Although it is harder to believe than Wacka Flocka Flame’s campaign for president, I have indeed made it to the halfway point of my college career. I smiled my way through freshman orientation, hit the snooze button too many times before my 8 a.m. classes, and ran out of dining points earlier than I would care to admit. Yet I still remain to tell the tales of an underclassman, and I have emerged with a new set of knowledge which, I like to think, will show some longterm value.
Below you can find a collection of miscellaneous information I have picked up throughout these first two years at BU. It’s a bit of a ramble, but two years have given me a lot to say.
- There are a lot of different kinds of people.
No, really, everyone is different. No, I promise you, you are completely and utterly alone in terms of your overall being. But you are also a sponge, and exposure to diversity is perhaps the best way to grow as an individual and to develop confidence in one’s own identity. It is possible to become best friends with people miles outside your realm of social background, religion, level of intelligence, interests, personality, fashion taste, food taste, music taste, and probably even with people completely disabled from tasting anything at all (Thing I Learned #1B: this disorder is called Ageusia, and I just learned about it through the art of Googling). The best relationships are those which provide both friendship and knowledge. Those people help you better understand foreign aspects of the world you never would have looked into otherwise. I could make a separate list of things I’ve learned from friends who are incredibly different than me (I learned about an average teenager’s life in Mexico, the similarities between Greek school and Hebrew school, and that I actually really like sororities, just to name a few). It is imperative to embrace the people who let off an aura opposite your own, for they are the people who will push you forward and change your mind, which, I assure you, is a fabulous thing to do right now. However, they will also show you things you do not like, and this will help you solidify your own place in this big, bright and beautiful world.
- You might actually like your roommate.
Or you might not. Your roommate might let her boyfriend Skype her until she falls asleep, which then allows the camera to shine its way around the room and leave you awkwardly alone with a silent, staring, long-distance boyfriend you have never met nor care to meet. Your roommate might frequently forget a little something called personal hygiene, and you might have to invest your entire net worth in Febreze to cover the lingering stench that fills the entire hall. Don’t worry, these scenarios come from my late night creativity more so than reality, because from my experience, you might love your roommate a whole lot.
Your roommate might become the person who knows more about you than anyone else, both because you confide in them and because they literally see you more than anyone else does. This might not bother you at all, for your roommate might become the first person that you want to know something about you. You might tell them every little event that happened in your day, from, “I had a really good smoothie,” to, “I broke up with my boyfriend.” You also might tell them things that no one else in the entire world would ever care about, like, “I curled my hair, but now I want to straighten it,” or “I want to change my new prof pic but I can’t because it’s too soon to change it, right?” They might be the person who you miss after only one night apart, and they might be the person you never expected would mean so much to you. You never know when the BU Housing gods will bless you with such a person, but sometimes, your roommate might turn out to be a soul mate you never expected to have. (If you haven’t guessed, this sappy lesson came from personal experience. I’m going to be an RA next year and I’m living in a single…no, I may not survive without her).
- One of the best ways to explore Boston is to run through it.
It is no surprise that a city who’s largest annual celebration is a marathon would be a great place to run. During September of my freshman year, I hit the streets to find a comfortable jogging route and I ended up finding a lot more than that. “Wow, these apartments look really nice,” I thought as I ran through the Back Bay, which, at the time, I did not know existed.
“Whoa, a statue of a historic guy! Oh, Boston, you cool American city, you,” I thought as I ran past one of many famous statues and monuments of figures imperative to our country’s creation.
“WHERE THE HECK AM I?” I thought as I reached a wide, green park covered with winding paths and a pond beneath embellished bridges and floating docks. A statue of George Washington atop a horse towered over the scene as people from around the world stopped to take pictures in front of it. You better believe I took a picture too. I was in awe of this beautiful place and pretty perplexed about how I’d stumbled upon it. Finally I realized I had found the Boston Public Garden, and it was only a few miles away from my dorm.
