I Took A Year Off From College And I Don't Regret It One Bit

I Took A Year Off From College And I Don't Regret It One Bit

No, I didn't go backpacking in Europe to go find myself.

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There is something I don't really like talking about when meeting new people. It's the fact that I took a year off of my college education to pursue a dream and a once in a lifetime opportunity. On June 16th, 2016, I was elected to serve as the 2016-2017 Illinois FFA State Secretary to represent the over 17,000 Illinois FFA members.

This position requires a year's worth of dedication, crazy hours, courage, and spending each week with only a few bags in a car as you travel all over the place. I am proud of this experience I gained. The reason why I am hesitant about sharing this fact because one, there is more to me that this year off of school, and I want people to get to know me rather than just this position I served in. Secondly, I feel like there is a lot more to me about myself is that I think some people don't understand that sometimes you need to take the path less traveled and do something different, like take a year off of college.

How many people in their early twenties have the opportunity to speak in front of several thousand people about their life and personal journey without fear of public speaking? How many people experience going to the National Capital to talk with staff members about the importance of agriculture and their passions while being taken seriously? How many of you can say you feel like you have made a positive impact on individuals around you while being positively affected by them at the same time?

I learned about so much about myself during this year. You do a lot of self-reflection when you are traveling non-stop and are meeting people from all over. Being on a team that lives and works together taught me about how I fit into groups and how to maneuver through the good and the bad. I found role models, family, and friends that will help me for the rest of my life. I discovered my love of travel because of driving across the state of Illinois, traveling across the country, and being able to go to South Africa for ten days. Each and every moment of that year of my life, the good, the bad, and the ugly has changed me for the better.

I realize that I have delayed my life by a year. I am older than most people in my grade. I will graduate a year later than most people my age, and I won't start in the workforce until I am 23. My plans in life are all pushed back now.

Admittedly, sometimes I wonder where I would be if I wouldn't have taken that year off and think about the what if's of my life.

Reflecting on everything that has happened to me since that very moment in June, I can confidently say I don't regret taking a year off because the experiences I gained during my year of service have helped me grow and learn so much more than I ever would have learned in a classroom. Isn't one year of tremendous personal and professional growth worth taking a year off of school?

I'm not saying that everyone and their mother should take time off from education, I am saying that if you are offered something that won't ever happen again in your life, take it. There will always be colleges and some sort of educational institutes once you are finished. So you can call me a college dropout during that time period, crazy for delaying my future, and give me that "you're crazy and lazy for taking time off of your education" look. I know that taking a year off of college and this experience has been one of the best things that has happened to me so far in my life.

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It's Time To Thank Your First Roommate

Not the horror story kind of roommate, but the one that was truly awesome.
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Nostalgic feelings have recently caused me to reflect back on my freshman year of college. No other year of my life has been filled with more ups and downs, and highs and lows, than freshman year. Throughout all of the madness, one factor remained constant: my roommate. It is time to thank her for everything. These are only a few of the many reasons to do so, and this goes for roommates everywhere.

You have been through all the college "firsts" together.

If you think about it, your roommate was there through all of your first college experiences. The first day of orientation, wishing you luck on the first days of classes, the first night out, etc. That is something that can never be changed. You will always look back and think, "I remember my first day of college with ____."

You were even each other's first real college friend.

You were even each other's first real college friend.

Months before move-in day, you were already planning out what freshman year would be like. Whether you previously knew each other, met on Facebook, or arranged to meet in person before making any decisions, you made your first real college friend during that process.

SEE ALSO: 18 Signs You're A Little Too Comfortable With Your Best Friends

The transition from high school to college is not easy, but somehow you made it out on the other side.

It is no secret that transitioning from high school to college is difficult. No matter how excited you were to get away from home, reality hit at some point. Although some people are better at adjusting than others, at the times when you were not, your roommate was there to listen. You helped each other out, and made it through together.

Late night talks were never more real.

