What Four Years of College Has Taught Me

The words I never really thought I'd say: I graduate college in two weeks. With all behind me except a week at the beach with my best friends for life, I've finally gotten some time to reflect on the past four years I've spent inside the walls at Duke University. I've learned a lot, from designing typefaces to the tendencies of serial killers to the discovery of the new world by Spanish explorers. I'll probably forget all of that within the next year, though. What I've learned outside the classroom is what truly defined my college experience, and what I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Through the ups and downs, the twists and turns, and all the craziness that is four years at Duke, I've made it to the end, and that is at the same time the happiest and saddest thing for me right now.


A few words of wisdom from an old lady to those who still have years of college ahead of them...

Always make time to be with the people you love. Your time in college is limited. Your time to work hard and achieve great things is endless. Work hard, but find a balance that still allows you to spend your precious time with the most important people in your life.

You've got problems. They're real, but so are everyone else's. Be honest with what you are dealing with -- don't hold it in -- but also make sure to listen to those around you. 

You always deserve a break if that's what you need. Whether it's a study break, or time off to recharge, be sure you know when you've hit your limit. The pressure can be too much sometimes, and it's not always the right answer to push through the struggle if the struggle becomes overbearing.

Nothing is impossible. If I made it through my junior year the wreck that I was, even pulling out solid grades and returning even stronger in the fall, I might as well be capable of anything. 

When you get too stressed, Menchie's is the answer. Trust me, it's got the best flavors of froyo around and the best topping selection. It'll make you feel better in no time. 

Horses really are the best medicine. Not applicable to everyone, but there's something out there that soothes all our souls. For me it was my horse. Find what you love and make sure it has a significant presence in your college career. You won't regret that.

The library is only as productive as you make it. Take it from me, who got the majority of my work done in an art studio where I could sing and dance around and be happy.

You don't need to go to every party, but you should try to go out and have fun as often as you can. Prioritize what you actually enjoy; if it's going out and being social, do that, but it's also okay to take plenty of nights in to relax and do fun things that don't involve going out.

You don't need to be besties with everyone on campus; just make sure your real relationships are strong, genuine, and will last far past college. I took a survey recently that asked, "How many lifelong friends do you think you've made at Duke?" and it was a question I was almost scared to answer. I immediately thought of the select group of people I hope I have with me through the rest of my life. I know who I want as my lifelong friends, and I pray they want me as theirs, too. 

The last piece of advice is something I learned from my dad, and I've carried it with me every step of the way. Do what you love, not what you feel you "should" do or what will make you the most money. College is about finding yourself, not following everyone else's footsteps. Don't freak out if you don't know exactly what you want to do with your life at any point in college -- I still have no idea, and I'm quite okay with that, because I know anything's possible. 

Graduation seems surreal right now, and I'm not sure how I'll be feeling once the day actually comes, or the day I get home -- as a college grad -- but I do know that, after learning these life lessons, I'm ready for anything that comes my way. Each year has brought new adventures, new challenges, and new valuable life lessons I'll be able to carry with me anywhere I go. 

Tori BilasComment