In the past few weeks, I have been more conscious of my “last” everything as an undergrad. I’ve had my last week of classes, my last presentation, my last exam, my last Pancake Bingo Night, my last Prison Fellowship Visit, my last Tuesday night trip to half off pizza night at Pleasant City, and probably even my last time using the bathroom on the first floor of Hamrick.
It’s amazing how much I have taken for granted over the last few years and just how much JOY I have experienced. Now that I realize it’s almost over, I’m clinging to every fond memory I’ve created at Gardner-Webb, and trying to fit in as many more as possible.
In honor of my indescribably wonderful GWU experience, I’ve decided to give you 10 unconventional insider tips on making your time here incredible:
1. When you get “Reading Day” in the Spring Semester to prepare for exams, DON’T READ ANYTHING. I repeat, don’t read anything. You’ve been studying and working hard all semester (hopefully), so use reading day to take a road trip with your best friends. Trust me, it does the brain good.
2. During the first semester of your freshman year, by all means, spread yourself too thin. Check out every single opportunity on campus that interests you, and resolve to experience as much as possible. The longer you are in school, the more you will zero in on your passions, and at that point, you will have no need to overcommit to tons of random obligations because you will be fully committed to the passion you discover.
3. Stay up late early in your college career. During my first few semesters, I stayed up until at least 2am every night. Now, I’m in bed by 10:30 most nights. Your schedule starts adapting to adulthood sooner than you may like.
4. You will live, breathe, laugh, study, fight, cry, and experience life with your friends in a whole new way. This is a huge blessing. While in the midst of this blessing, do your best not to neglect the family that you have lived life with for the past 18 years back home. There’s a balance to be found. Don’t be that person that leaves the fun every weekend, but don’t be that person that calls their grandma once a month. A lot can change while you’re away.
5. You really aren’t too cool to participate in anything. Wear matching windbreakers around campus with your friends, post embarrassing pictures of being wrapped in duct tape, “boo” people who yell a false bingo during Pancake Bingo Night, go to the drive-in movie and eat cookie dough in the trunk of a Corolla, sleep outside in hammocks, dance in ugly Christmas sweaters, and wear flannel to the Cleveland County Fair.
6. Don’t complain about the caf. If you move off campus, you will sorely miss the days when you didn’t have to go grocery shopping, buy cookware, prepare your food while you’re starving, and clean up the kitchen. When in doubt, get caf creative. Heat up cheese fries in the microwave, make a random salad burrito, or get whatever’s on the vegetarian bar because it’s always the best anyway.
7. On the topic of food, take advantage of all the area’s meal deals for college students. You’ll get the hang of it eventually, but the best route is usually: Pleasant City on Tuesday, iHop or Newts or $4 Georgio’s cheesesteaks on Wednesdays, and Mi Pubs or Smoke on the Square hot wings on Thursdays.
8. Get involved in the Boiling Springs community. After you get acclimated to campus, don’t limit yourself to only your group of friends. The town of Boiling Springs has a wonderful community full of loving people. Get involved in a church, go to community dinners, spend time with families, find a mentor, babysit someone’s kids, go to the Farmer’s Market. Your life will be made greater because of it.
9. For all my fellow high school overachievers, know that there may be more important things in life than making straight As. I know that seems blasphemous, but I promise you that it is true. Always do your best in academics, it is after all why you’re here, but don’t let the nature of academic competition hinder you from living a life of joy and new experiences. Here’s the truth, I am a great student, but I made 4 Cs in my college career. If I had made those grades in high school, I would have sunk into a deep depression because I was so focused on the competition. Now that I’ve lived an undergrad career, I am proud of all my academic accomplishments, but I would gladly trade those 4 Cs again for all the wonderful experiences I’ve had.
10. Here’s one you’ve never heard before: “College is what you make it”. But seriously, it’s true. You will hear negative people complaining about all the things they don’t like about dorms and tuition and rules and grades, but you will find joy where you create it. Rather than complaining about how there’s nothing to do in a one stoplight town, find joy in the fact that you can stay up until 3am playing flashlight tag or go tubing down on the Broad River. There is so much life in the people and places at GWU. You will grow in knowledge and experience and truth, and if you so choose, you will find great joy.