Currently, I am taking a rhet class, and as a last assignment, we were given a question relating to our first year here at college. (Yes, I am a freshman.) Anyway, I thought it might be an interesting question to ask people, regardless of their year in school. Even if you aren't a "freshman" like me, I hope you can still find a way to answer this question. If not for me, then maybe just for yourself.

You are coming up on the end of your first year of college. At the risk of invoking all kinds of sentimentality, I'm asking you to look back on this year and assess what you've learned. (Please, I'm not asking for such realizations as "I learned that sometimes you have to 'pull the trigger' to be sick before passing out.") Think of yourself at this time last year-- what were your expectations, and your hopes? And those first few weeks of college-- what did you think you knew then? And now that you have a better understanding of what college is like, what do you expect from the rest of your time here?

Since I can't figure out what to type to make a line here, I will just have to put a really big space for now. But this is what I thought on this matter.

Last year, I was on top of the world, with everything ahead of me. I had just graduated from high school, and I thought I was ready to get to college, and do just as well as I did in high school, and life would be great.

My first weeks on campus were pretty much like high school. School work during the week, partying like crazy on the weekends. The two never mixed, never coincided. Eventually, reality hit. My grade report came in at midterms. That was the end of too much partying.

Now, I party, don't get me wrong. I go out, but I go out in moderation. I make sure that I get my work done, or atleast enough of it that I won't be terribly behind. I actually worry about tests, quizzes, and homework. I try my hardest to get it done. And class? The main difference between now and then is that now, I go to class. I am proud to say that I did not miss one single chemistry lecture this entire semester. That is a big deal for someone who didn't go to class for an entire week and a half last semester.

I think most importantly, I learned that being here is a job. Almost one that is 24-7. I gotta get up and be on time for "work." Everyday, five days a week. Once I get my work done, then let the fun begin.

Also, I learned that it is possible to get what you want. Or atleast, earn what you want. I have wanted to go to college and become a doctor for as long as I can remember. For awhile there last semester, that seemed really far off in the distance. And it still might be right now, but I do know that while long-term goals are important, shorter ones are equally important. Bribe yourself, and then work to get it. (In my case, it was my mom doing the bribing, but still.) All I had to do was get all A's and B's this semester and I could get my belly button pierced. Now, I was in full understanding that at any given time, I could very well have gone and gotten it pierced anyway, since I am 19. But, that wasn't the point. (Well, that and my mom would pay for it. See I got pierced for the outcome.) I think bribing yoruself for something like getting a stereo, or taking a weekend off in the summer are all plausible bribes. I think I might use them in the future.

And while I do have a tangible reward that I like, in all honesty, the greatest reward is knowing that I accomplished something I wanted to and set out to do.

Now here is a very interesting question...
I am on the verge of my fourth year of college, so I don't exactly qualify as a freshman, but I thought I'd take a crack at this nonetheless.

It is very hard for me to look back to when I was entering college to try and remember my expectations. It seems to me that whenever these sorts of questions are posed, I can't recall any expectations. More often then not, life ends up as I imagined, mostly. So there isn't a whole lot to report as far as that goes...

BUT.. I have learned a few things. One is that work is what you make it. And when I say work, I mean labor, not your "job". Anything that involves physical/mental activity that you are *required* to do (thus, it is possible to enjoy it..). I say this because in my three years of college and various jobs, I have come to realize that a very large number of people in this world are any of lazy/unmotivated/stupid. I don't mean this harshly.

I'm having a hard time getting my thought across, so I'm just going to say it: People don't work as hard in the real world as you are lead to believe. This is not to say there aren't hard working people out there, but in general, there is a slower pace then I expected. In the few jobs I have had, there has been such low expectations of me that I truly couldn't understand how I could possibly do so little in so much time. Take an example:

I worked for a summer video taping sewers. I know, sounds disgusting... but it was a learning experiences, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Point is, the first day I showed up for work with my friend/co-worker. We were told that the equipment was in the shop, and that we should head out and peruse the town in an attempt to farmiliarize ourselves with the street names and general geography. This we did with gusto. We drove around for hours... three total, I think, laughing the whole time at how we were pulling the wool over our boss's eyes by taking such a long time to learn the town (the place had a population of 4000.. not a big place). When we finally wandered back into the town office, our boss looked up in surprise.

