A guide to grappling with the imperfect, impermanent college experience

Illustration by Jay Crilley

Ishaan Nandwani, Opinions Editor

As the searing summer heat draws to an end, and the cool autumn breeze begins to take hold, it can only mean one thing: the end of exotic vacation days and the start of the new school year. 

Back to the grind, as they say.

As a senior, I’m equally excited and anxious to be back on campus. I’m looking forward to one last hurrah — new friends, late night runs to Christian’s and anxiety-filled study sessions at Cabell.

However, my nerves are different from the butterflies in my stomach I felt as a freshman stepping on campus three years ago. Back then, I contemplated whether I would meet lifelong friends, be successful enough to get into the medical school of my dreams or be able to do life on my own.

Those fears are nearly gone, but reconciling with the reality that in a few months, my time as an undergraduate in Richmond will come to an end is…well, frightening. It’s hard to feel ready for the impending certainty of the real world outside of the university bubble.

Whether you’re a wide-eyed freshman eager to experience the quintessential college experience, an exasperated senior attempting to savor the glory of their university days or not in college at all, but perhaps looking for some entertainment value or applicable life lessons, read on: I have some wisdom to impart upon you.

To the freshman out there, I suggest you let go of how you think your college experience should go. It’s okay if it does not live up to your expectations, and things will happen that are not according to plan. Indeed, we often enter university with a formulaic vision of the next four years, guided by the belief that these are the best years of our lives — after all, that’s what it seems like in the movies.

You might not get into that a capella group you had your heart set on, or you might just miss that grade you needed, or you might lose a friend you thought would be there through it all — and it’s okay. Be intentional in how you choose to live out this time and work hard, but also embrace spontaneity. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself for it to go perfectly, because it never does.

To my fellow seniors and veterans of university life: it’s hard to believe that another year has begun, signifying the beginning of the end. Thinking about the future is daunting, and I myself don’t have all the answers for what comes after. However, I do know that the human capacity for resilience is greater than we think, and just like we’ve adapted to past novel experiences, we can do it again.

Looking at the past few years alone, with the pandemic and so many of us being tested through virtual classes and isolation, we’ve been put through the ringer. 

But we made it through.

Personally, there’s so much that I wish I could have done in college that I was unable to because of shutdowns and lost time. There’s still time though, and it’s up to me — and all of us — to make the most of it. Rather than living in fear of the future or with regret from the past, let’s focus on the now. As long as we take it day by day and try our best, that’s enough to make our time in college worth celebrating.

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