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College so far: Reflections ahead of my senior year

As a Rutgers student, make sure you're spending your time making as many memories as possible so you, too, can look back and reflect with a smile. – Photo by Rachel Chang

Wow, college.

As I enter what is possibly going to be my last year in the education system ever, there’s truly just so much to reflect on. All I can really immediately think is “wow, college.”

I know that may sound cliche: In movies and TV and even in passing conversations with family and friends, college is always hyped up to be “the best years of your life.” And honestly, in my opinion, it probably is.

Despite still having one year left, and really only experiencing one full year in person due to the pandemic, I can confidently say that “college” has so far been one of the best journeys of my life. While I may only be 22 years old, I can’t imagine what my life would be like without my college experience at Rutgers.

Like my peers, I have learned so many things during my time here so far – I learned that calculus is really hard, getting Starbucks on College Avenue every day adds up and that it’s okay not to show up to your Friday 10 a.m. class after a long “thirsty Thursday.”

I’ve learned that failing an exam worth 40 percent of your grade is not the end of the world, buying textbooks is so overrated and the “freshman 15” is real. I’ve had a plethora of experiences — some good. Some bad. Some really bad. Some life-changing.

You get the point.

And instead of boring you to death, I want to reflect in the form of nostalgic memories from each of my years at Rutgers so far — and share with you what I look forward to in my senior year. Hopefully, by doing this, you can get a feel for the true love that I have for Rutgers and be inspired and optimistic as you enter your very own journeys here on campus.

Humble beginnings on Douglass campus

Whenever I tell people I lived in an all-girls building on Douglass campus my first year at Rutgers, it seems to elicit the same reaction: “Why?” or “that sounds awful.” The campus often gets branded as “boring” and has developed a bad reputation for that reason. And, as a first-year looking to party and come out of my shell, I was honestly really disappointed when I got my room assignment.

My roommate, a friend from high school that I would grow really close with throughout my time at Rutgers, and I did everything we could to make sure we would get the College Avenue campus as our home. We were confident we would get a room that was within walking distance of all the fraternities and best food places around.

But, we somehow got stuck with one of our least desirable options. And I’m so grateful we did.

That year on Douglass campus was so much fun and allowed me to grow a lot as a person — which is what college is all about. I truly loved every second I spent there from getting Harvest every day for lunch to staring out my window at the beautiful scenery to sitting on the EE or F buses for hours at a time.

To this day, thinking about that campus and my experience there is so nostalgic for me, and I think it teaches a really important lesson that no matter what campus you end up on at Rutgers, you will be able to make the most out of it. At the end of the day, I was still able to accomplish everything I set out to do my first year at Rutgers, and then some — even on the most so-called “boring” campus.

I’ll never forget it.

The pandemic era

While I spend most of my waking hours trying to forget about the painful Zoom lectures and personal progress I lost after returning to live at home for the year, there were still some great moments I got to experience that I’m really grateful for during this time.

Since everything was virtual my sophomore year at Rutgers, I was actually able to become more involved in clubs and organizations since everything was practically right at my fingertips.

I spent my quarantine time taking up major roles at The Daily Targum, the Public Relations Student Society of America and Routure Magazine — all organizations that have greatly helped me expand my knowledge of my field, build my resume and grow creatively as a student and as an individual.

Without having this time at home to reflect on myself and my goals, as well as having more time to take up extracurriculars in general, I don’t think I would be where I am today. And that’s a scary thought.

In addition, I was able to really focus more on my school work, after overcoming getting adjusted to virtual learning and living at home. I was able to seek virtual internship opportunities outside of school that have helped me develop professionally. I was also able to spend more time at home with my loved ones which is something that I definitely appreciate in retrospect.

Plus, going through this period of time has made the return to campus that much better.

The College Avenue extravaganza

Oh boy, was my junior year one for the books.

I finally got to move into an apartment on the College Avenue campus and return to school after what seemed like an eternity. I turned 21 at the beginning of the fall semester and got to experience the Rutgers bar scene for a whole year. I went through some of the biggest changes of my life. I took some of the hardest classes of my life. I became fully confident in myself for the first time ever.

I became the managing editor of the Targum. I went to football and basketball games packed with fans. I got to experience parties again and long nights out making memories I’ll never forget. I made new friends seemingly everywhere I looked. I drank so much coffee. I fell in love with the New Brunswick food scene. And I unexpectedly met someone I fell in love with, too.

I learned lessons about life and friendship. I made a lot of decisions — some good and some bad. I finally got comfortable living on my own again and sustaining myself. I changed as a person. I tried a lot of new things.

The list really goes on and on.

There are literally thousands of words that exist that could describe the emotions I’m feeling about this particular year of my life, but none of them do it justice. I could write a novel about this year alone and how much it means to me, and I still would have so much left to say.

I know it seems dramatic: All of this over a few nights out and some basketball games? But, to me, it’s so much more than that. My college experience at Rutgers, and this year alone, is worth so much to me, and I will carry it with me forever.

And now I’m somehow a senior?

I’m not sure first-year me really thought about the day that this whole experience would come to an end, and I’m not sure senior me has really thought about it either. College has been a constant for me over the last three years, and the idea that one day it won’t be anymore is terrifying.

Honestly, I don’t really want to think about it right now, and I don’t have to. One day in the near future I’m sure I’ll wake up and really come to terms that this chapter of my life is coming to a close — that’s just a fact. But for now, I’m just so excited about what my senior year holds that I don’t even care.

I’m going to try my best to live in the moment this next year and continue making the most out of my time here at Rutgers.

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