Why My Expectations of College Were Wrong

There is a lot of anticipation that comes with going to college. You spend hours upon hours writing your essays for your applications, having endless conversations with family and friends about your future plans, and spending months waiting for your acceptance letters to arrive in the mail.

When I finally decided where I wanted to go and settled into the idea of attending Cal Poly, there was a sense of relief in knowing where I was heading. But over the summer prior to college, the nerves slowly but constantly built back up. I had many expectations for myself going into college. But when I got there, I quickly figured out the reality.

When I came to Cal Poly, I thought I was going to be a different person. A lot of people talk about having a fresh start when coming to college, and how that allows you to do whatever you want and be whoever you want. I had this misconstrued idea that going to college was automatically going to change me. I thought that simply being in San Luis Obispo was going to be enough.

But that’s not true. What really defines the first year of college is experiences. I only recently came to this conclusion after going back home for three months during summer. I realized how different of a person I had become after really immersing myself in my first year of college.

My fall quarter of my first year was relatively uneventful. I got acclimated to living in the dorms, made some new friends, and figured out how to navigate my way around the school. But going into winter quarter I knew that I wanted to branch out. Even though I knew it was going to make me uncomfortable and force me out of my bubble, I decided to rush for a business fraternity on campus: Alpha Kappa Psi.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but it quickly became one of the most defining experiences of my first year. Even during the week of rush, I learned a lot. I came on the first day to simply see what the fraternity was about, and it pulled me in. I went to every day of rush, and learned about building a professional profile. I started paying attention to my resume and my LinkedIn, and was introduced to the idea of networking by simply trying to form connections with the brothers of the fraternity.

Then during pledging, I became close friends with the other pledges as I learned how to maintain a balance between work and extracurriculars and figure out how to organize my priorities. It was the first place in college where I felt like I was committing all of my effort, and felt a huge personal investment into the process. On top of my other involvements with organizations on campus,  I was learning how I wanted to define myself as a student, friend, and aspiring professional.

Prior to college when people were telling me about starting anew and having a fresh start, I interpreted it in the wrong way. I thought that simply being in college was going to change me. And don’t get me wrong — naturally, it did by putting me in a new environment. But what evokes real change for yourself is learning what it means to put yourself out there. It means having experiences that introduce you to people and ideas that are different from what you’d normally surround yourself with.

I highly encourage you to take the time to figure out what that is for you. It won’t always be easy or automatic, and it might take a bit of trial and error. But when you find something that really challenges you and encourages you to grow, you’ll know.


Thanks Calvin Lin (@calvinlinphoto) for the featured photo!

ALSO — If you go to Cal Poly, Alpha Kappa Psi is having rush next week! Come check it out and meet the brothers. 🙂

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How I Survive School: Staying Organized

Today is the first day of fall quarter this year at Cal Poly. Being back in San Luis Obispo brings me a sense of comfort now that the town is familiar and is considered my second home away from San Diego, where I am originally from. But it’s always difficult to get back into the routine of school after coming back from a long break. What has helped me ease the transition back to school is being organized.

Anyone that knows me personally is familiar with how crazy I am about organization. From my daily to-do lists and calendars to my colorful Google calendar, I like to have my priorities written down on multiple mediums to ensure I do not forget what I need to complete on any given day.

But being this detailed doesn’t work for everyone. I like the idea of having a structured schedule for each day. Organization can definitely be a little intimidating; it’s all about finding what works best for you in terms of staying on top of your responsibilities. However, I truly believe that implementing a couple of different habits in your daily routine can set you up for success in all academic, social, and personal aspects of your life. Take what you find valuable from this post and give each idea a try. It takes a bit of trial and error but you’ll find what works for you.

#1: DAILY TO-DO LIST AND SCHEDULE

Every morning, I write down my schedule and to-do list. What’s important about this is that it holds me accountable for everything I want to accomplish on any given day. It keeps me on top of classes I have to attend, appointments I need to go to, and any tasks I should be working on. At the end of each day, I try to have each box next to the items in my to-do list checked off. If not, I mark it so I remember to add it to my list the following day.

I used to write it on my computer, but I have found that I prefer to carry around a physical notebook because I can add to it throughout the day if I prefer not to carry my computer around. Pictured below is how it looks in my notebook and how that would also look in the Notes app on my Macbook.

#2: GOOGLE CALENDAR

I never utilized Google calendar until I came to college, but since then it has become a lifesaver. I use it for academic, social, and personal events, but I use a different calendar for each one and assign them their own colors, as seen below.

To the left I have attached an image that shows each of the calendars and their corresponding colors. To the right, it shows what two days look like in my schedule this week. All my classes are in the lime green color, which is shown by the two that I have to attend today. My personal events are in pink and it shows that I am planning to go to the gym after class. My work events are in purple; I know that on Friday I have work from 12-2PM.

I like doing it this way because I can isolate certain events. For example, if I only want to look at my classes schedule then I’ll hide every single calendar except for “Classes,” which is shown in the lime green. What’s nice about Google calendar is that it can be as simple or as detailed as you wish.

