What I Learned From My Semester Home
College Life |  Source: @Sit

What I Learned From My Semester Home

Few people care. The rest are just curious.

1. Social media is the enemy.
When I first arrived home, I'd religiously scroll through all the drunk Snapchat stories at parties and the bars every Thursday through Saturday night. I found myself missing those wild adventures as I laid in bed about to fall asleep.

The FOMO was real. However, I reminded myself that only a few weeks ago I'd been doing that exact same thing and yet still felt miserable, so it was easy to snap back to reality.

2. I had many acquaintances, but select people I consider real friends.
I realized once I got home that although I knew hundreds of people from school, there were only about three I cared to keep in contact with. I may have had friendly conversations with the guy in my British Lit class and borrowed clothes with the girls who lived in the dorm next door, but none of these interactions provided me with any evidence that any of these people were worth staying in touch with.

3. Few people care; the rest are just curious.
Adding onto my second point, when news of my absence first broke, my phone was inundated with texts inquiring about where I was, along with my friends at school informing me of the ridiculous amount of people who'd asked about me. All I can really do is laugh.

None of these people give a damn about how I'm doing. They just want to feel "in the know." I owe absolutely no one any explanation as to why I left school and it's their prerogative if they wish fabricate stories however they please.

4. My parents aren't so bad after all.
I didn't expect to bond with my old folks so much, but nonetheless I'm grateful we did. Most of my friends are away at school, so my parents willingly filled the void-- I accompanied them on their Saturday night dinners, went to see movies, went shopping, and did all kinds of fun activities.

I confided in them about relationships, my social life, and career goals, and they were surprisingly non-judgmental. Granted, they didn't completely abandon their roles as disciplinarians, but it was refreshing for both of us to get to know each other in a different light.

5. My unhappiness wasn't me; it was a product of the school.
I came home in a state of complete confusion and unease and prayed time away would allow to discover clarity in myself. It did.

My time home enabled me to pinpoint specific reasons as to why I'd been perpetually unhappy, and essentially every one of them involved some aspect of the school itself. It became startlingly obvious that if I wanted to get myself back on track, I needed to begin in a completely and incomparably different environment.

6. There is no rush to finish.
At first I was concerned my decision to take a semester off would force me to graduate later, but then I realized... who the hell cares if it does?

There is absolutely no rush to begin life in the *real* world, and in the scheme of things, it's pretty insignificant whether or not you graduate with your friends. It's not your high school graduation.

7. It's never too late to start over.
Following point number six, whether you took a semester off to transfer schools or to evaluate what exact vision you see for your life, it's never too late to abruptly alter your course of action. A semester home will provide you with a different perspective on your life that you may not have had back at school and could lead to some game changing epiphanies.

Don't fight it. Switch schools if you have to. Major in a field you never expected to intrigue you. Whatever it is, listen to both your head and heart and then run with it. It's your life and only you can decide its outcome.

Image Alt
College Life |  Source: @juro_zmatek

How to Get Back on Track This Semester

It's hard, but it's worth it.

In high school, I was not a great student. It's not even just that I copied homework in study hall, I just literally just ignored homework altogether. I didn't care about my GPA, (clearly, I misunderstood college admissions at this time), and I refused to stay up past 10 p.m. to do homework. Usually I was just lounging around, watching Netflix.

Once I got to college, I realized I needed to make a huge change. I worked my ass off and spent tons of time in the library. I actually got good grades. It was truly a shock to myself and everyone that knew me. I then became psychotic about grades and refused to get less than an A.

I continued to get great grades until I hit a tough semester - my classes were harder than normal, the grading seemed unfair, I was falling behind. Worst of all, I couldn't get myself to care. I would look at my grades and be pissed off at myself, but couldn't seem to drag myself to the library.

It took a few weeks and a lot of stressing to put myself back on track but there are a few important things I learned:

Email your professor and go to office hours
If you're falling behind, your professor is grading really tough, or you just know your grade sucks, talk to your professor. Either email them and express your concern, or better yet, attend their office hours. Putting in that small amount of effort can go a long way, and they may give you options that help you improve your grades almost automatically.

Set your alarm early, get a coffee, and force yourself to go to the library
Block all distractions, i.e., turn your phone on airplane mode and actually study. Sit down, take notes, and look at what assignments are coming up in the next few weeks. Prepare to actually put in time for them and hit the books. There is only one way to fully get back on track, and that's to study.

Go through your agenda
Label days that you have tests, days that assignments are due, and days you should study. Find a day you are less busy and make that your study day. Then, every designated study day, force yourself to spend time in the library completing your work and getting ahead. (Or, back on track.)

Image Alt
College Life |  Source: westword.com

Start Spring Semester With A Bang

And a ton of beers.

We all know what the Beer Olympics are. Doing it the first week back for spring semester is unprecedented.

Here's a dope example of that, full of good times and a sweet trophy. Long live syllabus week!

Image Alt
College Life |  Source: knowyourmeme.com

What I've Learned From Failing A Midterm

Read this before you have to learn the hard way.

As a first semester college student, I've had a lot of "firsts." Sadly, one of those "firsts" was failing a midterm. It was horrifying. I studied for hours, re-watched lectures, watched crash courses (shoutout to high school history), and took intense notes during lectures.

I was told all throughout high school that if you dedicate your time to college, it will be a breeze. College is not a breeze.

It doesn't matter how much time you dedicate to your classes or whether you write or type your notes just because you've been told that handwriting notes is better for memorization than typing. The key is how you manage your time with each class.

What I thought: The key to lectures is writing down notes as fast as you can not worrying about how sloppy they may be.
What I've learned: Downloading the powerpoint and typing notes underneath is more beneficial as you can keep up with your professor. Only when you study for the exam should you write out all of your notes and powerpoint topics. This is a good way to keep notes organized so that you will not have to waste time trying to figure it out later.

