How College Has Made Me A Better Person

How College Has Made Me A Better Person

More independent? Check. More interesting? Check. More humble? Oh, yeah.
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I remember it well: that annoying moment during high school winter break when one of my older friends came back home and said, "ugh, everything is so much better when you're in college" or "when you're in college you'll understand." It always royally pissed me off. But here's the thing: what those self-righteous friends of mine were saying was true.

College is better than high school. Much better. Now, I'm not one of those people who stands by the belief that "college is the best four/five/six years of your life," but I do firmly believe that college is providing me with the opportunities to live the best life I can and is turning me into a better version of myself. Here's why:

College is increasing my independence

Just a few short years ago, I would ask my teachers to use the bathroom, ask my parents if I could go to the movies, ask my friends before I bought an outfit, and basically rely on everyone else to do things. I felt the need to validate my every move with someone else's permission, but in college, clearly that is not the case. Not only have I lived on my own in college, I now have to manage my own finances, make sure I get my work done, and make sure I get enough sleep. These things can be stressful, but now I can't imagine life any other way. College is making me responsible for myself, and I must say, freedom tastes pretty sweet.

College is making me more confident

I'll own it, I've gotten better looking since high school (who hasn't?). But that's only a small factor that's increased my confidence. In college, I've applied for scholarships, joined organizations, given 100-point presentations in front of classes of 80 people, and been put in charge of bigger things than ever before. Because of these challenges (and my more mature face, thanks puberty), I feel more comfortable approaching cute strangers, taking on new projects, introducing myself to important people, and looking in the mirror and liking what I see.

College is making me funnier

I know what you're thinking: "What? How is this possible?" It's true. It's probably due to me growing up and surrounding myself with people with actually intelligent senses of humor (there are funnier things than GIFs of people crashing dirt bikes, people). I've always been sarcastic, but the assholes I meet in my classes with their beautifully dry senses of humor have only made me more so. Honestly though, people actually laugh at my jokes now, and I'm not afraid to tell them (see the confidence paragraph).

College is making me healthier

My mom might disagree. I get a lot less sleep and "go out" a lot more than I did in high school, but I also keep busy and spend a lot less time on my ass. Plus, walking all over campus to my classes and a free gym membership does wonders. Remember, the Freshman 15 only happens if you let it.

College is making me more ambitious

Maybe my favorite thing about the college experience is seeing people who have actually done awesome things with their lives. I've met people who have traveled the world, accomplished amazing things in their glamorous careers, and made great strides in their fields. These people make me feel like I can do these things too, and push me towards my goals.


College is making me connected

In high school, I knew my graduating class, family friends, and a few teachers I liked. Now, I meet new people at every event, social, party, meeting, conference, and class that I go to. Plus, getting more involved has allowed me to befriend Student Body senators, chairpeople, club presidents, and more. Also, the more time I spend here, the closer I get to my professors and advisers, who can help me make the right academic choices and can recommend me for internships and good jobs. And, you know, the actual relationships you make are a perk.

College has made me more appreciative

College life might be busy as hell, but running around all day has really made me appreciate the free time I do have. My personality has become chiller, because with school, extracurriculars, social activities, and ALL THE STRESS, I simply don't have time for drama or unnecessary distractions. Maybe I've grown up, but I appreciate random acts of kindness and my friends/family more than ever. College has also made me realize how lucky I am to be here at all, because all it does is improve my life and my character.

College is making me more interesting

Long gone are the days of only Top 40 and Sara Dessen books. The challenging classes I take and the interesting people I meet in them have really broadened my horizons. Now, weird movies are cool to me and studying abroad doesn't seem so out of reach. Spotify Premium is only like $5 for students, so awesome music is easily accessible, too. Thanks to college, I can talk for hours about obscure shit and retweet stuff from accounts other than Common White Girl without being an annoying hipster. And I DO stuff! Concerts, plays, comedians, and PARTIES are usually free in college, so I take away awesome stories from all of these things. Let's just say I'm not the last one out in that Five Fingers party game anymore.

