Everyone’s College Experience Is Different (and That’s OK!)
The best thing about college is the independence and the opportunity to start fresh. When I graduated high school in 2015, I promised myself that I was leaving home asap. I chose a university six hours away. I learned to be independent, explore hidden parts of myself, and most importantly, be free.
However, my naiveté was uncalled for, because—guess what—college is expensive. Sure, that's glaringly obvious. But 18-year-old me was so set to leave and do something more, and I assumed I’d figure it out. I was awarded a scholarship that would cover my housing fees for most of the school year; I rationalized that I’d have a year to come up with the money to pay for my sophomore fees. Spoiler alert: I didn’t.
Last summer, after a series of events and calculations, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to attend my university that fall. Instead, I would be completing my general education at my community college, then transferring to my local university. I’ve always prided myself on my academics, and I never expected to attend a community college (especially as I considered myself a “good” student). I never thought I was going to move away and then return a year later. I didn’t think I'd end up having to attend my local university, the one I tried so adamantly to avoid. Prior to starting community college, I felt shame, embarrassment, and disappointment (to name just a few emotions). I cried a lot and spent many summer days and nights shredding my self-esteem.
Despite my low hopes in the beginning, I’m leaving community college a year later with high spirits. I have met amazing professors who I will keep in contact with; I took interesting classes catered to my interests. And, I am leaving with a scholarship to my name.
I also realized that my unorthodox college journey isn’t all that unique. I met people who also transferred out of university for a multitude of reasons—none of which were because they weren’t smart enough. If community college is the option anyone is taking, trust me, there is absolutely no shame in it.
No college experience is identical. Social media has a great way of making me feel like I am missing out on so many things and that I'm not living up to my potential. It took some time to learn this, but I’m not missing out on anything. I am living my own life, taking things at my own pace and experiencing what I’m meant to be experiencing. I’m learning the significance of validating my experiences. Rather than dismissing them, I understand that social media is a snapshot of people's best lives, and comparison is death to my confidence.
Now I’m heading back to university. Although I never expected to attend this particular school, I’m excited for the new experiences that I will have there. I’m grateful for my time at my first university and community college. They have led me to be more open-minded, self-aware and confident. A year ago I was in shambles, and now I’m in such a better place. Clichés aside, things do happen for a reason—even if their purpose can’t be seen just yet. Whatever your educational journey is like, live it with optimism. Furthermore, take pride in it because it is yours, and yours alone.
By Elsa Kebede, 20