This article was published in the Wall Street Journal Classroom Edition in January 2013.
It’s hard to believe but it’s true: My first semester in college is over.
It felt long because of all the changes. I moved from the East to the West Coast, started living away from family, read books at a much faster pace and wrote more academic papers than I considered possible. I learned life lessons and acquired a different sense of the world that could have taken years to develop on my own.
Yet, it also felt extremely fast, The semester was, in fact, only three and a half months. Crammed in these months, I learned a new language, made friends, visited different places and cities and broadened my worldview even more. Life really changed, and I can see the differences going back home and reflecting on this turbulent yet delightful college semester.
The first difference I’ve noted is I become a more fast-paced person by the day. Although I’m on break, I cannot relax all day, hang out or chat with relatives and friends. My mind constantly calls to read that Victorian novel that sounded interesting in literature class; write a piece of fiction about the dramatic episode I witnessed yesterday; or read the New Yorker to keep up with American politics.
College has a powerful way in teaching students a lesson that high school never does: the world never stops, and we are always part of it.
In addition, I’ve also developed different desires: to become more financially independent, to keep an eye out for internships and job opportunities. Although I’ve always carefully thought of the future, college has stimulated my focus on future even more, because it has shown me how much farther those who plan can go.
To give an example on a smaller scale, the dedicated students who valued Advance Placement classes and busied themselves with worthwhile extra-curricular activities, started college at a much higher level than anyone else. These students are the ones who spend more time working on what they love and skipping the boring introduction classes. In the same way, I’ve come to think, those who plan ahead while in college will also start ahead in the job market.
Surprising or not, I really look forward to starting a new semester in college. I’ve enjoyed my break with family, eaten the tasty food and rested on the comfortable bed, but I eagerly await the moment to be back on campus. College is not as easy as students fantasize about in high school: finals week is a killer time and earning a high GPA takes much greater effort than showing up to class. But the effort is worth it because college lets you learn about the world without actually being part of it. Students will probably never again have the grace of living on their own without worrying about electricity and water bills, and having the only obligation to learn and become successful.
My first semester of college has flown by because time was well spent. Every second of it was dedicated to academic and personal growth in a way that would have been impossible had I not been in college. After sending my goodbyes to first semester, my only wish is: let the second be even better!