Five Things I Learned my First Semester of College During a Pandemic

Monday, January 4, 2021

Happy New Year (four days late...)! Although there is much needed fresh start after the craziness of 2020, there is nothing better than to reflect on what I learned this year while starting a new chapter of my life. 

This past August, I was allowed to start college at my dream university, Texas A&M. Now, when I say dream, I mean it. After attending one football game at Kyle Field with my dad when I was nine, I knew this was the university I wanted to go to, and nothing would stop me from getting there. Now, I didn't dream I would take four asynchronous classes during a global pandemic at A&M, but a lot of growth came from the experience.

As this is my first post on Curls & Grace, I thought I would share how I improved my first semester and what I will continue to work on throughout my time at A&M. Here are five things that I learned during my first semester of college:

1. Time Management is the Key to Success

College is an exciting, new time for most students, and it presents itself with exciting opportunities. Whether it's a sport, club, sorority/fraternity, there is almost an infinite number of ways to become involved on campus. With these opportunities, though, students can quickly become overbooked and find it challenging to get all their schoolwork done on time while also enjoying their new freedom. 

I knew coming into college that I was already a procrastinator in high school, but asynchronous classes were a wake-up call for me. College classes do not have a pause or lull in work, so once you are behind, it is extremely difficult to catch up. Although I turned my assignments in on time and complete my classes, the panic I felt rushing through my work is not a feeling I want again.

This upcoming semester I intend on implementing more organizing techniques with my work to prevent last-minute panic. Last semester I did use a planner, which I will continue to do, but now I also have created a spreadsheet with all my assignments on it and their due dates. Now, I can see all my upcoming work and the priority of that assignment. I will keep y'all updated on how that works out for me and if I am more successful this semester!

2. Quality over Quantity

While there are many opportunities presented to students, the pandemic has also canceled or changed most non-academic programs functioned at universities. This inconvenience made creating friendships and relationships a lot harder than usual. I came to A&M without any of my close high school friends, and there was only one girl I  talked to that was attending, but what a blessing that was. This lack of established relationships made me go out of my comfort zone and talk to new people, which I am grateful for because now I have two girls that I love and intend on creating a lasting friendship with.

Having many friends seems ideal at times, but I have learned that quality is better than quantity. I have heard that phrase a lot, but this semester I took it to heart. At times it was easy to be plagued with thoughts of "Why don't I have more friends?" & "Am I not good enough for them?," especially during this pandemic, but I have learned I would rather have two incredible friends than have twenty acquaintances that I don't know.

The many memories that I have made in Rylan and Ella's room are something I will cherish for the rest of my lifetime. More friends wouldn't have made me happier than these two girls did the past semester. I challenge you all to seek closer relationships and see how you can grow as a person.

3. Appreciation for Everything, Big or Small

With all the events in college, you can become wrapped in it all and forget to cherish the moments before you eventually graduate. This past semester was one of the quickest semesters, but there are little things I am grateful to have experienced in the four months in College Station. 

One thing that seemed like torture at the time, but I am so excited to keep going to is ticket pull. Football is a big thing at A&M, hence why I was drawn to attend the school through a game, so to get good seats at the football games, you have to wake up early. The freshmen pull on the Thursday morning before our games, and it was at 8:00 am, but you could find students camping outside of Kyle Field the night before because they wanted good seats. While this may seem silly to talk about, and I hated having to wake up at 6:30 to sit outside with Rylan and Ella, we have some funny memories and pictures that I am grateful for. 

If you become too focused on your grades in all of your classes, while it is important, you won't be able to look back on your time in college and smile about it. You have to appreciate everything around you, as we have learned from the pandemic because it can be taken from you in an instant. I don't want to look back on the next four years with regret, so I want to make the most of everything I get to do. 

4. Breaks. Breaks. Breaks.

With the overload of work that seems to come from college courses, it is extremely easy to become overwhelmed and unmotivated. The key to avoiding these emotions is to take frequent breaks when studying. This can be hard when you are in the groove of work, but even something as small as five minutes to refresh your brain can keep you working longer than if you skipped the short break.

Some of my favorite breaks I took were with Rylan and Ella, where we would either watch an insane amount of Tis Toks or go a get some treat as a reward for the work that we have done. While the ice cream cookie sandwiches that I included a picture of below were delicious, we mainly ate massive amounts of edible cookie dough. I don't think I have ever consumed as much cookie dough as I did this past semester, but it was completely worth it. 

While all breaks shouldn't be treated as a reward because that can lead to negative consequences, such as you never having the motivation to do your work unless there is a reward involved, sometimes having an end goal can push you to finish. College is challenging, and a little happiness can make all of the difference. 

5. Rid your Life of Negativity

This is a broad but truthful piece of advice I learned. Negativity has no place in your life. I spent so much of high school in a constant state of worry and anxiousness because I let the people around me influence my emotions too much.  College is a time to start fresh and get rid of those emotions, people, or actions that don't bring you joy. Our life is too short to not enjoy being here on earth and living life to our fullest potential.

Now I say all of this as if it is easy, but this is far from the truth. Changing your entire mindset is not something that happens overnight. It's a hard switch and something that I am still struggling with, but it is worth it in the end. When you are not burdened by the negatives, you feel better and can truly be yourself. Since I have begun to work on this, even my sister has told me that I am more fun to be around and I am becoming myself again, which is so encouraging. It is not an easy task, but it will all be worth it in the end for myself and the people around me.

College is an amazing experience that I love and wouldn't trade anything for. It is up to you to make the most of it and I hope this can help you create a positive mindset coming into the next semester and 2021!