Photo by Elliott Brockelbank

Growing up, my grandpa liked to call me my sister’s little tail. This was probably due to the fact that I liked to do whatever my sister did. When I saw her at dance class, I told my mom I wanted to dance too. When I heard her playing piano, I told my mom I wanted to learn piano as well. When I saw her going to Chinese School every Saturday morning, I wanted to go too (though, admittedly, this was one activity in which the glamour wore off after the first class). I followed my sister everywhere. I was quite the copycat, but I had good reason to be: My sister was the best sister and role model little me (and current me) could ask for, and I wanted to be just like her.

My sister entered Tech three years before me, and I watched her thrive in this new environment, so when it was my turn to apply to colleges, I, in my naturally copycat fashion, only applied to Tech and U[sic]GA as a back-up option. When my acceptance letter came, I committed without a second thought. I joined one of the same clubs as her, and I distinctly remember the first meeting where I met a lot of the older students. I met juniors, seniors and super-seniors, and at the time, they all seemed so old. Now, with just over two weeks before graduation, I’m in disbelief at how quickly my college experience has passed by.

But even though these past four years have felt like little more than a blink of an eye, looking back, I realize how much I’ve changed and developed as a person without even noticing it happen, the biggest change being my outlook on life.

As a freshman, I entered Tech with several stereotypical ambitions such as, “I’m going to try all sorts of new things!” and “I’m going to meet a ton of new people and make lots of new friends!” I came to Tech wanting the typical college experience.

As it turns out, I didn’t do everything my freshman self wanted. I didn’t make as many new friends as I had wanted to, and I didn’t become more social. I didn’t start going to the gym regularly, and I didn’t stop procrastinating.

But I’m okay with this. Although I didn’t “maximize” my college experience in the sense that most people have, I realized that what people tended to associate with making the most out of college was not necessarily what I was looking for in my experience. I have maintained and made a few close friends that I wouldn’t trade for the world, I have tried some things, like studying abroad, while forgoing trying other things, like competitive sports, which are definitely not my cup of tea.

I found that when I began to let go of expectations of what I should do to get that “ideal” college experience, and instead focused on what I wanted to do and what I personally thought was important, I became much happier and much more relaxed. After all, not everyone has the same preferences, so it doesn’t make sense for each person to come to college with the same cookie-cutter expectations of what their four years in college will be like.

So I guess here’s what I want to say: I have had my share of sleepless nights, almost unbearable stress, feeling like I just wanted to put away all my homework and responsibilities and sink into a mindless stupor, but know that it gets better. As cliche as this may sound, you have the power to live your life the way you want to. If there is something you aren’t completely happy about, do something about it. Though it may have taken me seven semesters to finally figure out how to college effectively with minimal stress and maximal sleep and friends, it happened to me, and it can happen to you too.

Sometimes I miss the days when I could get by life perfectly fine just following my sister and doing whatever she did, but most of the time, that’s just me being nostalgic about being a kid. Mostly, I’m both nervous and excited to see what life after graduation brings.