Remember the first week when we stayed up talking until 2:00 a.m. every night? Late night talks will never be more real than they were freshman year. There was so much to plan for, figure out, and hope for. Your roommate talked, listened, laughed, and cried right there with you until one of you stopped responding because sleep took over.

You saw each other at your absolute lowest.

It was difficult being away from home. It hurt watching relationships end and losing touch with your hometown friends. It was stressful trying to get in the swing of college level classes. Despite all of the above, your roommate saw, listened, and strengthened you.

...but you also saw each other during your highest highs.

After seeing each other during the lows, seeing each other during the highs was such a great feeling. Getting involved on campus, making new friends, and succeeding in classes are only a few of the many ways you have watched each other grow.

There was so much time to bond before the stresses of college would later take over.

Freshman year was not "easy," but looking back on it, it was more manageable than you thought at the time. College only gets busier the more the years go on, which means less free time. Freshman year you went to lunch, dinner, the gym, class, events, and everything else possible together. You had the chance to be each other's go-to before it got tough.

No matter what, you always bounced back to being inseparable.

Phases of not talking or seeing each other because of business and stress would come and go. Even though you physically grew apart, you did not grow apart as friends. When one of you was in a funk, as soon as it was over, you bounced right back. You and your freshman roommate were inseparable.

The "remember that one time, freshman year..." stories never end.

Looking back on freshman year together is one of my favorite times. There are so many stories you have made, which at the time seemed so small, that bring the biggest laughs today. You will always have those stories to share together.

SEE ALSO: 15 Things You Say To Your Roommates Before Going Out

The unspoken rule that no matter how far apart you grow, you are always there for each other.

It is sad to look back and realize everything that has changed since your freshman year days. You started college with a clean slate, and all you really had was each other. Even though you went separate ways, there is an unspoken rule that you are still always there for each other.

Your old dorm room is now filled with two freshmen trying to make it through their first year. They will never know all the memories that you made in that room, and how it used to be your home. You can only hope that they will have the relationship you had together to reflect on in the years to come.


Cover Image Credit: Katie Ward

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There Is No 'Right Way' To React To A Shooting

Everyone is different.

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After the shootings this year in New Zealand, Brazil, and close to home for some of us Aurora, people have been reacting in different ways. With some offering their thoughts and prayers, donating money to help pay for the funerals of the victims, fighting for action in regards to ending gun violence, candlelight vigils basically anything that can help them in this time of grief.

There is no right or wrong way to react to a shooting — everyone grieves in their own ways. We should not judge one another for how we grieve in a tragedy.

People have been saying that thoughts and prayers won't do anything. However, maybe it can be a comfort to some people—a way to let people know that they are thinking of them and that they care.

Sometimes people may want to donate money or blood to help out any survivors who may have suffered from blood loss or create GoFundMe accounts to either help out with medical expenses or to pay for the funerals of the victims or even start charities like Islamic Relief USA. Donating your time and money is a good way to help out because you are making a difference that is a form of action you are taking.

There is also grieving in the form of vigils. One example of a vigil is this guy who makes crosses every time there is some kind of tragedy. Vigils are often a good way to remember the victims, to pray for the healing of the survivors, to talk about what they were like as people.

Some people even want to take action by demanding that the laws change a good example of this would be March for Our Lives, which happened after the Parkland shooting last year. This march was fighting for gun control or should I say changes in the gun laws America currently has.

Some people also do acts of solidarity, for example, wearing a hijab like the prime minister of New Zealand did when she went to go visit the Christchurch shooting survivors. My community college had something a couple of years ago called Hijab Day to help show solidarity with our friends. I participated, and it was quite an experience—no one should ever be afraid to be who they are.

There is never a right or wrong way to react, and no one should ever criticize one another for how they react. It's not a test where there is a right or wrong answer—everyone is different and that is okay.

No one should ever have to be afraid to go to school, go to work, or go to their place of worship or wherever they decide to go. Whatever we decide to do to make a change, as long as we are taking some kind of action, is good enough for me.

Nothing ever gets done by sitting around and doing nothing, so whatever it is you do, get out there and do it. As long as you are showing support it doesn't matter how you show it.

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