As an incoming freshman, I received a TON of advice before heading off. Teachers claimed there was some specific ratio for the amount of time you should spend studying based on how many hours you were in class. Parents of friends gave incredibly specific warnings definitely related to something their older kid got in trouble for during his or her time at school.
To be honest, most of that advice went in one ear and out the other. The most impactful words that truly resonated with me were from older students who had “been there, done that.”
Although I’m only halfway done with my time at Mizzou, I’d like to think I’m at least slightly qualified to say I’ve “been there, done that.” I have also realized that although classes and learning have been awesome, some of the most important things I’ve learned here so far were actually from outside the classroom.
I think the most important thing I learned in college (so far!) is the importance of having balance. Not so much of a “work hard, play hard” mentality, but instead taking time to invest in both your professional and personal development.
I’ve adopted the (admittedly cliched) phrase “your dreams don’t work unless you do” as my mantra for my final few years of college. For me, it wasn’t enough to just get by and pass my classes. I wanted to excel, but on top of that, also serve the community around me and develop professional skills along the way. This meant late nights finishing projects, countless weekly meetings and juggling jobs and internships. What this has taught me is nothing is ever handed to you, and that you must work your butt off for each achievement and position. As a journalism student, being an introvert really isn’t an option when you’re out in the field. You must search for stories, ask those difficult questions, and your most important lessons will be from actually doing (and sometimes failing at doing) journalism – not just reading about it in a textbook.
However, balance is key.
As nice as it is to have an impressive resume and high GPA, your mental health and happiness must always be your number one priority. As someone living with an anxiety disorder, I’ve found that dealing with mental health on a daily basis is sometimes even more difficult than juggling everything else. According to a study by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in four adults experience some form of mental illness in a given year. Never be afraid to reach out and talk to a therapist or mental health resource on your campus. Seek out a local Active Minds chapter or a similar center, because (although it may seem like it most of the time) you are never alone in your struggle.
I cannot stress the importance of self love enough. Everyone relaxes and recharges in different ways, so here are some suggestions I’ve found helpful in hopes you might be able to use them too!
- Unplug. Silence your phone for the evening, turn off the TV in the background, and just focus on the task at hand. Digital distractions can diminish your end product and many times can instead act as an additional stressor.
- Sweat it out. Exercise is a tremendously beneficial tool to aid not only your physical, but also mental health. Sixty-two percent of adults who say they exercise or walk to help manage stress say the technique is very or extremely effective, according to the American Psychological Association. Last year, I fell in love with running. This year, it’s cycling and yoga. Choose whatever works with your body and free time!
- Talk about it. It’s okay not to be okay. It’s also okay to tell someone about what you’re experiencing. A parent, trusted friend, therapist – or all of the above.
And above all, embrace your quirks and oddities and the things that make you, well, you! Be proud of the not only the human that you are, but the human that you will become. Don’t forget to sit back and appreciate the process, because that is truly the most rewarding part of life.
Here’s what some fellow campus leaders had to say was the most important thing they learned in college…outside the classroom.
Kayla Myers: Peer Advisor in Residential Life & Strategic Communication/Digital Storytelling Major
One of the most important things that I’ve learned outside of the classroom is that it is completely okay to be uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable is an emotion I’ve felt so many times in college, but it’s those moments that have led to my growth as a person and as a leader. You don’t change or learn anything by simply staying where you are and others don’t change or learn anything when you stay silent. If you have a passion for something, talk about it and share with others even if some are uncomfortable. You’ll grow, and they’ll hopefully listen with empathy and grow as well.
Tori Schafer: Vice President, Missouri Students Association & Journalism/Political Science Major
Personally, I’ve definitely learned more about myself outside of the classroom. Personal development isn’t something you can learn from a book. Being involved in numerous activities has led me to explore what I’m truly interested in. From internships to volunteer positions, I have been able to experience first hand if what I’m studying is something I want to do for the rest of my life. Along with personal development, leadership is something I constantly strive to work on outside the classroom. I’ve started to learn what positions I can succeed in and definitely fail in.
Amanda Moy: Hatch Residence Hall Leadership Advisor at Mizzou & Journalism (strategic communication: video storytelling) Major, Chinese Minor
Something that encapsulates all I’ve learned while away at school thus far is to embrace the challenges. During your time in college you’re going to be put into some challenging situations and you’re definitely going to have some challenging conversations. As a student staff member that works in the residence halls on campus, I’ve experienced many of those. In those challenging moments you may feel uncomfortable, but growth never comes from staying in your comfort zone. No one learns their deepest life lessons in situations that are familiar and easy to them. It’s in conversations with people different from ourselves and new experiences that we’re truly able to grow.