College life can be hard, but it doesn't have to be. (Illustration by Sofie Moustahfid, University of Maryland, College Park)

7 Life Lessons I Learned (the Hard Way) in College

Hopefully, by reading this, you can learn them the easy way.

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Hopefully, by reading this, you can learn them the easy way.

As my academic career as an undergraduate student comes to a close, there is much to be thankful for and reflect upon. The good, the bad and the ugly have cooperated with one another in order to create some amazing experiences I will always be able to draw from as I try to understand our crazy world.

So, without further ado, here are some lessons I learned that the hard way in my past few years as an undergrad.

1. You Have to Put Yourself Out There

I spent my first week and a half as a college student in my dorm. The first weekend was for moving in and the second week, classes began. I wanted to make friends, but at the same time I was hesitant, being so far away from familiar faces.

As the second weekend came, UTSA had organized a number of “back to school” events that encouraged freshmen to show up to meet people. Luckily, I was invited to come with some neighbors. Although they didn’t even know me at the time, they offered me to tag along; it was just the push I needed.

I always appreciated seeing people around me be unafraid to put themselves out there, so I studied and learned that the worst thing that can happen is rejection. And if that happens, just recover and move on. This is easier said than done, of course, but practice makes perfect.

2. Some Friendships Come and Go

From a young age, I learned to value friendships. However, in the transition to college, I also learned that sometimes, friends come and go; sometimes that change is easy and sometimes it’s strenuous. Honestly, this was probably my toughest lesson to learn.

After my first two years in college, it became more relevant, but I also learned that it’s okay. Sometimes people leave because you have grown apart, and sometimes it’s to chase an opportunity that they can’t turn down. Either way, it happens for a reason and you come to terms with it.

3. The Save-Your-Money Spiel

Students of all levels already know the struggle of saving money. I have lived the check-to-check life before, and it is the most unpleasant life to live. Obviously, seeing money hit your direct deposit is one of the best feelings out there, but not when you spend it on luxuries rather than necessities.

I used to blow through checks within a week and would have to wait another week, broke, for my next check, only to then repeat my previous actions. Spend. Struggle. Repeat.

When life hits though, it is better to have a rainy day fund than having the burden of having to rely on parents. So from one student to another: don’t go out every weekend, do not eat out consistently (dining at home is healthier and cheaper in the long run, anyways) and SAVE YOUR MONEY!

4. Productivity Is a Must to Succeed

At the end of my first year of college, my GPA was in need of some upgrading. I literally forced myself to become a good student in this process, and it carried over into real-life situations. Being on top of the syllabus and working to understand what the teacher is looking for is only the beginning. The hard part of learning to succeed was to stay productive, motivated and applying yourself.

At the end of the day, you have to remember that skipping classes will catch up to you. If you do the math, you are paying to be in these classes in order to land a promising career. If you don’t show up and produce, neither will your goals.

5. One Way or Another, You’re Going to Need a Work Ethic

I bring up this next point because it goes hand-in-hand with the point above. Once you learn your motivating factor, you need to find a pace or style in which you flourish.

Before I got into the food industry, I didn’t have the best ethic. But in a fast-paced environment where people judge based on the product served, I learned to take pride in whatever it is I did: cooking, presentation or cleaning. Some people like to move quickly, some slower. As long as whoever you are working with is not complaining, do whatever makes you comfortable.

6. You Will Get Hurt

Emotionally, financially, physically — the list goes on. In some shape or form there will be a semester or time in your life where bad things seem to add up on a never-ending dog pile. Relationships turn sour and people reveal their true colors to you. In fact, I’ve had multiple relationships in my earlier years in college in which things did not pan out the way I had envisioned. Though it hurt at the time, I look at them now and appreciate the adversity as it helped me become the person I am today.

At some point, you will have to endure misfortune, but you will recover, you will learn and you will move on to bigger and better things. This reminds me of one of my favorite sayings, the two meanings behind “F.E.A.R”: forget everything and run vs. face everything and rise.

7. Sooner or Later, You Will Find a Passion

Obviously, many college students change their career paths throughout their time at school. Though it may not be clear at the moment, you will have plenty of time and experiences that will help you figure it out. An opportunity to try something new may present itself, and if it intrigues you, don’t hesitate! It could lead to something you may truly enjoy.

Coming into school, I got accepted as a philosophy major. I liked philosophy and everything behind it, but I had no clue what I was going to do outside of studying it (no shots at philosophy majors, much love!). I later switched to kinesiology, and not long after that I ultimately switched to English. As I began to take the courses needed, the vision for my career path slowly became clear.

Once I got into the classes and got to work with the various people within the field, I knew immediately it was the community I belonged to. Once you find something you honestly have fun doing, trust your gut and run with it.

I hope this list helps someone who may be going through a tough time of their own. Though it may seem grim in the moment, reflect on the bad and use it to guide you toward the good. Nowadays, many look for optimism and positive vibes as they go through their journey and understandably so: turning a tough lesson and using it to grow is not an easy feat.

College is full of ups and downs. Find good friends. Find your music. Find your peace. Do whatever you need to do in order to get over the other tough lessons of life, and you will come out stronger than ever.

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