While high school is the place I grew as a person the most (read more about what I learnt here), college is the place where I grew into my skin the most.
I know that they sound like the same thing so let me give you a short analogy to put things into context :-
If the person that I am today can be thought of as a building, my high school experiences are the pillars and beams, providing structure for my thoughts and giving an outline to who I am as a person. Experiences in college on the other hand, are the taupe striped wallpapers and red pleated drapes, adding subtle yet distinct touches to my personality and helping me embrace my unique individuality.
As usual, I will include a Table of Contents (ToC) before the main body of the article. Use that to get an overview of the contents of this article, read the sections that interest you and skip those that don't. I hope you derive some form of value from this article!
With that said, here are a few key takeaways from my first year in college.
You are the average of the people you surround yourself with
The easiest way to be a millionaire is to surround yourself with 5 millionaires, you'll be the 6th.
This is a pretty general statement and of course, it's not a proven formula. However, the concept that "the people you interact with has a direct impact on you" holds true and is still applicable in our lives.
If there is one thing I'm grateful for throughout my past year in college, it's that I got the chance meet some of the most inspiring and amazing people in college. I especially appreciate the fact that we all come from different backgrounds and have distinct personalities, and yet we interact with much ease and comfort. No doubt there's the playful banter which makes interactions fun, but the late night conversations is where we really resonate with one another, find our similarities amongst differences and connect on another level.
I also came to the realization that it's vital for us to associate with people across the spectrum. People with varying interests. People with opposing personalities. There's just so much more to learn from people when you reprogram your mind and go against its natural "foreign is false" computation.
Learn to understand that it is okay for people to be different. Learn to accept people for who they are. Most importantly, learn to learn from people. Everyone has something to teach, if only you're willing to learn.
Making Memories Matter
It was the weekend before the End Year Semester Break and the usual "gang" decided to stay over in college to spend some time together before the month-long break. There was this very spontaneous idea to get hold of a car and grab dinner outside college. It gradually developed into a plan to go on a midnight drive up Genting Highlands.
I remember making up all sorts of excuses to not join the trip: I was broke, the drive was going to be dangerous, I haven't been productive at all the entire day etc. In all fairness, those reasons were true. However, I think the thing that held me back the most was my reluctance to make impetuous decisions. By nature, I think things through and develop a rationale that I can justify to myself before I do something.
Just before they left, one my friends who was trying to convince me to go told me this :
"20 years down the line, you won't be looking back at your college days and reminisce the night you stayed in your room and do Statistics while your friends had the adventure of their lifetime."
I acknowledge that what he said could very easily be framed into the wrong context in another storyline, but in this case, I think it helped me shift the way I think about experiences and spontaneous decisions. The opportunity cost there was so low. There wasn't anything urgent coming up and it was the last weekend before a month long break, during which I could be productive if I wanted to make up for the night I went out.
In short, it is within my ability to make up for the time lost even if I went out that night. However, it's virtually impossible for me to make up for the lost of the chance to create those exact memories in the exact context, with those I hope to maintain a lifelong contact with.
It turned out to be the right decision. I had one of my most memorable experience, walking around Genting Highlands as the chilly night breeze blew, realizing my only regret is that I missed out on all the past chances at making memories.
Parkinson’s Law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
Back in High School, I was passively conscious of how many extra-curricular activities I involved myself with. Although I wanted to do more, some part of me kept telling myself to focus on what matters - academics. Somehow, I've internalized the concept that if I had one too many commitments, everything would come crashing down, crumble under the pressure and this would come at the cost of my studies.
In college, I tried to do things differently. I started off by involving myself in celebration events, which conventionally requires only about 2 months of active involvement. These events helped me to develop my skills and gave me the opportunity to connect with new people. At the same time, they gave me assurance that there's a due date in sight and I need not worry about compromising on my studies.
The most interesting happened when I started to involve myself in long-term projects (i.e. Education Outlook Project, Club and Societies roles etc). As I realized that I could cope with long-term extra-curricular commitments without compromising on my studies, I took on more roles.
Some of my friends were concerned that I couldn't cope with all that was going around (bless you for caring). This is where I saw Parkinson's Law in action. Although I had more commitments than before, I didn't allow them to take a toll on my studies, health or well-being. All I did was do things more efficiently, put some productivity hacks into practice (which I will share soon enough😃) and
slept a little less. I made the most out of small chunks of time to complete tasks and in the long run, that saved me many hours. All that because there was an urgency and a short time available for its completion.
In small ways, all of us have seen Parkinson's Law in action. You experienced it when you were cramming 4 chapters worth of facts the night before exams, and wondered how amazing your grades would be if you studied like that everyday. You experienced it when 30 minutes before your mother came home from work, you scrambled to do the chores she told you to complete before she left for work that morning.
All these are short-terms ways which you have seen the way work expands to fill the time available for its completion, which is essentially the definition of Parkinson's Law.
That's a wrap for my reflection on the things I've picked up in my first year in KYUEM. These are the products of reflection during my daily solitude, a new habit I'm picking up for the next week or so. You can read up more about that here.
I would love to hear the key takeaways from your first year in college/college days. It probably seem obvious to you now that you've understood it but it might be life-changing for me. If you would like to share your experiences with me, I would love to hear from you. Just fire me an email at email@example.com or DM me on my Instagram.
I hope that this article has given you a moment of revelation or two. If it has even helped one of you to think more deeply about your experiences in college, it would've been worth it.
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