College is making me smarter

Well, no shit. But the great thing about a liberal arts education is the fact that you learn stuff that you never thought you wanted to, but are happy that you did. I've taken classes that have nothing to do with my future career, but turn out to be incredibly interesting. Did you know "The Shining" could be about the staging of Apollo 11? I didn't, until college.

And finally...

College has made me more fun

It's college. What did you expect?








Cover Image Credit: zimbio.com

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'As A Woman,' I Don't Need To Fit Your Preconceived Political Assumptions About Women

I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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It is quite possible to say that the United States has never seen such a time of divisiveness, partisanship, and extreme animosity of those on different sides of the political spectrum. Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are saturated with posts of political opinions and are matched with comments that express not only disagreement but too often, words of hatred. Many who cannot understand others' political beliefs rarely even respect them.

As a female, Republican, college student, I feel I receive the most confusion from others regarding my political opinions. Whenever I post or write something supporting a conservative or expressing my right-leaning beliefs and I see a comment has been left, I almost always know what words their comment will begin with. Or in conversation, if I make my beliefs known and someone begins to respond, I can practically hear the words before they leave their mouth.

"As a woman…"

This initial phrase is often followed by a question, generally surrounding how I could publicly support a Republican candidate or maintain conservative beliefs. "As a woman, how can you support Donald Trump?" or "As a woman, how can you support pro-life policies?" and, my personal favorite, "As a woman, how did you not want Hillary for president?"

Although I understand their sentiment, I cannot respect it. Yes, being a woman is a part of who I am, but it in no way determines who I am. My sex has not and will not adjudicate my goals, my passions, or my work. It will not influence the way in which I think or the way in which I express those thoughts. Further, your mention of my sex as the primary logic for condemning such expressions will not change my adherence to defending what I share. Nor should it.

To conduct your questioning of my politics by inferring that my sex should influence my ideology is not only offensive, it's sexist.

It disregards my other qualifications and renders them worthless. It disregards my work as a student of political science. It disregards my hours of research dedicated to writing about politics. It disregards my creativity as an author and my knowledge of the subjects I choose to discuss. It disregards the fundamental human right I possess to form my own opinion and my Constitutional right to express that opinion freely with others. And most notably, it disregards that I am an individual. An individual capable of forming my own opinions and being brave enough to share those with the world at the risk of receiving backlash and criticism. All I ask is for respect of that bravery and respect for my qualifications.

Words are powerful. They can be used to inspire, unite, and revolutionize. Yet, they can be abused, and too comfortably are. Opening a dialogue of political debate by confining me to my gender restricts the productivity of that debate from the start. Those simple but potent words overlook my identity and label me as a stereotype destined to fit into a mold. They indicate that in our debate, you cannot look past my sex. That you will not be receptive to what I have to say if it doesn't fit into what I should be saying, "as a woman."

That is the issue with politics today. The media and our politicians, those who are meant to encourage and protect democracy, divide us into these stereotypes. We are too often told that because we are female, because we are young adults, because we are a minority, because we are middle-aged males without college degrees, that we are meant to vote and to feel one way, and any other way is misguided. Before a conversation has begun, we are divided against our will. Too many of us fail to inform ourselves of the issues and construct opinions that are entirely our own, unencumbered by what the mainstream tells us we are meant to believe.

We, as a people, have become limited to these classifications. Are we not more than a demographic?

As a student of political science, seeking to enter a workforce dominated by men, yes, I am a woman, but foremost I am a scholar, I am a leader, and I am autonomous. I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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It's Hard To Stay Friends With A Kavanaugh-Lover, But It's Possible

Or hater.

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If you don't have your head buried in the sand these days, it's impossible not to realize how viscerally raw most people's political emotions are. And unless you live in a bubble, you likely have friends or family who have very different political beliefs with you. If you want to cut off those relationships, read no further. But if you view your relationships more T. D. Jakes style—"I like to see myself as a bridge builder, that is, me building bridges between people […], between politics, trying to find common ground"—then play on.

