9 Things I’ve learned after 3 months in college

Winter break is upon us, and I figured this would be a good time for me to put into words a lot of the curious things I’ve learned since arriving at Brown University for my freshman year.

  1. College is the one time in your life when you have the permission to be the most self centered you’ve ever been in your life. This is the one time where your onerous and mundane necessities (food, rent, tuition) are taken care of on your behalf, and you have all four years, distraction-free, to build identity capital and pontificate about intellectual things to further your understanding of the world and prep you for life beyond the academic sphere. All faculty are paid to help YOU. All pretty facilities and resources are designed for YOUR pleasure and convenience. YOU and your education is put at the highest priority, not your spouse, not your kids, not your nagging boss. This makes me feel immensely privileged and thankful, to be able to claim this time and truly call it my own. But at the same time this time almost feels too precious of a resource. I’m always bouncing between profound gratitude and flustered anxiety that I’m not spending every breathing minute of this time towards something deeply meaningful or productive.
  2. College changes you. Fast. I don’t ever remember experiencing the bone aches that happen with growing pains during puberty or whatever, but, boy oh boy do I feel the twisting feeling of personal growth while I’m at college. I think of that talking mirror in Snow White that always has me transfixed on myself and evaluating my humanity. I realized a few days back, after leaving an art club meeting early out of boredom and disengagement, that I’m actually more practical of a person than I previously thought. I realized after a weekend with my roommate out of town that I rely a lot more than I’d like to admit on other people for a sense of belonging and validation. Every day the Gloria who goes to bed at night is never quite the same person as the Gloria who got out of bed in the morning. Scary. But cool.
  3. That being said: Change isn’t something that I have that much control over. Before entering college, I think I tried a fair amount to drop the studious-introvert image and become a more fun-loving charismatic and gregarious person who will enjoy the “college life” to the fullest. I think I am doing a pretty good job at the “enjoy the college life to the fullest” part, but just not in the prototypical work-hard-play-hard fashion I thought was so essential in college culture. I’ll just say that all my early attempts to change myself and act cooler than I really was failed pretty quickly. I think I’ve changed a whole lot since September. But not by my own command.
  4. Partying culture is real. There will always be a way to get your hands on booze if you really want it. I don’t really understand the appeal, when there’s bubble tea and Tealuxe and Blue State Coffee within arms reach that actually tastes good? I tried the whole partying shebang. I tried really hard to get into it. Nope. Come again next week
  5. There are no shortcuts in fostering true friendships, and I should stop budgeting my time or efforts to maximize the “usefulness” of quality time with friends. I can talk to a person about the meaning of life, and savor the truths of our shared humanity, but by no means do I now have the golden key to understanding his/her whole personhood on these grounds. I don’t have to be embroiled in the profoundest of conversations all the time to thoroughly enjoy someone’s companionship and develop an appreciation for that person. Simple moments where you’re just quietly sitting across from a friend sipping a cup of hot coffee, or bobbing your heads to the same trashy music track, or walking briskly to your next class together, are precious. You can’t bake a loaf of bread in half the time by blasting it with twice the heat.
  6. Donald Trump is our new president.
  7. I am an Asian American, but I don’t exactly fit in with the AAPI student group community here. That’s OK. I also don’t feel very Chinese. That’s also OK.
  8. Existential crises are bound to happen. And when they hit, they hit hard.
  9. Nothing weeds out my true friends from high school like the start of college. I don’t readily keep in touch with a lot of people from high school (I don’t have the time to, anyway) with the exception of about 3 people. Removing the proximity factor and seeing how each of my high school friendships either stand or crumble has been the litmus test for me in deciding which relationships are resilient enough and worth-it enough to transcend time and distance.

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Writer, Cog-Neuro Research Assistant @ Yale. Presenting my thoughts about self-development and life as a former college student || gloriawfeng.com

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