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College student standing next to buffalo statue

So here I am. A forty-something professional taking a step back in time and reflecting upon my college experience. The journey entailed a long, curvy, and mountainous climb of seeing what the world had to offer and what I could then offer in return. My excitement, curiosity, and sheer exhilaration gleamed from ear to ear as I parked my ’87 Chevy Beretta in the student parking lot and headed toward campus. It was official, I had graduated from high school, moved into my own apartment, and was ready to take that next big step into my future.

The Big Transition

Whether you are moving to a new city/state or even just down the street and around the corner, college is a whole new ball game. For me, I packed up those things I most loved, ventured to the south side of town, and settled into my very first apartment. I stayed local as I wanted to be close to my family yet slowly establish my independence while living on my own. What I learned in a very short amount of time – college is what you make it. You will meet many new people, start new friendships, stay connected to those close to your heart, and possibly end some that you’ve had for a while; and just know that it’s okay when this happens. This big transition aka “the college experience” will be filled with many firsts, fresh starts, new questions and ideas, and something I like to refer to as being “enlightened.” You’ll learn to balance the social, the academics, and your gig at work.

Early Bird Catches the Worm

My experience wasn’t like it is in the movies or like any of these best college classics of all time – Good Will Hunting, Legally Blonde, and Old School. I didn’t wake up at noon, go to one class, take an afternoon nap, or go out all night. Well, at least for me that was not the case. My semesters were packed with 18 credits and 40-hour work weeks. I’d start most of my days with an 8:00 am class, finish up by 1:30 pm and head to my job from 2:30 pm-11:00 pm. I would tend to stay up late to finish homework, study for tests, or catch up on my favorite TV series. This wasn’t a surprise, and I knew this was coming but the reward was grand as it fine-tuned my time management skills, honed my priorities, and taught me to take time for myself. We all need a break!

I Loved Every Minute!

I loved my college experience. Remember, everyone’s experience is uniquely their own. It does get stressful. And yes, there were nights when I was up until three or four in the morning studying to roll over again at 7:00 am and get ready for another day. It was something new, something exciting, and something I’ll take with me forever. I passed and failed exams, met many new people, made close connections, had regular dinner dates & movie nights with friends, cheered the “Thundering Herd” to many victories, and learned to adult by paying bills and establishing a budget. But most importantly I grew, I stepped outside of something that felt comfortable to me and returned a little different.

And That Was Only the Beginning

If I leave you with one important thing, it is this: enjoy college. It will be filled with its share of twists and turns and bumps and bruises. You’ll love some of them and dislike others. At the end of the day, just remember each day brings with it a fresh start. Whether you are a freshman, a senior, or a forty-something professional, every day and every year brings with it one more fresh start.

By Erika A. Schmidt