Opinion | Four years of college gifts much wisdom

Senior+columnist+Andrew+Prozorovsky+stands+in+front+of+the+Foellinger+Auditorium+wearing+his+graduation+gown+and+cap+on+May+14.+Prozorovsky+reflects+on+the+wisdom+he+has+learned+the+past+four+years+at+the+University.+

Photo courtesy of Andrew Prozorovsky

Senior columnist Andrew Prozorovsky stands in front of the Foellinger Auditorium wearing his graduation gown and cap on May 14. Prozorovsky reflects on the wisdom he has learned the past four years at the University.

By Andrew Prozorovsky, Senior Columnist

The freshman version of myself seems unrecognizable to me at times. It is said that if you don’t reflect on your past self and wince at least a bit, then you haven’t sufficiently grown as a person. As quickly as college came and went, it is a critical introduction to the adult world where one has no choice but to mature and accept a certain baseline of self-responsibility.

Here is some of the wisdom that I would theoretically pass on to this former, unfamiliar version of myself.

The first truth you need to accept is that you’ll change a lot during college. You’ll outgrow some friends, as people mature at their own pace.

Similarly, allow yourself flexibility with your path. You may find yourself passionate about something new that you never previously considered. For me, that alternate path was journalism.

Try to embrace all of the new experiences. Those who sequester themselves and devote their time only to schoolwork aren’t exploiting the game or wiser than the rest, they’re setting themselves up for an early-onset mid-life crisis.

Illinois is a massive university, and with its size comes a diverse collection of opportunities. Many are worth investigating, as once you graduate, you may never again have the unique chance to study abroad.

Regarding studying abroad, seize the moment. I initially planned to study abroad but kept delaying my acceptance in order to pursue other openings on campus. 

But once the COVID-19 pandemic struck, I found that I had much less time to study abroad than I thought. Eventually, I would delay my graduation by a summer so that I could study abroad in Spain, but I nearly forwent the option entirely due to procrastinating and taking my time in college for granted. You never know when these doors may suddenly close.

“We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret and disappointment,” said American entrepreneur Jim Rohn.

Involvement in student organizations (RSOs, to the Illini) is incredibly important. Try to find an RSO that is fun, one that is strong in professional development and maybe one that balances both criteria. Furthermore, be ambitious about your role in those organizations. If it isn’t something you imagine trying to advance your role in, it may not be worth your time.

You’ll enter college with a certain amount of idealism, enthusiasm and hubris that will be humbled over time. But that’s okay. When you give your email to a plethora of student organizations on Quad Day, you’re not signing any binding four-year contracts.

If your schedule allows, take classes that interest you, and prioritize those over “blowoff” classes. Some of the hardest, most fascinating classes I took at the University failed to fulfill any graduation requirements, but I reflect on them fondly.

It may seem obvious, but a successful college student stays on top of things and is proactive about his or her responsibilities. This applies to schoolwork, as the sooner you finish it, the less stress you have to endure, but it also applies to internships and the job hunt. The longer you delay it, the fewer choices you will have. Opportunities will pass you by if you’re not actively ready to capitalize on them.

The path will not be easy. There will be obstacles. If mental health becomes a roadblock, as is common for many college students, recognize the issue and seek help as soon as you can. Unfortunately, most campus resources are lackluster, but there is an oasis out there for the burnt-out and the depressed.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, as the adage goes. A college student will have to learn, albeit slowly, the intricacies of self-care. How to maintain a gym routine or keep oneself active. How to cook for oneself. Proper roommate etiquette. The importance of keeping one’s personal spaces clean and tidy.

But additionally, while introspection is paramount, college is a time to learn how to advocate for yourself and reserve the right to be a little selfish. Obviously, you should help those around you. But campus life is about your own place in it, and you must work to define it. No one else will define your legacy for you.

It’s important to recall that in the times where we struggle the most, we also learn the most about ourselves and experience self-growth. It is said that past mistakes aren’t mistakes if you learn from them.

Paradoxically, change is constant. I am sure that plenty of what I have written for the Daily Illini will not represent who I am a decade from now. Regardless, one strives to be the person they needed when they were younger and more naive. You don’t have to take my advice — experience the world and make your own list.

Four years of college will pass in the blink of an eye. Make sure you stop and breathe to take it all in.

 

Andrew is a senior in LAS.

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