College can be the best of times or the worst of times. As a graduating senior, I’d like to think that I’ve learned some secrets to getting the most out of the college experience (aside from surviving on free food for days on end, which we’ve all mastered by now). And for my “grand finale” article, I’d like to impart unto you, if you so willingly choose, all of what I’ve compiled about making college the best of times and not the worst, in both individual and social respects.
There’s no denying that college is especially prone to be the worst of times if you’re lonely. I very often run into people who are, as they say it, “trying to make more friends.” I have nothing but the utmost admiration for their efforts, but I find it hard to believe that friendship is something you can plan. It “just happens” when you least expect it. “Trying” by being overly interested in people can quickly turn a conversation awkward and can come off as just plain creepy. That doesn’t mean you can hang out on Internet forums all day in your dorm with the defense that meeting people “just happens.”
You still need to be where people are out and about. But instead of haphazardly joining a campus organization in hopes of befriending its members and having to fake interest in its purpose or mission, you should explore ones that actually peak your enthusiasm, and then you’ll only have to be yourself. If you’re interested in the group’s topic, you’re also more likely to consistently attend meetings and events that will earn you a reputation as a “regular.” Soon enough, you’ll hopefully find yourself surrounded by like-minded people who are more likely to grow into lifelong friends than casual acquaintances.
But if all else fails, it’s okay to run back to mommy. I understand the need for freedom from 18 years of grounding, curfews and tracked text messages (or maybe my dad just overdid it). But the extent to which college students bar parents from their lives is sobering. Let’s face it; nobody will ever love you as much as your parents.
So in addition to providing you with the social support that you may need while venturing the tumultuous terrains of college, parents also represent a plan B. If all else fails and you have to take a break from college or, perhaps (read: in all likelihood), can’t find a job after graduation, parents can provide you with a safety net to get your life together until you find a way back into the game. Even though I’ve been off at college, I’ve personally grown closer to my parents now than during any other time in my life. Because I’ve matured, I can now appreciate them not just as looming control freaks but as people whom I’d actually like to befriend even if they weren’t bound to me by blood.
We all can appreciate being part of something greater than just ourselves, whether that entails being members of a religious congregation, fanboys for a heavy metal rock band or athletes on a sports team.
Unfortunately, the window of opportunity for that last option is narrowing with every quarter that passes. I, therefore, encourage you to seize now as the opportune time, while your body is still able and you still have free-time, to join a team sport! You don’t even have to be a high school water polo prodigy to get involved in UC Irvine athletics. The Anteater Recreational Center hosts a number of club sports ranging from archery to table tennis and they’re all welcoming to beginner through advanced experience levels.
Last of all, no matter what you do in college, be passionate about it. I may dare to say that college students are looking too far into the future and neglecting the here and now. We’re told by parents, counselors and mentors that establishing the basis for a successful career should be the goal of your 20s.
We’re told that every drop of sweat from hard work during this age range is an invaluable future investment. But have they forgotten the preciousness of youth? Most of your most cherished memories will be from your days prior to age 35. Though we may be settling down later and living longer, 30 is not and never will be the new 20 (I’m sorry, “Real Housewives of Orange County”). If you work too hard, the future is bound to regret a sedentary youth full of compulsive email checking. College is a time to try new things, break down the barriers of your comfort zone and learn to love yourself.
I would like to thank you for following my contributions to the New University and wish you the best of luck in your endeavors.
Faisal Chaabani is a fifth-year neurobiology major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.