The college experience

Photo courtesy of Blake Israel

If there is anything we have probably all heard when we tell someone that we’re in college, it’s that college was the best four (or five if they’re a Georgia Tech alumni) years of their life. During my first semester, this interaction truly puzzled me, because the experience I was having was not the world of endless parties and wild adventures that adults around me would constantly recount from their own lives. I started to wonder; was I doing college wrong?

When I began to think about it, I realized that I honestly was kind of doing college wrong. I hadn’t yet given anything new the “old college try,” I had just failed at trying to continue my old hobbies into this new stage of my life. So, I committed myself to trying out new things that I never before would have thought I would have done. Throughout 2022, I started hiking more,  doing competitive ballroom dancing, learning to code and writing for the Technique (clearly an activity I continue to love doing), all in addition to completing my first real internship and living in another country alone.

Every single time that I caught myself letting my fear of the unknown take precedence over creating the future that I wanted for myself, I decided to push myself and do something new for a change. The experience of living even a single year this way was completely transformative for me as a person. I went from being the freshman that drove home every weekend to truly coming into my own as a person. And then I realized, this was the core of the “college experience” that everyone around me was always raving about.

For many others, the catalyst for their personal growth was the newfound sense of freedom that college brought them. It was the opportunity to be the person they couldn’t be in high school. For me, the sense of freedom and independence in college wasn’t a particularly new experience. In high school, I was such a goody-two-shoes that my parents pretty much let me come and go as I pleased, because they knew that I would be in my own bed at the end of the day. If anything, I found the new independence of living on my own to be a looming shadow that scared me. 

This didn’t change until I had a moment where I realized that the freedom of living on my own wasn’t just about my physical independence, but that I had complete freedom to do things that I had never before considered without having to explain to my parents why I had randomly decided to pick up ballroom dancing. This realization, as dramatic as it sounds, changed my entire perspective on my life. I was now able to shake the fear that defined a lot of my prior decisions and start making  choices based entirely on what I wanted, as opposed to what I wanted others to think about me. So, I started trying new things almost every chance that I got. 

In the spring, I decided to throw my fears out the window and try out for Georgia Tech’s ballroom dance team. Much to my surprise, I ended up making the team and got to spend the semester learning how to ballroom dance competitively.

In the summer, I threw my parents a complete curveball and applied for a study abroad program where I would spend the entire summer completing an internship in Dublin, Ireland. As someone who had never been to another country before, this was quite a dramatic change of pace. 

These were two of the best months of my life. I got to learn more about what the corporate world looked like in another country and gained a much more global perspective on how businesses are run. I also spent my weekends jet-setting around Europe with the four other people on the program with me. Although I didn’t know the four other Georgia Tech students that were on the program with me before flying to Ireland, we ended up being super close friends by the end of the summer. This is an experience that I could not see myself committing to, let alone loving, even six months prior. 

During the fall semester, I was more outgoing than I had possibly ever been before. I spent more time with my friends, made new ones and finally found an outlet to pursue my enjoyment of writing. While none of these experiences directly parallel the “college experience” of going wild at parties every weekend, they very much parallel the experience of trying new things and learning about who you are.