Back when I was but a young underclassman, I wrote a column on what surprised me about coming to Maryland from Arizona. Now, in my final weeks at the University of Maryland, I wanted to share five things I learned here.
- Keep short accounts.
My phrase to myself when I graduated high school was, “Don’t burn bridges.” I tried to execute this in college, but I didn’t necessarily know how to. It’s inevitable that you’re going to upset people, and people are going to upset you. Dealing with the conflict is the critical piece to not burning bridges. The answer, believe it or not, is to communicate how you’re feeling in the moment rather than build up grudges.
While every relationship isn’t going to be BFF-level, it’s important to learn conflict resolution skills in college when things go wrong rather than shutting down or running away. When you get to adulthood, things aren’t going to be as simple as switching classes or changing dorm rooms. It took me four years, but I finally feel like I’ve found a kind way to alleviate disagreements. It’s a mix of learning your own boundaries while also learning others’. It’s not an easy lesson to learn, but I urge you to be proactive and receptive in those moments. Give yourself grace when you mess up, doing the same for others.
- Take advantage of what’s around you.
I wish I had spent more time taking advantage of the quaint little places hidden in College Park. While I blame part of it on COVID-19, I‘m also to blame for being too lazy or too scared to branch outside of my comfort zone. I also didn’t use on-campus amenities my tuition literally paid for, so that’s a bummer. I urge you to take that 15-minute walk to try something new, even if you have to bring your friends along. Go to Washington, D.C., more.
I’d like to shout out The Board and Brew in particular, because where else can you feel like you’re the main character night and day while learning new skills and trying wonderful drinks? (Plus, the staff are pretty cool, if I do say so myself.) Learn as many games as you can for $5 a session. You’ll seem cool and well-rounded when you invite your friends over to play someday. Aroy Thai Restaurant also has amazing food and is incredibly reliable.
Also, if you can get a car to campus by senior year, tell your parents I said it will be worth it.
- Be nice to strangers.
Please, please, please (and I mean please), take the extra 10 seconds to hold the door open for people behind you or greet someone in the elevator. You might make a new friend or brighten someone’s day just by small acts of kindness. The East Coast likes to mind their own business and while that’s great, there is also a time for being a little bit more courteous than maybe you had planned. As much as you’ve heard it, you never know what people are going through.
Joy is contagious and simply the act of being nice might make you feel better too. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused us to be even more closed off to strangers than we already were. But not everyone around you is your enemy. Plus, this is good practice for networking, which you’ll need by the time you graduate. Be a little kinder than you have to be, as the saying goes.
- Uphold commitments, but don’t overextend yourself.
A lot of college kids — including myself — can’t seem to make up their mind about things. We spend so much time weighing the pros and cons of an action, we miss out on actually getting to do that thing. It might be scary to make a decision, but it’s the only way you’re going to learn. It can also be tempting to say yes to everything related to your field in the hopes of climbing up the ladder, but don’t do so at the expense of your mental health.
Along the same vein, if you say you’re going to do something, try your best to do it — especially when it involves extracurricular activities and sign-up sheets. If something is stressing you out more than it’s benefiting you, it might be time to re-evaluate that commitment.
- Know you have something to look forward to.
College is a time for learning and growing, and those two things can hurt. It can be comforting to know that all of the learning here leads out to something. Hopefully that’s a job, but it can be more than that — relational lessons, greater appreciation for the world, personal growth or a variety of other things. I hope you can find what you love and learn from it. Our social media-altered, instant gratification mindsets have led us to forget that good things come to those who wait.
We made it through some pretty dark years. (The Bagel Place closed, for one.) And yet, there’s still so much to look forward to mixed in with more lessons to be learned. Whether you leave with regrets or none, there’s no denying college has played a pivotal part in who you’ve become. The pandemic has definitely taught us that it’s easy to forget to be grateful in the moment.
So, class of 2022. Congratulations on getting here. This is a huge thank you to the peers, professors and complete strangers along the way. Thank you to vinegar on fries and every editor in chief The Diamondback has seen in the past four years.
And finally, the best for last: Thank you, passing reader, for happening upon our articles. I hope they helped even the slightest. And if they didn’t, thank you anyway.
Signing off, your friendly neighborhood Arizonan.
(And P.S., don’t forget — Testudo is a girl.)