How Firm Thy 4 Things I Learned In 4 Years
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How Firm Thy 4 Things I Learned In 4 Years

An OSU alum reflects on his path to a degree

How Firm Thy 4 Things I Learned In 4 Years
Zach Francisco

College provides a unique experience like no other. As someone who simply followed the path that was presented to me throughout my high school life, I entered college with a desire to pursue a variety of different paths. What is the most practical? What am I genuinely interested in? Why do I want to go to this school? Eventually, I elected to go to Ohio State University because it offered cheaper tuition, had 200+ majors, and was decently close to my hometown. I was excited and terrified, but reflecting on everything I could not be happier with my university choice. I have learned infinitely more about myself, life, and academia than I think I ever would have if I had gone to another college. The following 4 things highlight something I learned for each year of undergrad.

1. People

I entered college as a Humanities Scholar, a program that groups people into cohorts based on similar interests and majors, that required living with a random roommate in the same program in a dorm on south campus. This program isolated me from my high school friends who were all on north campus. Moreover, I was forced into a situation where I needed to talk to more people and make new friends as my roommate and I just didn't hit it off. These aspects coupled with the fact that I did not have any classes with people I knew further pushed me to branch out on my own.

I tried new clubs, studying with random people in class, getting a job, and other such things. All of which were great ways of meeting new people, some who stuck around; others who didn't; and many more I say hi to in passing. The sheer number and diversity of the people around you is the greatest advantage you have in creating new relationships. That said, my freshman year I learned that the people you meet is one of the best aspects about college. The quality of the relationships you have is imperative in getting the most out of any experience. Take a chance and try something new, be friendly with those around you and you'll be surprised at who you meet.

2. Uncertainty

In college, I ended up changing my major 5 times; and I am one of the lucky success stories that made it out in 4 years with 2 degrees. I entered with many passions, and I was unsure how to fit them all together or narrow down the choices. To begin, I started as undeclared. All I knew was that I wanted to get a minor in Spanish. I took many of my general education courses and other courses I thought would be useful or could be repurposed for another requirement. After my first year, I took a couple of economics courses and I loved it. I planned on pursuing it through college. However, I always gravitated towards the sciences in high school and was unsure what one could do with an economics degree. At this point, I also entered a relationship with someone studying to become a physician's assistant and most of my friends were in science-oriented studies. Life crisis number one happened my sophomore year and I changed my course entirely to Biology with Economics and Spanish minors. Then after some ruminating about what to do with a Biology degree, I decided to switch to pre-med. I allowed myself to be too influenced by those around me, and I reaped the consequences of this through disliking my coursework for the next two semesters. Simply put, chemistry was just not my thing. That summer, as an easy escape I decided to transfer to Food Science. My mother worked in the food industry and I had many overlapping courses that would allow me to graduate on time, so I did the switch. I had also dropped Economics as a minor and picked up Spanish as a full additional degree. Food Science wasn't bad, but making a career out of it was not ideal for my life goals. Finally, I came full circle and re-declared myself as an Economics major. For my remaining years of school, I would take three 18 credit hour semesters in a row to ensure I finished my two degrees in 4 years. It was extraordinarily tough, but I did it. At some point, I also tried to add in a biology minor to use the science courses I had taken (but I just did not have enough time or mental desire). Digressing, 4 years is just a number defining the typical path. You do not need to adhere to it or feel overwhelmed about being above or below it to finish your studies. Take things at your own pace and do not feel pressured that you should compare yourself to the typical or the standard.

What did I learn through all of this? Well, the main thing is that it is okay to not know what you're doing and change your major. If you're uncertain about what you want to do, and you're surrounded by people "knowing" what they want to do it can be overbearing and it is easy to have intense moments of doubt and crisis. College is very intimidating as an undergraduate. Do not feel the need to rush into things, take some time to find what you like and experiment with other fields too. Even take a gap year, there is no shame in that. Change your major if you need to, do not commit to something you know you will hate and stay with it. Do not be influenced by someone that your path is not valid. You will figure it out for yourself, and you will be fine. My life took several left and right turns my sophomore year, and I do not regret any of them as they taught me significantly more beyond what degrees I wanted.

3. Hookup Culture

College is a spectrum of intimacy desires, there are the people who want nothing but pure love and others who simply desire physical contact. With confidence, and probably validation from my friends, I have been both. My sophomore year ended with an enlightening 5-month relationship; a weird 1-month rebound relationship; and a many of unsuccessful dates. I was sick of getting my heart all topsy-turvy with no success. My romantic life was on an exponential decline and I snapped. I succumbed to hookup culture as a way of satiating my needs. It had me unknowingly spiral into moral depravity as I ended up feeling used because I would get attached way too easily. Inherently, hookup culture is not for me. Not only did it influence my mental health, but there is a severe cost of not knowing how clean someone is or how clean the people they have been with are. I had my first STD scare and it was one of the worst feelings I could have ever experienced. Yes, a lot of them are treatable and somewhat a "quick fix"; however, it is not worth the risk given that some can drastically change your life forever. It is good to experiment and hookup culture does have that perk of no strings attached trying new things. DO NOT let someone talk you out of using protection, it is not worth your own sanity and safety. Try to find what you truly want and fortify your mental state to not be a slave to your own physical desires. Once that physical feeling passes, you are usually left with a pit of emptiness. I personally think that finding something more meaningful is much more rewarding, even if the investment is significantly more and doesn't fully pay off in the end. That said, I also think that sometimes you need to just do what you feel is right for you in the moment and go for it. I just encourage you to be a safe as possible, be sure you are doing it for you and that you understand what hookup culture implies. It is very rare that people will suddenly change, and you will find something meaningful in a hookup (in my opinion). Lastly, do not feel judged for being involved in hookup culture. Your self-worth is not defined by it or how many hookups you have had. You are still you, and you are still figuring things out.

4. Time Flies

Of course, being the old recently graduated senior that I am, I must mention the obvious: college will be over in a literal flash. It is insane how quickly time will pass. Is it because we are getting older? Is it because we are having fun? Is it simply an aspect of life? I think it is a combination of many aspects. I stated before that college is a unique experience, and thus I cannot emphasize enough to make the most it to the best of your ability. Exploit all the resources your college offers you because you are paying for them and you might as well! Join a club, study at the library, go to the gym, spend time in greenspace, get a campus job, volunteer, go to campus bars, and do so much more! You can do things alone; you can do them with friends. Make as many memories as you possibly can, cherish the good ones and reflect on the bad ones. Study hard, and play harder. College is such an immense privilege, take advantage of that in any way you can: academically; socially; professionally. You can choose the make the best of any situation given to you to grow and develop, or you can let all those opportunities pass you by. In the end, time will go on regardless. No matter what you are feeling or where you are going, take a deep breath and then take your next step. There are no backwards steps in life if you recognize what you learned in each. Move forward and you will find your way, eventually.

Interrelating, since life will progress you should experiment with different things to find what you want in life; and I think you should do it with quality people you care about, they will guide you and greatly enhance all your experiences. Just some stream of consciousness perspectives from a new alumnus.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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