“College is the best time of your life. When else are your parents going to spend several thousand dollars a year just for you to go to a strange town and get drunk every night?”
― David Wood
“I imagine that one of the biggest troubles with colleges is there are too many distractions, too much panty-raiding, fraternities, and boola-boola and all of that.”
― Malcolm X
“No period of my life has been one of such unmixed happiness as the four years which have been spent within college walls.”
― Horatio Alger
There are a lot of quotes out there that a similar to the above. A lot of people will say “College is the best time in your life! Enjoy it! Don’t stress! You should be having fun!” However, now that I am in to my senior year I am not so sure these statements are true. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed college, but it’s not all fun and games like movies, society, and pop culture make it seem. In fact, I would describe college as the four years that I’ve been the most internally conflicted.
College has torn me apart; not torn me down, but apart. I have struggled with so many decisions in college; decisions where I could see myself as being happy in both outcomes, both choices having similar pros and cons, the choices being fairly opposite of each other.
From day one of college I was conflicted. I came to Augustana intending to be a pre-med or pre-PA major. By the time I actually started classes I was 99% sure that I didn’t want to be a doctor any more. However, I had no idea what I did want to be. During my freshman year I bounced around from history, to psychology, back to pre-med, over to sociology, then prepared for education, before deciding none of those felt right.
Then there was the decision on whether I was going to even come back for spring term at Augustana my first year. By the time Week 10 of winter term rolled around I was exhausted in all senses of the word and I’d had a rough year. I had attended 2 funerals already. I had gotten a D during my first term of college. I was constantly sick. I had no idea how I was paying for college. I had just been diagnosed with a chronic back problem. I didn’t want to be at Augustana anymore. I told my mom I wasn’t returning after spring break and that I would take a medical leave, given my back condition. I was set on it. Then I realized how much I would miss the friends I made. How much I would hate working when my friends were in class. So I returned for spring term and I just kept coming back.
Sophomore year was back to the decision of what to major in. I had determined pre-med was officially out and that I wanted to go with education. Then I got back on campus and decided I definitely did not want to do education, but what else was there? Yes, we have tons of majors, but I could find a reason to rule everything out. Pre-anything? I couldn’t handle the chem classes. Psych? Didn’t love it like I did in high school. Languages? I could barely get through Spanish in high school. Art? I can’t art to save my life. I had an excuse for everything and I was feeling the pressure to declare. I think I was the last person from my peer mentor group to declare a major. However, with the help of my first-year advisor and through taking some awesome classes I finally decided on Political Science and Sociology. The rest of sophomore was pretty easy sailing, thank goodness!
Junior year brought another round of conflict. I was balancing two majors. I wanted to add a minor. Everyone kept asking me “What are you going to do with political science, sociology with a concentration in social welfare, and women and gender studies?” I told them I was going to join the Peace Corps. I was also thinking about going in to student affairs, given my experience as a CA and as part of Residence Hall Association. However, I threw both of those ideas to the curb too. Though I really wanted to join the Peace Corps and knew that there was no better time than after college, I realized that joining the Peace Corps would put me half way around the world from my niece and nephews, that I could be hundreds of miles from the nearest volunteer, that I may not be able to accommodate my medical needs in the ways that I am accustomed to. I also decided that with student affairs I didn’t feel that I could pursue my dream of having a large family and living out in the country in the future. So I spent a lot of time job searching. Most jobs indicated that a Master’s degree was preferred. Did I want a Master’s degree? Maybe. Did I want to pursue it immediately following college? No way! I was burnt out on school. Now I was left with two majors and a minor and no idea where I wanted to work in the future.
Then came my senior inquiry. I was given the opportunity to be part of the pilot program for the new political science senior inquiry process. However, that meant I would need to start winter term of my junior year. That seemed like a huge task. What was a going to write about? What was I passionate about to give a year of my life to researching and writing about? Families? Babies? College life? Politics? I decided on parental leave policies because I am passionate about families and babies and leave policies affect both.
The end of junior year, it’s time to think about graduating. When am I going to graduate? When can I graduate? Can I graduate early? How much money will I save? What am I going to do when I graduate? What summer classes am I going to take? Am I going to take summer classes? How will I pay for them? I decided to take summer classes; it would save me thousands of dollars by allowing me to graduate early. By graduating a term early I would be able to start to work more sooner in order to begin to make progress towards my debt resolution.
And now I’m a senior. I have 1 2/3 terms left of college. How do I spend my nights? Researching jobs. Thinking about what I actually want to do when I graduate versus what society thinks I should do. Do I follow my passion (birth, families, gender issues)? Or do I pursue a paycheck than can cover the tens of thousands of dollars in loans that I’ve taken out? I spend my time calculating a budget. I spend it looking over my calendar, trying to see if I can fit in more hours. My internal thought process is like this,
“Well I don’t have class on Friday this week so I can swing in to the office and let them know I can pick up a shift. But at the same time I really want a few hours to relax. But I’m already working 6-8am and then 2-6pm, so what’s a 10am-1pm shift going to hurt? Oooh, but then I do work 9am-5pm on Saturday, so there goes a couple hours. Then I’m definitely going to want to take a nap. I should also squeeze in a time to do homework. Oh and maybe a time to work out. However, if I spend this time working what will I going to eat? Do I have food ready that I can grab and eat on the go?”
This conversation can go in circles for hours. I don’t know that there’s ever a resolution. Sure I can work 30+ hours a week off campus while going to school full time and spending hours driving from place to place, but is that really the way I want to live. The answer right now is yes. I’ve become so accustomed to this go go go lifestyle that I don’t know what else to do. Then I come home and I worry about a job again. Now the post-grad plan questions come more frequently. “Victoria, you’re graduating early, you must have a plan in mind. What are you going to do?” Well that’s a great question. Where do I start?
With this year by year breakdown it is easy to see that there are struggles in college. Maybe others can play this off with much more ease than myself, but I micro-manage everything. I need to know the answers to every question I have. I need reassurance that I am making the right choice/doing the right thing/pursuing the right option.
The new question is when do I pursue more education? I’ve spent the last 11 years pushing myself to be the best student that I can be. Getting the good grades. Participating in sports. Having a job. Taking the advanced courses and the overloaded terms. I don’t want to do more homework. I want college to be the end of homework for a while. But I also want to go in to work that requires more certifications; certifications that I can’t get at school. I wonder if college really was the right choice for me. If I’m going to be a doula and then perhaps pursue midwifery, was it worth it to spend all that money on a liberal arts education? If I had had these plans 4 years ago when I was in high school could I already be making money, having a job, doing what I’m passionate about? No. I wasn’t passionate about the birth process 4 years ago. So no Victoria, you did need this experience to grow as an individual. To find what you care about, because that happens when you take courses from almost all the departments.
I realize that this is a long post, but it’s one that I’ve been thinking about and drafting in my mind for a while. It’s not meant to scare you, but it’s meant to show you the reality of college. That’s the whole point to the blog, to show what college is really like. I happen to be a realist, or as my mother likes to say a “real pessimist”, but I think I just tell things like they are. I don’t see the world as rainbows and butterflies, there are also thunderstorms and fires, but it’s in the hard moments that we learn the most.
Posted on September 11th, 2014 by Victoria Cartland
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