What I thought: Re-watching lectures is a good way to review the material.
What I've learned: If you don't dedicate all of your attention to the recorded lecture, you won't retain information and you will have wasted your valuable time. By retaking notes during the video lecture, you're bound to catch more information and it will make sense.

What I thought: Reading the books, chapter by chapter, is an efficient way to understand information.
What I've learned: You will waste hours reading entire chapters. Skip the chapter and re-read the power points and your notes. Only use the book for clarification.

What I thought: The only place to study is in the library.
What I've learned: There are a myriad of places on college campuses to study and switching up your routine study spot may give you a fresh feeling and help you retain more information.

While failing a midterm felt like the worst possible thing at the time may have actually benefited me. I learned that what I was doing wasn't working, and that I needed to find more effective ways to study.

You can study all you want, but if it doesn't work for you, it doesn't work. As discouraged as you may feel, it is important to pull yourself back up and continue to work hard at improvement and progress.

Image Alt
College Life |  Source: annie29

Your First Semester and Your Mental Health: A How-To Guide

Pack your meds, people.

College is an adventure to say the least. Here's how to deal with the exciting world of the mental health system in a brand new city/at a brand new school.

Have all of your medical paperwork together.
This may sound obvious, but some of us may have forgotten. Your insurance card, your diagnoses, your prescriptions, your meds - all of these things are good to have on hand. If you can get several refills on your medicines before you get to college, that's even better.

Most campus doctors will take your word if you say you have depression, but they're going to want to see some papers for ADD. Psychiatrists are typically willing to fax your papers into the school, but it may take a few days.

Be sure you have money.

My Concerta cost like $50 and my parents gave me $20 bucks at the beginning of the semester. I did not have a job. It was a bad time. If you depend on your parents, let them know how much your meds cost and how much you'll need per month.

Talk to disability services.
No one likes to think of themselves as disabled. I didn't. But having documentation that says, "Hey, look, I have some hurdles other people don't" can be invaluable at college. It can make the difference between an A and a C, or even an F. Having someone in your court as you navigate a new situation is always a good thing.

Make use of on-campus resources.
Many colleges have free therapy and doctors who can manage your medicine. Take advantage of that shit, because I have a $30 copay out in the real world. While I would not recommend having them prescribe new things entirely unless they seem to know their stuff, having a reduced or free psychiatrist on campus is really handy.

That being said, I've had some very good campus therapists and some very bad campus therapists. Which, I suppose, is like most therapists. You're going to find someone who can blow your mind, and you're going to find someone who talks about their kids and victim blames you for things that happened in elementary school. It's really a toss-up. Don't be afraid to ask for a new one if yours keeps relating your deep-seated traumas back to the funny thing their granddaughter did last weekend.

Let your professors know at the beginning of the semester.
(Most) professors want to see you succeed. If you tell them you've got some other things going on before you crash and burn, you look much more credible. One of my medications makes me very tired. I let my professors know; and they were more willing to let my attendance slide for morning classes. (Talking to disability services also helped with this.)

Last semester one of my classes was at 9 a.m. After I explained the situation to my professor she let me come in during later studio hours and I ending up getting an A in the class.

Get familiar with your pharmacy.

You want to know where this is. The sooner you find it and the less time you spend wandering around town crying the better. This definitely never happened to me.

Image Alt
College Life |  Source: @skywardkick

What I Learned Volunteering at a Prison

The Prison Project.

I got that same email every term and never once did the prospect of volunteering with convicted felons pique my interest. Honestly, I never even clicked into it, given the subject line.

But this summer, I found myself enrolled in only two courses--stuck in Bumblefuck, New Hampshire--with longer days and fewer parties. So, I signed up. Maybe volunteering would be cool, maybe I'd enjoy learning how to do social good in college. Plus, I'd just binge-watched OITNB and prison was now a fascinating counterculture to me.

When I looked closer, I noticed it was simply two hours a week practicing creative writing with these guys. I'm not very good at much, but if I had to choose a single thing at which I'm half-decent, I'd say writing. Selfishly, I was excited to practice my own writing, maybe even show off a little bit. I never even thought about the men I would soon come to know.

At training we were warned... and warned, again. These men were scoundrels. We were told they'd shake your hand just to smell it while they masturbated after. They'd only come to look at girls and brush up next to you if they could manage. We weren't allowed to wear tight clothes or have skin exposed. In 80-degree weather, off we'd go in our sweat pants and baggy long sleeves.

But it was nothing like that.

These men were amazing. They were insightful. They were bright. They were repentant. They were in a place with not much else to do but reflect and it showed. They detested the system--which had fucked them over. They loved. They missed. They ached. They grew... and they were still growing. They were anxious. They were hopeful. They were strong. They had so much to say. They poured their souls out in these essays.

It became the most meaningful thing in my life. They always told us how grateful they were for us. I went week after week, becoming more and more invested each time. I should've told them how grateful I was.

Then, I realized something: the difference between them and us was that they had gotten caught. Have you ever broken the law? Committed a felony? Used drugs? I definitely have, and for no good reason. Half of our class was in for armed robbery. A Hail-Mary attempt to provide for their families! It was heartbreaking.

And they all talk about their families. So here's what I learned: never take them for granted, no matter how horrible they may seem sometimes. Never take anything for granted, really. You could lose it in a second--not necessarily to jail time if you're some holy motherfucker, which I'm sure as hell not--but to anything.

Think: Is there anything you could regret if something happened today? Tie up your loose ends. Help others anytime you can. Un-burn your bridges. And be grateful for each and every second. They could be gone, for this or that reason, in a heartbeat.