Before beginning a conversation with a politically-differing friend, put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself: what aspects of their life might have influenced them in this way? Accept that you just don't know what their experiences have been like. Maybe your gun-supporting friend had her house traumatically burglarized when she was quite young; maybe your friend who believes the government should solve all our problems was only able to get hot lunches at school because of government aid. View it as a thought experiment if you will: imagine a sympathetic reason (rather than a judgment-worthy reason) that your friend has this differing viewpoint.

We have two ears and one mouth. Ask them questions and then genuinely listen. As humans, we often listen to respond, not to understand. Try to understand without demonizing or judging your friend. David Livingstone Smith, author of Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others, said that when we dehumanize or demonize others, it acts as: "a psychological lubricant, dissolving our inhibitions and inflaming our destructive passions. As such, it empowers us to perform acts that would, under other circumstances, be unthinkable." Try to accept that your friend's point of view—no matter how much you disagree with it—is (in their eyes) just as valid as your own. Your goal is to listen first, persuade later, argue rarely (or never).

It's not about you. Your friend's support of Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court means just that: they think he should have been confirmed. Or if they are angry that he got confirmed, it means just that: they think he should have not been confirmed at the time. Use our earlier thought experiment: perhaps the supporter found fault in the accusations against Kavanaugh or genuinely viewed it as a false accusation, and (whether that happened here or not), we can agree a false accusation is concerning. It doesn't necessarily mean that they think the assault he was accused of is okay—perhaps they think any form of sexual assault is utterly appalling and should never be tolerated, but just didn't happen here. Your friend's view is not personal to you, no matter how personal it may feel.

There's a difference between supporting a politician and supporting an action. If your family member voted for Trump, that doesn't mean they support his personal behavior. (If they DO—that's a different story.) It's like watching Lady Bird (great movie) and someone saying that means you think all children should treat their mother like Lady Bird treats hers. The two could be equated but aren't necessarily. Have you ever gone to the theaters and seen a movie that had elements you didn't agree with or like? The same can be said for politics.

If it seems appropriate, when they are done sharing and seem receptive to conversation, share why you may disagree with them. Times to NOT share: if they are angry or closed off. (Observe both their words and their body language. If their voice was raised or their arms are crossed, not the time.) If they just shared something vulnerable with you (eg. they are vehemently pro-choice because they've been assaulted and got an abortion), now is not the time.

Remember, your goal is not to argue, but to listen and then to persuade. If they're not in a place where they can listen to you being persuasive—then let it go and try again some other time.

When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game. However—sometimes you shouldn't always maintain these relationships. Politicians your friends support don't necessarily fully reflect who your friends are, but political views are an aspect of who they are. To use the above analogy: when you see a movie at the theater, you are supporting it. Even if you disagree with it and warn your friends away, you still paid for the ticket.

And sometimes you don't. Understand when you need to disengage. It's okay to have some things you can talk about civilly and rationally and some things that you just can't. If my friend thinks communism is the way to go, for example, I am able to speak respectfully and rationally about it. But if a person tries to support child abuse, I absolutely cannot have a conversation with them where I try to understand where they're coming from and listen to them without telling them how wrong they are. It's okay to have some topics that mean so much to you that you can't engage with all of them or respect every differing point of view.

When you win, be gracious. And lastly, if you supported Kavanaugh, your friends who opposed his quick confirmation are crushed right now. It's okay if you think that's silly or not a big deal. But go back to the first point: put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if some political issue you felt really strongly about was dealt a crushing blow? You'd want the people on the winning side to be gracious, or try to understand, or at least not rub it in. Maybe you didn't like how the situation unfolded, but your guy's in now. Think of the golden rule and be kind to your friends who are struggling with this.

Just remember:

"Be sure when you step—step with care and great tact. And remember that Life's a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft—and never mix up your right foot with your left."
Dr. Seuss.

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