Summer College Offers Self Discovery

rachel jin, lifestyle editor and fergie

During the summer, I spent three weeks on the Cornell University campus taking a course on political philosophy. Having been to college sleep-away camps in past summers, I thought I was prepared for whatever curveballs residential college life might throw at me. For the most part, after a series of trial-and-errors at different camps, I knew the basics. Bring flip flops for the shower. Exchange numbers with your roommate, in case you get locked out. Be prepared to buy your meals at the student union’s Starbucks; chances are the dining hall food is awful. Reject any text messages containing the words “netflix” and “chill” in the same sentence; or if you accept, don’t expect there to be any Netflix waiting for you upstairs.

Upon arrival, I soon realized that while I knew enough to survive, I was still a novice at college living. While I could wake myself up in the morning and find my way around campus, I had failed to consider one of the most important aspects of college life: balancing academics and fun. While I had more than enough time to both complete my assignments and go out with friends, I wasn’t prepared for the emotional weight I would have to carry for three weeks. And believe me, it turned out to be a lot of weight.

Soon, things became overwhelming. There was a lot of homework. A lot. Add that to the social and romantic dynamics and ensuing drama within my squad, and it became too much for me to handle.

The amount of work just kept on accumulating. I could not concentrate.

Sometimes people spread rumors about me, and other times people I barely knew hated me for reasons I have yet to understand.

Some kids got kicked out after being caught drinking, and cops roamed the dorm halls at night, making me feel like a prisoner.

I almost snapped at the end of the second week.

I’ll just skip ahead and say that, by the end of camp, I was happy, I was mentally healthy, and I was able to get my work done, all while having fun with my friends and participating in wild activities. Here are some revelations I had during this time; I hope to reflect back on these lessons in times of crisis:

First of all, it is incredibly difficult, if not downright impossible, to be liked by everyone. People will sometimes dislike you. It could be someone you’ve never even spoken to. Unless you’ve done something wildly offensive, it’s not your fault. Don’t dwell on it, and definitely don’t change yourself in order to please them.

Second, rumors are fast and furious; the smallest things can start widespread gossip. For example, simply hanging out with someone of the opposite gender alone leads people to believe you’re dating, and the smallest amount of shade you throw at someone can spark theories of rivalry between you. Sometimes rumors can cause a great deal of damage, but most of the time they’re just small bits of harmless gossip. Trying to dispel small rumors will do you no good, and you may end up stressing about it more than you should. Just brush them off and laugh about them.

Third, you need to put yourself first sometimes. Sometimes you have to take your own needs into consideration before others’ desires when making decisions. If someone asks something of you, make sure that you are comfortable with it first, before following through. You don’t owe them anything, so don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with in an effort to satisfy someone else.

Fourth, be responsible. Don’t let yourself give into peer pressure. If your friends ask you to hang out, don’t blindly agree. Consider the amount of work you have (is it a reading assignment that can be put off until after check-in, or is it an important essay due tomorrow that’s worth 20% of your grade and that you still haven’t written?) before proceeding.

Finally, have fun. Your college life is what you make of it. Even though social dynamics and workloads may be beyond your control, your attitude is not. Looking at things in a more positive light can do wonders for both your sanity and your happiness.

The class I paid to attend was a course on political philosophy. But upon returning home from camp, I realized that I had not learned as much about Plato and John Locke as I had about myself. Those three weeks were a rough three weeks, both academically and psychologically, and I can’t say that there weren’t times when I just wanted to take a nap and forget about all the drama happening around me. But I’m glad I pulled through, because I was passionate about law and I ended up doing well in my class and learning a great deal. If I hadn’t persisted, I would have regretted it.