Keep an open mind during your college career

As summer days have already started flying by, I’ve come to the realization that my days in college are numbered.

Over the past three years, I’ve made friends and built strong relationships with professors and my employers through my federal work study job. I’ve gone to Washington Capitals games, concerts and explored the greater DMV area. I’ve enjoyed my time at GW so far, but looking back, it’s easy to think that in each year at GW, I could’ve done something differently.

When I think back about what I’ve learned between my first day at Colonial Inauguration and now in the summer before my senior year, there are things I wish I had known before I came to GW. I knew that I was in for both fun and work when I enrolled, but I wasn’t prepared for how my time at GW would challenge me.

College has tested my ability to be open-minded, but it hasn’t always been easy. Being open to new possibilities is the biggest thing I’ve learned in my three years and each year has provided a different lesson related to that. While I didn’t know this coming into GW, incoming freshmen should embrace all opportunities with an open mind, whether it is while making new friends, exploring the city or balancing tough classes.

Freshman year
I have always been a fairly outspoken and outgoing person. Even with a friendly track record, making new friends at GW wasn’t easy. I expected that my roommates would become my close friends, but I was nervous to ask people who seemed preoccupied with class or other friends to make plans. I was friendly with my roommates in my six-person Thurston Hall room, but our friendship never developed further because our interests didn’t line up. I grew nervous that I wouldn’t make friends at GW, but I realized that friendships can’t be forced and that good things happen naturally.

What clicked for me was going to a meeting for a student organization that I learned about at CI, The Philippine Cultural Society. After joining, I knew I had joined a group that would help me embrace my culture and meet people along the way. I didn’t know that I’d join a cultural organization to feel at home at GW, but incoming freshmen should be willing to test to all options when they start freshman year. When you step outside your comfort zone and make the effort, you never know where you’ll find comfort.

Sophomore year
During my second year at GW, I found myself exploring the DMV area regularly with my friends because of my relaxed schedule. In that year, I spent time in places like Navy Yard, Chinatown and Ballston. Prior to my sophomore year, I was nervous about traveling and stayed in my bubble in Foggy Bottom. But I soon realized that I was missing out on a world of opportunities that I don’t have back home in Omaha, Neb.

As students at GW, we have a privilege to explore this multifaceted city. The DMV area is home to many different cultures and attracts all types of people that make this city unique. There is so much that can be learned outside of a classroom, so students should be open-minded, step outside and explore all this city has to offer.

Junior year
I had always heard that junior year was the toughest part of high school. While junior year in college wasn’t unnaturally challenging for me as a student, I found myself worn thin. Extracurricular activities and events that piled on top of my classes left me exhausted and with little energy to do anything else at the end of the day. In March, I felt buried in responsibilities and while I knew that I needed help, I didn’t ask because I wanted to appear in control. I didn’t take any breaks, which led to several nights of no sleep and frustration.

I quickly realized this wasn’t sustainable and that I had to re-prioritize my goals. Although it is important to be on top of classes and involved through extracurriculars, it is equally important to take care of yourself. It won’t hurt to take a break, and I know that’s not easy at a school that urges you to go the extra mile. In this year, I learned my limits and found that if you are flexible with your idea of success and recognize that you’re doing your best, you’ll be happier and prevent burnout.

Senior year
Going into senior year, I can’t help but be nervous. Even with some certainties like my course schedule and the organizations I will be a part of, I can’t be sure of what my senior year will bring.

Looking back on what I’ve learned over the past three years, I can apply the lessons to my senior year no matter what my last two semester throw at me.

Making connections in unfamiliar situations, getting out of your comfort zone in a new city and learning to be flexible and not too hard on yourself when facing challenges all require an open mind. I’m glad I learned these lessons during college that I can carry with me, and if incoming freshmen keep an open mind like I did, they’ll leave GW in four years with a set of lessons of their own.

Renee Pineda, a senior majoring in political science, is The Hatchet’s opinions editor.

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