#3: DAILY PLANNER FOR SCHOOL

In my opinion, the first two items are the most essential. They are the most cost-effective and the easiest to start. I would implement those as these next two are things I like to have, but that are probably unnecessary.

I also carry around a daily planner specifically for my school assignments. I usually pick up a cheap one from Target. It’s a similar idea to my daily to-do list and schedule (#1), but I use bulletpoints for any school assignments I need to complete that day and then asterisks for any school assignments or projects that I should be thinking about but aren’t due immediately.

I find this helpful because it keeps my school obligations separate from everything else. I am a student first, so this helps me prioritize my assignments and stay on top of my grades.

#4: WALL CALENDAR

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The last item that I use is a dry-erase calendar that hangs on the wall in my dorm. I usually don’t update this very often; it only has important dates on it. I would use this to keep track of exam days, birthdays, and bigger events. On a day-to-day basis, I usually take a quick glance at it to see what’s coming up during the month.

I like it because it’s a constant reminder of important dates that I want to keep track of during the year.

Those are the four methods that I use to stay organized during the school year. Usually during the summers or long breaks I don’t use any of this, but it is helpful to me during school because my schedule can get very busy.

Again, only take from this what you feel is helpful to you. Keeping track of my schedule and my to-do list lets me take a better look at how I’m balancing different aspects of my life and is a great reference if I need to look in the past and see when certain events took place. It has helped me be successful in my daily life and is the best way for me to hold myself accountable for my responsibilities, and it can be that way for you too if you take small steps to become more organized.

 

 

A New Environment

With the school year coming to an end in just two weeks, I have taken a lot of time recently to reflect on the past ten months. Since moving away from home, I have learned so much about myself that I hadn’t noticed in the past and have changed a lot.

One of the biggest realizations that I’ve come to recently is how your environment determines so much of who you are as a person, and how it is largely due to the people that surround you. I hadn’t realized just how much this was true until I came to college.

When you grow up in the same town surrounded by the same people, everything about your environment lets you be comfortable. Naturally, you fall into a routine with school, friends, and home. You know what your place is and you usually know how each day will look. You may face challenges in your life as you grow older and earn more responsibilities, but the environment remains constant. It’s familiar, and for many people that is associated with a level of content.

In high school, I thought of myself as relatively reserved and shy, often keeping to myself and not opening up to new people very easily. I was a homebody and liked to stay inside my bubble of a comfort zone. I never attended many school events and would often opt to stay in for a night instead of going out, and surrounded myself with people who seemed to feel the same.

But near the end of high school, I was itching for something new. Even though it scared me, I knew that I wanted to get out of my bubble.

Because the shift in environment was drastic, the changes I underwent were largely due to the new experiences I was having and sharing with other people. By meeting so many different kinds of people during college, I’ve had the freedom to be whoever I want. It is clear to me that the meaningful friendships and relationships that I’ve cultivated since coming to college have had a huge impact on my life. I have made friends that I have been able to open up to and connect with in ways I had never experienced prior to college. And as a result I’ve learned a lot about who I am and what really drives me forward, and how to be be confident in myself as a person with dreams and aspirations.

For example, I have learned that I love to be spontaneous and make decisions on the spot, even though for most of my life I thought I was a meticulous planner who only felt comfortable planning everything in advance. I have learned that I love to be a goof, even though for most of my life I thought I should put on the front of being composed all the time. These characteristics seemed small and intangible, but now I realize that they’ve affected me a lot.

Being thrown into a new place with so many different people shows you who you are or who you want to be by challenging you, and then showing how you deal with those unexpected difficulties in your life. It’s really given me the opportunity to embrace those insights. I love my hometown and I wouldn’t change anything about it, but going to college and being exposed to a new environment has opened my eyes.

Change

“If you change nothing, nothing will change.” – Unknown

Throughout the course of my life, I’ve realized that I have been consistently challenged by one thing: the fear of change.

Most recently, it was the transition to college. While I was aware my apprehension was not uncommon among first years, I still felt butterflies in my stomach on the first day of fall quarter. The prospect of living in a dorm with two other girls, being in a new town with no friends, adjusting to the quarter system, and leaving my family behind to live independently was terrifying.

But since last September, I have grown and learned more about myself than I ever have in the past. From learning how to live on my own and taking challenging classes to spending the majority of winter quarter pledging for a business fraternity, I have discovered so much about my capabilities and resilience through changes in my life. I realize now that my fear isn’t based on change itself; it is on how I’d persevere through that change. While that fear will always be inherent, I have learned (and am still learning) how to overcome it and how to use it to push me forward, rather than down.

The greatest lesson I have learned this year is that if you aren’t uncomfortable, then you aren’t pushing yourself enough and as a result, won’t learn or grow as a person. Voluntarily getting outside of your comfort zone is the best way to challenge yourself, which is why I’ve decided to use the remainder of the school year to try new things. I am pursuing on and off campus opportunities that will hopefully set me up for success later down the line.

With all these new opportunities comes a feeling that I can only describe as being simultaneously terrified and excited for the future. I wanted to create this blog and use it as an opportunity to express my genuine thoughts and ideas and share my experiences. I am excited for what’s to come and I can’t wait to share it.