By HANNAH GALEONE
No one says that college is going to be easy — because it isn’t. Take it from me, I’ve been here for five and a half years.
Personally, college has been one of the longest, most challenging things that I’ve done but by far one of the most rewarding experiences that I’ve had. I was excited to start at a university but in the back of my mind, a voice was telling me that college is stupid. I don’t need a degree, I’ll be able to find a sustainable job without one, right?
Since I was a little girl, I’ve been irked by the fact that we, as humans, gauge our usefulness based on little numbers in red circles at the top of exams or percentage points in columns on a grading website. I’m worth so much more than just those little numbers.
What I struggled to understand was the importance of getting a college degree and how much it boosts you up in the world, both academically and culturally. I didn’t understand that the college experience is like using a GPS. College will guide you in the right direction but it won’t make the correct turns for you. You have to make those choices for yourself.
My freshman year was a trainwreck; I was a boarding school girl set loose into a world where I could make all my own decisions and I didn’t have people guiding me through every step of the day. Cue the explosions. My overwhelming, newfound freedom sent me into a spiral of skipping classes, not doing the readings, and putting in the bare minimum effort academically. My grades were slipping, I wasn’t prioritizing my time and most of all, I wasn’t focused on the big picture. I started to experience symptoms of crippling depression, found myself struggling to maintain healthy, beneficial friendships, and I wasn’t focusing on the most important thing in the world — myself.
Come second semester of my sophomore year, a little, evil letter landed in my mailbox telling me that I had been put on academic suspension. Great, I’d really done it this time. I moved back home, found a job in a local restaurant, and worked all day, every day for 10 months straight. Maybe I wasn’t cut out for college. I felt that I wasn’t smart enough to get through it and do it successfully.
Reluctantly, I started taking classes again and slowly started to realize that I was actually capable of earning my bachelor’s. It felt amazing to start succeeding in my classes and enjoying the learning that I was doing. Most importantly, I started to actually like it here.
When I started at UMW, it would be untruthful to say that I liked it. I, in fact, hated it here. But as I began to build strong relationships with my professors, make friends who will be with me for a lifetime, and find confidence in myself academically, I started to feel like I fit in. It took me until my junior year to declare myself as an English literature major. I started writing for the Blue & Gray Press and finally felt like I had a place — I felt like I belonged.
As I sit here writing my final article for this newspaper, I am saddened. There is still a part of me that is shocked I’m actually going to graduate because at one point I genuinely didn’t think I could do it. Leaving college is going to be a huge transition; it’s going to be both exciting and terrifying. I spent a good portion of my time at UMW taking the experience for granted, which I assuredly shouldn’t have. I should have cherished my time here more. But, I have the most incredible memories to take with me into the next phase of my life. As Joni Mitchell once said, “don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”