The transition between sophomore and junior year has been far more daunting than the previous year’s experience; moving off campus, realizing CVS isn’t at my doorstep when I run out of toothpaste, having to pack lunch because running home in the middle of the day would take a minimum of 30 minutes and always having a mini umbrella in my purse are just a few of the things I’ve had to adjust to. Below, I’ve outlined 10 things that, in the past year, have really helped me grow as a person:
1. Experiencing a little bit of real life through a summer internship.
I spent the summer working a really amazing 9-to-5 office job, where I sat at a desk for most of the day, and took an hour-long lunch break. It was very traditional in structure, which forced me to be entirely responsible for myself. You cannot just skip a day of work because your alarm didn’t go off as you might with classes.
2. Cooking two or three meals a day.
The absence of a meal plan and dining halls that are an elevator ride away very quickly made me realize that boxes of Kraft Mac & Cheese and instant ramen weren’t going to cut it. To stay focused and in good health requires careful thought and planning, which are two things I don’t particularly have time for, and so I subscribed to a meal prep service — sometimes responsibility means outsourcing things that are time-consuming but vital.
3. Appreciating partnership in an adult relationship.
Dating in college can range from casual hookups to engagements, and while I never really fancied myself on either end of the spectrum, being in a two-year-long relationship has made me appreciate the idea of codependency and having someone to grow with who is going through exactly what you are.
4. Managing my finances and paying rent.
Credit-card bills and rent checks were both new to me this year, and having to budget everything from laundry to groceries to Swiffer pads has been a serious adjustment. While it hasn’t been easy, I’m thankful to be learning now because it will leave me much better equipped for life after graduation.
5. Going to the hospital.
Last week I had to call an Uber and take myself to the hospital, and let me tell you, a trip to the emergency room without your mom or dad by your side can mentally age you years. Not only do you need to physically do everything (such as fill out forms) for yourself, but you have to be strong enough for yourself — far stronger than you would need to be if they were there.
6. Living with a dog.
Very recently, my roommate adopted a year-and-a-half-old mutt named Delilah. She is the most wonderful, adorable little creature, but adopting a dog is like having a baby. From training pads to finding the right food and making sure she sticks to a routine, owning a pet means putting another’s well-being right up there with your own.
7. Learning what friendship and reliability really are.
So much has changed since the 247 Snapchat groups I was in freshman year. Learning the difference between friends who will make you a breakfast burrito when you’re feeling down and people who will only respond to texts if they’re happy is tough. At the end of the day, however, that’s pretty wonderful because it’s the ones who will help you build a coffee table that are lifelong friends.
8. Thinking seriously about graduation.
Internship applications are turning into job applications, and networking has become a serious task. This year is the first where my friends and I are all giving serious thought to where we might live when we graduate, what kinds of jobs we’d like to find, and whether or not graduate schools are the right path. When you’re less than a year away from deciding the beginning of your future, it becomes a little bit too real.
9. Becoming a role model.
Whether intentional or not, the upperclassmen are inevitably role models to the classes below them — whether that’s through student organizations, classes, official mentoring or just personal friendships. Even if you don’t feel as though you have your life completely together, there are definitely people younger than you who look up to you.
10. Entering a serious relationship with my bedroom.
There is nothing that I’d rather be doing than watching a ‘60s movie in my bed with a cup of hot coffee or cocoa on a Friday night. When we’re growing up, we seriously underappreciate rest and self-care, but it’s impossible to quantify just how important they are. It’s been oddly tough to convince myself that relaxation is well deserved, but with everything we go through as college students, it truly is.