential of having to take a chance–it is hard, but this is how we grow.