"Done already? The last guys took two days..."

So you get the general idea. I was completely shocked. Maybe this is the wrong node to be noding this in, but it's something I have learned in my college experience, so...

The *other* thing I have learned in college is this: Everything is relative. Case in point: My freshmen year at college I was required to take lab chem, lab bio, lab physics and a calc class each semester to fill the core science requirment. This was heavy shit for a smartass like me who graduated valedictorian of his puny little high school without ever doing much work. Needless to say, the grades were more of the B minus sort then of the A plus sort. I didn't do horribly, but to me it was quite bad. Ever since then, I have improved my grades slowly. Each semester has been better. Here's the rub: This last semester, I did not attend a single lecture after feb. break, Which basically means I missed a month and a half of each of my five classes. I don't know *why* I did this, I just did. I had a horrible case of sleepitis. I was probably depressed, even though I was in a jolly mood for most of that time. But here is the thing: I *still* improved my grades, getting the highest scores of my entire college career. Four A's out of five.. (and a B+), go figure. So, everything is relative. If this had been the work I had to do freshman year, would I have gotten four A's even if I *had* gone to class? Probably not. I'm a different person now, even though I always like to say that I don't feel like anything in my head is any different then when I was in pre-school. Everything is relative.

I am a recent college graduate, so my answer to this question is slightly different as it sums up my entire college experience instead of just the freshman year. My prevailing thought regarding the U.S. university system after leaving it for the "real" world is this: I want to go back.

I don’t belong in the working world. This is not to say that I won’t and/or don’t enjoy work. I do. I enjoy both mental and physical work. Leisure time is worthless without work to compare it to.

Like I assume many noders did, I breezed through high school with minimal effort. College was an adjustment for me. I had to learn how to study, and I had to learn how to think. It was no longer enough to remember the facts. My college professors expected original thought from me. I was unprepared for this, and my difficulty in Introductory Psychology proved it.

College is the last time our society seems to really think it’s okay to try new things. I joined the Reserve Officers Training Corp (ROTC), and I left three years later. I’m not particularly fond of the Army, but the experiences changed me. I joined the Machine Learning Reading Group. I took only one course in artificial intelligence in college, but I stayed with the group for a full year. The topics and the company were that interesting. There is no ROTC or Machine Learning Reading Group for me here. Wait, that’s not right. Those things (or things similar to them) probably do exist here. It’s the community that I miss. The immediacy and availability of interests and groups devoted to them. Anime Club, Combat Club, Machine Learning Reading Group, ROTC, Native Americans’ Association. If you’ve got an interest in it, there’s almost assuredly a group at your university that does, too.

I miss working part time and still making enough money to make ends meet on my own. Rent was low, and the apartment was crappy, but I made enough money to buy a new CD every once in a while, feed my video game addiction, pay the rent and tuition, and buy drinks with my friends. I’m not sure if I can honestly say that now that I’m in the "real" world. I make more, but I don’t have as much free time or pocket money. Higher rent and a car payment make sure of that.

But most of all, I miss studying. That’s right; I genuinely miss improving my mind. In the long run, I couldn’t care less about how much money I have in the bank. I never missed a lecture because I was finally at a place where people loved to impart knowledge on others, and by God I was going to get as much of it as I could. I got it from lectures, labs, my campus job, and life experience. I miss the academic environment so much that I enrolled in night classes at the local university extension. It’s not the same though. Most of the students are there because their boss or their boss’s boss has a box to check.

College changed me. It made me realize that when I grow up, I want to be a college student.

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