A lot of upperclassmen friends warned me that freshman year would fly by quickly, and indeed it has. It seems just like yesterday when I was going through the New Students Orientation week, partying in a toga at the Penn Museum, figuring out what classes I wanted to take, getting lost in the Penn campus and trying out a variety of new things. Yet here I am with one year under my belt. Wow, that was quick. Too quick.
As I started packing up and cleaning my room, I came across a variety of paraphernalia, booklets, posters, pictures, notes, exams and more -- so many new experiences, so many new memories. Suddenly, it finally started to sink in that year one of college was over.
While my expectations of college have changed in this past year, I'm happy to say that looking back at my freshman year, I wouldn't have it any other way. While freshman year was full of challenges and moments where I questioned myself, what I was doing and what I wanted to do in the future, I'm here today with a smile in my face, trying to still convince myself, "what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger" or sort of.
It's hard to encapsulate everything that happened in the past year but there are a few key lessons that have stuck with me throughout this first year.
On relationships.... "Never turn down an unreasonable request to hangout"
One of the biggest things I learned from my first year in college is the importance of relationships. In this first year of college, I've gotten the chance to meet so many unique individuals from all over the world.
While it's so easy to get caught up in academics and work, it's important to always find time for your friends and the people that matter to you because life is all about relationships. College is a tough balancing act, and I've personally struggled multiple times in the past year but through the help of friends who were there during good times and bad, I was able to make it through freshman year.
It was in the hangouts, trips to New York, random adventures to Center City, workout sessions, coffee chats, second meetings, follow-ups where I got to really learn more about the people I've met in my first year in college. And you know what, those seconds, minutes and hours I spent where the best use of my time this past year.
On learning.... "Don't let the classroom limit your ability to learn"
It's amazing how much I've learned this past year. What is even crazier is how much I've learned, not only inside the classroom but also outside of the classroom.
There are so many opportunities to learn and get involved in this world; sometimes you just have to be willing to find them. It was through my involvement in several different clubs during my first semester where I got the opportunity to be exposed to different fields and new experiences. For instance, joining the Penn Social Entrepreneurship Movement gave me the opportunity to not only meet like minded students passionate about social impact, but it also led me to going on trips to Washington D.C. and New York City to meet actual social entrepreneurs.
It was through pursuing my passion for writing that I was exposed to so many opportunities that I never would have had. Writing for Technical.ly Philly helped me learn more about the Philadelphia startup scene and opened the door for me to become a contributor for the Huffington Post as well, and that just led me to a whole new world. The best part? It was something I both enjoyed and learned a lot from.
There are thousands, if not millions of opportunities waiting for you. What are you waiting for?
On running a startup as a student.... "There's no better way to learn than to just do it"
Coming into college, one of my main goals was to start a startup and see what it's really like to run a startup as a student. Who would've thought that I'd get the opportunity to join a startup my very first year in college and learn so much from the experience. I remember what one of my upperclassmen friends told me, "The best way to learn is to just do it."
Indeed, from the moment I joined the team, I've learned so much about the challenges in starting a startup, market validation, partnerships, writing a business plan, pitching to investors and so much more. More importantly, I saw the reality of what it really takes to run a startup -- it's not easy. Media has made it seem like it's so easy to become an overnight success but it's actually the opposite.
It's not a sprint; it's a marathon.
On finding your passion.... "It's okay not to know what you're doing"
I honestly cannot count how many times I changed my major this year. Even today, I'm not exactly sure what I'll be majoring in yet. It even got to the point where I just started telling my friends that I was majoring in LIFE when they asked me what my major was. Funny how that little change in name from undecided to majoring in LIFE led to much more interesting reactions -- It's definitely all about perspective.
It's interesting how a lot of people say that you have to have a plan and that you have to know what you want to do. But my first year in college taught me that it's okay not to know what you're doing. It's okay to figure things out on the fly. It's okay to try new things and look stupid. It's okay not to do what others expect you to do. It's okay not to take yourself too seriously. Have fun. Embrace the uncertainty that life has to offer and you will be shocked where it leads you too.
Did I expect to make it to the Wharton Business Plan Competition Venture Finals during my freshman year? Did I expect to successfully host a YouthHack Philadelphia event? Did I expect to be writing for the Huffington Post? Did I expect to join a business fraternity? The answer to all these four and a whole lot more is NO. But am I complaining? Of course not.
Sure, yes, it's important to have a plan. But at the same time, it's important to be open to the possibilities because if there's one thing freshman year has taught me, 'anything can happen'.
On the true value of college.... "Never are you going to be in a place where you're able to interact with this amount of people every single day"
Looking back at the past year, I realized that the true value in college isn't found in the classes we take or the major we choose to pursue. Rather, the true value of college is in the people we meet and interact with every single day. Never will there be a time in your life again when you will be exposed to this volume and variety of individuals so CARPE DIEM, seize the moment.
Meet as many people as you can, keep in touch and build these relationships, learn as much as you can both inside and outside the classroom, work on projects you are passionate about, embrace uncertainty and most importantly, enjoy the ride--time flies by too quickly.