As my grandmother said before her passing last December, I “blossomed” over my four years of college.
Throughout my undergraduate career, I switched majors once, acquired 3 internships, studied abroad in Florence, Italy for a semester, traveled to the Dominican Republic for a service trip, held several editorial positions at an online media outlet marketed toward empowered college-aged women, built strong relationships with my professors, and lastly, made friendships that will last a lifetime.
I learned a lot of content academically throughout the years, from what it takes to build a strong brand image to the functions of an enzyme. But of course, there is more to learn than what can be discussed in a lecture hall. I have compiled this list of lessons that I have learned over the past four years, specifically ones that cannot be found in a textbook.
1. Who my real friends are.
Keep in mind that these may not be the first friends you make. Don’t waste time hanging out with people because you feel that you should — life is too short. Your time should be spent with people who lift you up, make you laugh, and will support you during your darkest days.
2. You should be confident in your decision to stay single because you deserve the best.
Some guys are just not nice and are not worth your time or tears.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, even if a guy is perfectly nice and does all the right things — treats you with respect, texts you “good morning,” and takes you out on real dates that don’t involve “Netflix & Chill” — it still may not feel right and that’s okay too.
3. Not knowing what you want to do is one hundred percent okay.
So many undergraduates face a great deal of anxiety when making the decision of what to major in. What do I want to do with my life, anyway?
I entered college as a psychology major but after enduring said anxiety, I changed my major to communications my sophomore year and have not looked back since. I knew going into college that I wanted to work with people, but after a few courses in psychology that were geared towards working in a lab, I knew that I was in the wrong classes — I wanted to work with people on a daily basis.
I had heard through the grapevine that marketing pairs nicely with a communication major, so I picked up a minor in marketing. I loved being able to take classes in something that I found interesting, was definitely applicable to the real world, and something that I seemed to excel at.
4. Taking care of yourself is so important, both mentally and physically.
This past semester, I made the decision to completely change my eating habits alongside two of my close friends — I started tracking everything I ate, practiced portion control, and increased my water intake. I lost about 15 pounds but gained an immeasurable amount of confidence. After years of being ashamed of my body, I was no longer hiding behind baggy clothing.
Choose to go to the gym, not because you need to lose weight, but because you are worth taking care of yourself. Reap the benefits of exercise — go to the gym for 20 minutes to blow off some steam, even when you have that psychology exam tomorrow that you’re going to “totally fail.”
5. Traveling can truly change who you are as a person.
I had the opportunity to study abroad for an entire semester in Florence, Italy and was able to truly grow as a person, as cheesy as it may sound. I gained senses of resilience and independence living in a city inhabited by people that spoke a language I was unfamiliar with, as well as traveling every weekend to different countries with the amazing friends that I made.
Conversely, on my service trip to the Dominican Republic with a group of students from my university, I was exposed to a way of life that I had never seen before. We were housed in the Mustard Seed community in Puerto Plato, DR, and volunteered to work with impoverished children with developmental disabilities. That week in January allowed me to solidify the fact that I want to take on a permanent career that allows me to help others.
I cannot express in words how grateful I am that I was given the privilege to study at Fairfield University for the past four years. My time there will be greatly missed, but I am excited to see the amazing opportunities that are on the horizon for me. Once a Stag, always a Stag.
Aileen Lindenthal recently graduated from Fairfield University with a major in communication and a minor in marketing. Aileen is no newbie to writing — from a young age, she wrote fictional short stories, paving the way for the several editorial positions she held in college at Her Campus Fairfield, an online media outlet marketed toward college women. In her spare time, you can find Aileen honing her writing skills by creating blog posts for her fashion, beauty and lifestyle blog, snuggling with her dog Gracie, and shopping online for things she doesn’t need. Follow Aileen here.