As my junior year of college comes to a close, I can't help but think about how quickly the time has flown by since I walked onto campus for the first time three years ago. Cliché, I know, but it's really true when they say that college will be the best time of your life, but also goes by the fastest. It feels like just yesterday I was hyperventilating in my freshman dorm room after my parents had left me to live on my own for the first time in my life. Now, I'm living in an apartment, cooking my own meals, driving myself to work. I'm absolutely thriving. It's crazy how much has changed since I was a naive 18-year-old.

Coming to college has shaped me as a person more than I could have ever asked for. It's taught me to cross boundaries that I'd normally be terrified of, step out of my comfort zone in order to meet new people, and become an independent, strong-willed woman. Before coming to Penn State, I didn't really have an idea what my experience would be like. Mostly every assumption I had about college came from the movies and television shows I watched. It just so happened that my experience differed so drastically from what I had watched— in the best way possible.

It took me a while to find my footing. Of course, though, every person has to stumble a few times before taking greater strides. I had all these ideas about the things I wanted to try, the friends I wanted to make. But of course, nothing in life is ever easy. I learned the hard way that dreams aren't always meant to come true, but that doesn't mean that greater things don't come out of them. What I thought were devastating blows to my happiness turned into the sole purpose of my happiness now. Each disappointment I experienced led me down a different path, most of which acquainted me with the people I now call my best friends and the experiences that I now cherish with my whole heart.

I learned to become eternally grateful of the things that had me crying out of disappointment just a few years ago. Not only did they lead me to so many other amazing things, but they taught me resilience and strength. I had to learn how to pick myself up and dust myself off time and time again. I had to learn how to take the disappointment and heartbreak and find inspiration in them, no matter how much it hurt initially.

It may sound strange to be expressing such gratitude for the things in life that hurt me most, that challenged my strength so greatly. But without them, where would I be today? I certainly would not be so happy, so resilient, so motivated. If I had the opportunity to go back in time to my freshman year, I wouldn't change a single thing. I would just allow myself to continue to stumble, to continue to learn from my mistakes.

And then I would eventually allow myself to blossom into the thriving, ridiculously happy person I am today.