At 11:21 a.m. on Tuesday, May 14, 2012, I completed the final test for the last class of my final semester of college. I will be graduating later this week. Now that I have more time available to me, I have been reflecting on all of the lessons I have learned over the past 2 1/2 years of my collegiate experience. I have learned a lot about different subjects from psychology to history, from world religions to forensic science, from nature to technology. Some of the most important lessons I have learned, however, have been the life lessons which have helped me throughout this whole experience and will surely help me even more in the years to come.
I have learned the value of perseverance. There were many times when I have wanted to give up in the middle of particularly tough assignments. The task could be grueling in itself—it may have had a complicated set of directions, or things beyond my control such as a faulty Wi-Fi connection or time constraints could be serving as obstacles-but my feelings would be the same throughout. I wanted to drop everything and engage in simpler, more fun pursuits. Despite my inner protests, I would continue to work my way through the assignment. I kept reminding myself that completing the work would be better for me in the long run and that any agony I was feeling at the moment would lead to a greater reward later. I have had to remind myself of this lesson again and again over the past few years, but I feel it is worth repeating all the same.
Resourcefulness and problem solving have been issues that I have had to work on in my daily struggles as a college student. On some occasions, I looked desperately through my textbooks and lecture notes to find key pieces of information I needed. In my single-mindedness, I would frequently overlook one particular section of my textbook or one note which I did not think could contain the fact or theory I needed in order to get the correct answer. After I turned in the work and it was graded, I would look back through my textbooks and notes to see where the information I had missed was located. It would usually be in a place I had overlooked in my rush, and I would often think to myself, “That was the most obvious place! Your narrow way of thinking really cost you there!” I tried to not beat myself up too much over such mistakes so that I could move on and complete the next assignment, but these errors could weigh heavily on my mind for weeks and sometimes even months afterward. I really had to concentrate as each assignment came up, and I tried to not make the same mistake again and again. I worked very hard to remain calm so that I could think my way through all my assignments, and there were times that I was very successful and other times when I fell short. This is something that I know I will have to continue to work on as I move forward in my life.
Most of all, I feel that the greatest life lesson I have learned during my college experience, one which I have learned to recognize in many other areas of my life, is best summarized by the old song lyric (with full acknowledgments given to John, Paul, George, and Ringo), “I get by with a little help from my friends.” My professors and fellow students have been instrumental in helping me get through a lot of my classes. In addition to overseeing the courses, my professors often subtly showed me different ideas that helped me to see the pieces of wisdom that they were trying to impart. I got some of these ideas right away, while others took a little more time to figure out. Many of them taught their classes with an equal combination of seriousness and levity, occasionally throwing small jokes into their instructions or analyses of my work which sometimes annoyed me but often caused me to feel a little better after my work was completed. In online discussions, my fellow students frequently voiced opinions and alternative perspectives which helped me to understand the material I was reading in a different light. They made a tremendous impact on me as a student and as a person. I sometimes have very narrow views regarding many subjects, and I realized as I spoke with more and more people in my classes that people do have different opinions and ideas regarding the same subject matter. I learned that it is okay to accept the opinions of others and to recognize when they reveal information and perspectives which can add immensely to your own understanding of a given topic. I also learned that I am not always right nor do I always have to be right; I can now listen to and discuss others’ ideas.
Of course, I did learn a lot of information during my college years which I found interesting, but I have trouble recalling it sometimes. The lessons I have outlined above and many others like them will stay with me for the rest of my life. These are the kind of lessons that you cannot learn from a textbook or lab. You actually have to experience them to fully understand them.