Must-have experiences in college
24 Feb 2016

7 Must-Have Experiences Every Student Should Have in College

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The transition from high school to college can be an overwhelming experience.

One minute you’re being monitored like a hawk by discipline teachers everywhere, the next minute you have this newfound freedom and you’re supposed to know how to plan the rest of your life. Suddenly, the world seems a lot larger. Probably a little terrifying too.

You may find it difficult to adapt to this sudden change of environment. It can even be a bit of a culture shock, and you may feel compelled to stay in your comfort zone, solely focusing on doing well in your studies and getting your tertiary education over and done with.

But Neale Donald Walsh has put it quite bluntly — life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

Your college years will be wasted away if you do not allow yourself to immerse completely into the college experience, though not all experiences are good (think drugs and drunk driving).

Here are 7 must-have experiences you need to check off during college!

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#1. Be self-sufficient and manage personal autonomy

Stepping into college marks the next big milestone in your life. This is the time where independence will be thrusted upon you and there’ll be no more calling out for mom anymore.

For some of you, college may mean that you will be staying away from home for the very first time. Needless to say, you will be expected to sort things out yourself — things that always seem to get magically resolved when you’re at home.

Clean, freshly-pressed clothes? You’ll now need to know how to separate the whites from the coloured, the synthetics from the cotton. Delicious home-cooked dinners lovingly prepared by mom? You’ll find newfound joy in plain white rice that isn’t soggy, undercooked or burnt.

Not only that, you’ll also be organising your own schedule, managing priorities and juggling projects and tasks, negotiating with housemates on rules in the apartment, learning to deal with college administration, scheming on how to save / earn money, and a whole lot more!

College is the time where you learn how to manage your own liberty instead of staying in the safe clutches of your parents or guardians. So make sure you start standing on your own two feet!

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#2. Make as many friends as possible

Going to college means that you will be apart from most, if not all, of your BFFs (“best friends forever”) from your secondary school years. They won’t be there to watch your back anymore.

But before you latch on to the next familiar face in the crowd, remember that college will be home to a whole new bunch of interesting and peculiar characters. Some you may adore, others may outright annoy you. A few may appear intimidating, but may end up being totally easy-going and friendly. A handful may even be from abroad, introducing you to new cultures and customs.

Eventually, you will warm up to them, like how you first made a friend back in school. You’ll soon acquaint yourself with lecturers too, just as how you buddied up with your school teachers.

Take every opportunity you have in college to forge new relationships (not just the romantic kind!) and have an eclectic mix of friends. They will be your pillars of support through this roller coaster journey, helping you navigate through sticky situations.

College is truly one of the easiest places to meet new people, so take advantage of this!

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#3. Do something unique and unforgettable

This is the time to experiment and expose yourself to a myriad of new activities and experiences (anything goes, as long as it’s legal and safe!).

Always overreacting and being a #DramaQueen? Join the Performing Arts Society and take up a leading role in a musical. Want to woo the opposite sex? Pick up a foreign language (parlez-vous français, mademoiselle), or challenge yourself to try a new hippie sport (check out Ultimate Frisbee). Or how about indulging in your curiosity and sneaking into a class that’s not part of your curriculum?

Reach into the depths of your soul and discover what it is that you’ve always wanted to do. With a buffet of clubs and societies, college is brimming with opportunities for you to unlock your hidden passions and revisit those big dreams.

Once you’ve graduated from university, going against a set routine could be near impossible. Remember, life only begins when you’re out of your comfort zone, so now is the time to venture into the unknown!

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#4. Fail, get rejected, and fail some more

No, we’re not talking about intentionally flunking all your exams and getting thrown out of college.

As a young padawan, making mistakes, coming up short in achieving your goals and learning from your failures are essential experiences, and will probably be one of the most important things you’ll learn in college.

Some of the biggest successes have stemmed from failure — JK Rowling’s Harry Potter manuscript was rejected by 12 publishers, and Steven Spielberg was famously denied twice to the prestigious film school at University of Southern California.

Never failed at anything in your life? Here’s a list for you to get your hands dirty with.

  • For the overachievers, fail to get straight A’s for the first time in your life (not deliberately, of course!). Learn that it’s okay and the world did not end.
  • Order a drink at Starbucks and ask for a 10% discount.
  • Sign up dance classes if you have two left feet. Or play tennis with a pro. Get thrashed.
  • Hack together a product or service and sell it to a complete stranger. Ask for cold hard cash.
  • Get your heart broken into a million pieces. Then learn how to move on.

The hard truth is that we will all fail at some point in our lives. Getting over failures and learning from them is something you’ll need to learn often, and learn early. And what better time to experience the massive personal growth that comes with failure than in the safe haven of college!

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#5. Travel on a shoestring budget

College years are perhaps the best, and worst, time to travel, depending on how you look at it.

Travel companions are abundant (college buddies are always more than happy to roll with spontaneous trips), but money is tight. Time is plenty (that’s what those long summer breaks are for!), but again, money is tight.

The truth is — you don’t necessarily need to be rich to see the world!

With budget airlines like Air Asia and Scoot spreading their wings further and deeper into corners of the world, travelling is no longer as prohibitive as it used to be. There are now also hundreds of ways for you to travel on the cheap. Put up a night in budget hostels, sleep on overnight trains or try out Couchsurfing (it allows you to stay for free!). Exploit student discounts to get deep savings. Make your own meals (think sandwiches and salads) and splurge only on your last night.

Widen your horizons and meet new people from various cultures and backgrounds to give yourself a whole new perspective. Whether it’s being able to successfully order dinner in a foreign language, navigating through the crazy maze of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar or conquering your fear of heights, travelling will help you develop skills you never knew you had within you!

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#6. Champion a cause you’re passionate about

Your college days are the perfect time for you to discover the three most important pillars of your life — passion, values and purpose.

Broaden your experiences by volunteering for social causes. Read up on social and economic issues to understand what’s happening locally and around the world, whether it’s poverty, global warming or human rights issues. Initiate conversations with thought leaders to have a better grasp of what’s transpiring instead of making assumptions.

Do not allow yourself to be held back by limiting thoughts.

Take the opportunity to champion a cause that is close to your heart. Set up a club or society advocating your cause in college if they do not have one yet. Volunteer or contribute part-time with a non-governmental organisation (NGO) or a social enterprise.

One day, you will want to look back and be proud of what you have done in college, instead of regretting what you have not done in college.

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#7. Take up a leadership role

According to Glassdoor, a job and recruiting site, one of the most common questions asked during job interviews is, “What are some of your leadership experiences?”.

Needless to say that having a good amount of leadership experience in college will give you an edge over your peers. Don’t just limit yourself to elbowing for spots as a committee member in clubs and societies — take the lead in group discussions and class projects, organise your own community service project or write for your college newsletter.

As Vince Lombardi puts it very aptly — leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal worthwhile.

You may not be the experienced leader that you envision yourself to be, but leadership skills can be cultivated. Therefore, lead anyway. Volunteer to take up responsibilities and make it a commitment to improve on whatever you are lacking. Eventually, you will learn to lead others (and yourself!) as well.

With that said, the ultimate point is — do not stay inert in college. Don’t just focus purely on the academics; starting college is akin to writing on a blank book. Make sure you create a compelling story out of your college years. Get more exposure and learn beyond the classroom!

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