At this point, I only have 3 remaining days of college classes. In two weeks, I will wear an oddly shaped hat and an ugly smock in a sea of other people dressed just as ridiculously. Someone will then butcher my name into a microphone, and awkwardly try to hand me something and shake my hand at the same time. The past 6 months have been a whirlwind of activity and exhaustion, all culminating in a what will be a few weeks of rest before reality once again strikes and I find myself in a new kind of crucible. After much hard work, hoop jumping and difficult decisions, I’m proud of myself and my accomplishments, but am not naive enough to believe that this is the Winter of my Discontent. I refuse to write a blog with a listing of “Things I Learned in College,” because firstly, those things are too numerous to list, and secondly, those things are considerably more complex and personal than I had anticipated them to be. Instead, I have compiled a list of accomplishments. While some may be trite, they are things I am proud of myself for and can definitively say were the most salient moments of my time in college.
1) I went back to school.
I consider this to be one of my biggest life accomplishments to date, and credit members of my family for their undying support in my decision. I will be graduating with my B.A. at the age of 25, and can recall a point in time when I didn’t think college was an option for me. I chose to uproot my life, quit my steady job, and drive across the country with my Mom and two cats for a chance at something different. I clearly made the right choice.
2) I found my niche.
I am one of the lucky few who knows precisely where my passion lies. I explored many options, and can definitively say I would never be happy studying anything other than my beloved linguistics. It is the one subject I find fascinating 100% of the time, regardless of monotone professors, clicks and pharyngeal phonemes, word structure trees and that damned Russian case system. With all of the tedium and frustration, I am still enraptured.
3) I traveled to Europe.
For my 25th birthday, I decided I was going to do something special for myself rather than make my own cake and share icing with my cats. I came to the conclusion that I had been waiting far too long to travel to places I was dying to experience, so I planned a trip to France. I spent nearly two weeks in France mostly traveling alone, with the exception of the time I spent with some wonderful new friends that I met there. I encountered some stiff negative opinions regarding finances, time, school, safety, etc., but it was undoubtedly the best risky waste of time and money I could ever have imagined. I have previously written a blog about traveling solo, which can be found here if you care to hear more of my opinion on that topic.
4) I pushed myself to the limit.
I am not one known for doing things the easy way, just ask my Mother. I enjoy a good challenge, and sure as hell found some in college. I am familiar with the physical breaking point after many years of fitness interest, but the mental breaking point was new territory for me. I took on a workload of 21 credit hours in one semester, 5 of which were attributed to learning the Russian language. I worked off-campus throughout that semester, and also studied for and took the GRE…in the middle of finals week. I also decided to write a Senior Thesis before graduation, having done no prior research. An incredible professor took a chance on me, and allowed me to bypass the mandatory independent study classes for the chance at graduating with honors. This gave me one semester to pick a topic, put together a study, conduct all participant research, and pound out a finished product. I will be turning in my final draft this weekend. All of this, and I’m also graduating 8 months early.
5) I was hit by a truck.
Literally. A few weeks ago, I was hit by a truck while biking home from school. I am healing well, and more quickly than expected, but it was truly a humbling experience.
6) I got accepted to grad school.
I received my acceptance into the grad school of my dreams approximately 1 hour before I was hit by a Tacoma. Let’s just say it was a day of “ups and downs.” After months of solid job hunting and nothing to show for it, I began considering the option of graduate school. On a complete fluke, I ran into a school representative who informed me of what seemed to be a Master’s program tailored for this chick right here…as long as I had my application submitted within 48 hours. I put my head down for about 30 of those hours and made it in under the wire. After waiting impatiently (just ask my friends how many times they heard me whine, “how long does it take?!”) for a few months, I received the good news that I was going to be a graduate student.
7) I received impressive opposition, and continued to move forward.
The first professor I asked about writing a thesis dismissed me as, “too inexperienced in the field.” The second professor I asked preferred to follow The Almighty Rulebook and did not believe waiving the preparatory courses was wise. I finally found a professor who was willing to say, “Sure. You’re a smart girl, let’s see what you can do.” To that professor, I say thank you so much. As for graduate school, there are members of my family that do not believe it is the best course of action for me. It took several weeks for me to weigh out my options, and carefully choose the decision I know will move me in the direction I wish to go. I know they will still love me regardless of my decision, and I hope they can come to support me in my education although it does not adhere to their beliefs. Also, I consider a truck to be a pretty good opponent.
While I never went to a football game (which I believe is a punishable crime at UF), never did a kegstand and continue to harbor an intense dislike for “Greek life,” I have greatly enjoyed my learning experiences in college. Having completed this milestone, I don’t pretend to have advice for other students or any inspirational revelations. All I care to say is that I am excited to see where my knowledge and experiences will take me, and am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I was given to work hard, and build my own future.