I spent the summer living off-campus in New Brunswick while commuting to my first corporate summer internship. I romanticized our quiet college town, where the summer buses were a rare sight, and I could go on a walk in the evening without seeing anyone I knew.
When the first week of September rolled around, the peaceful New Brunswick I had gotten comfortable with was suddenly hoarded with crowds of students around first-year residence halls, causing painstaking traffic on campus. Despite feeling internally 18 years old, I frustratingly laughed at them.
This summer, I took time to reflect on things I have accomplished and learned over the first half of my college experience. It made me realize that while I have changed since I first came to campus, these so-called "formative years of my life" are not over, and the things I did learn were lessons that only emphasized the things I already knew but were too scared to admit.
During my first year at Rutgers, I greatly despised the idea of Greek life. I thought it was disingenuous. After spending my first year lost, both academically and socially, I was still hesitant to join Greek life, as I had convinced myself that being in it was not for me.
Greek life at Rutgers is very active, but its presence is not as large as some may think. More than 3,000 undergraduates are involved in Greek life, which is approximately 10 percent of the undergraduate population.
I am now starting my third year at Rutgers, and I have since joined a professional fraternity. I originally rushed in hopes of meeting more people to see friendly faces in my class at Rutgers Business School and say that I was a part of something at Rutgers. The truth is, though, it was not Greek life that I necessarily despised but my fear of being like everyone else. Joining a fraternity or sorority is not a unique experience for most.
Looking back on the past year, I fully believe it has been filled with some of the most rewarding months of my life. I learned to surround myself with people who make me better. I learned to put more time into academics and not procrastinate. I learned to talk to anyone and everyone. I learned it is okay to be spontaneous — it makes for good memories.
But I knew all this. They are things every parent and sibling tells you before you come to college. I just had to learn them for myself. What I have not learned is why college pushes us to conform to societal norms. I will be honest — I almost felt pressured to join an organization in Greek life.
I felt like my college experience lacked that stereotypical thing that keeps people talking about their college days for the rest of their lives. My involvement in a business fraternity has led me to meet my best friends and help me land an internship. But I still question, had I not joined, would I be just as satisfied with my life?
I first declared my major in marketing at the end of my first year. I have since considered dropping out of Rutger Business School, a transfer process that never went through and underwent two major and minor changes. I have landed at supply chain management and economics, which is a complete turn from the journalism major who first applied to Rutgers.
Through all this, I have not exactly learned what I want to do. Corporate life is static and consistent for the most part at our age. But what I have learned are the things I do not like, do not want to study and do not want to deal with in a future career.
I hope I can find a job that is both fulfilling and rewarding in more than a financial aspect, but the only place to learn is in the workforce itself.
Being an in-state student, Rutgers was not a new place for me. I am from North Jersey, which feels like states away. But the drive to Werblin Recreation Center on Busch campus was an all too familiar one I would make for swim meets when I was younger.
Though I mourned the loss of a "new environment, new experience" type of college life, I found comfort in being close to home. I think two years ago, I was not ready to be that independent.
Now, I have not been able to experience being in a totally unfamiliar place, and that is something I still want to get to do. I think it can teach people adaptability, perspective and growth, all of which I think I need. I am planning on studying abroad next spring, and I could not be more ecstatic about it.
Two years down, two more to go.
Junior year means recruiting for arguably your most important internship, living off campus with no meal plan and turning 21, but we are still kids and we still have a lot of time left. I am writing this piece with Taylor Swift humming in the background out of a portable speaker, just like I did in high school, writing for the school paper.
I guess no matter how much we learn, some things do not really change.
Annabel Park is a junior at Rutgers Business School, majoring in supply chain management and minoring in economics. Her column, "The Queue," runs on alternate Tuesdays.
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