In that moment I vowed to jog my way through Boston in the hopes of discovering new places like this. Over these past two years, I have explored Brookline, an adorable neighborhood next to BU with the cutest shops, theaters, parks, and houses you could ever find. I have run down the esplanade along the Charles River as far as the Science Museum in one direction and Harvard in the other. I’ve crossed the bridge to Cambridge to jog through MIT (honestly not too exciting), and I have even ventured into the depths of Allston only to find that the scenery was, well, subpar. But no matter the discovery, I have so enjoyed uncovering many nooks and crannies of this (safe!) city through my little runs. I hope to discover even more during the next two years, and who knows, maybe I’ll even do so while running the Boston Marathon!
- Counterfeit and substandard drugs are a huge national and international problem, and people at BU are leading the way to solve it!
Didn’t expect to see this one listed here, did ya? I was fortunate to take a class through the Kilachand Honors College which was totally unrelated to my area of study, or so I thought. The class was divided into thirds, each taught by a different graduate professor and about a different approach to the same problem. We started by studying patent law and its effect on the pharmaceutical industry as well as pharmaceutical technology, then moved on to the engineering of pharmaceutical technology and what is being done to solve the problem of counterfeit and substandard drugs. Finally we learned about the public health factors associated with this international issue (which sneaks its way into the American drug industry as well…we are not immune!). Not only did the class teach me about the problem and its relevance, which I encourage you to explore independently, but I learned about the role of my own university in solving it. Our engineering professor, Dr. Muhammad Zaman, assigned us an an article for homework about technologies currently in development to improve drug quality testing and accessibility. He spoke about PharmaCheck, a cutting-edge, inexpensive, portable tool able to detect poor quality medicines more accurately than previous technologies, and he wanted us to come back to class with our own opinions about the new device. Upon reading the article, we were all baffled to discover that PharmaCheck was developed by Professor Zaman himself! What?! The tool that Scientific American described as one of the “World Changing Ideas of 2013” was created by the guy whose corny jokes made me sleepily chuckle at 9 in the morning three days a week?! NO WAY.
Sure enough, our esteemed professor not only created the device but wanted to hear what we had to say about it. His discovery and approach to teaching made me proud to go to BU. I learned about a real-world issue from the person leading the way to its solution, and it inspired me to further pursue my interest in human rights by widening my understanding of medical crises and how we can tackle them. I have learned a lot of amazing things in all my classes, but this ranks among the most unexpected, inspiring, and profound.
- LinkedIn is super fun.
Connect with me! I created an account after my first real summer job before freshman year, and ever since I have found an unhealthy amount of satisfaction in updating it. I have also learned its importance through my visits with Joyce at the BU COM Career Center (she is super cool and she has an adorable puppy). Joyce suggested that I reach out to COM alumni who are working in areas I may be interested in. With that suggestion in mind, I procrastinated on other schoolwork (it is the most justified way to procrastinate, I think) by essentially stalking the professionals who once stood in my shoes. That LinkedIn troll resulted in multiple contacts, tips, and opportunities from people more than willing to help out a BU kid, and I hope to continue my love of LinkedIn over the remainder of my college and professional career. Sure, people scoff at social media and its negative effects on our self image, intellect, and ability to get out of bed, but I think it’s brilliant that society has found away to utilize social media for professional advancement. It is efficient and fun, and in a weird way, it inspires me to reach new goals! Is it weird that I like it this much? Probably.
- It’s ok to be alone sometimes.
This is a broad statement applicable to many situations. I did a lot during these past two years, and sometimes I found myself in social-interaction-overload. Don’t get me wrong, I love people! But a day filled with classes, lunch dates, rehearsals, study sessions, and meetings can really run you down. It is ok to sit in the dining hall alone by choice (gasp!) because it can be exactly the break you need. It is also ok to say no to a Saturday night out, or to go shopping for clothes without the pressure of friends around you, or to want to study without anyone else’s distraction. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is a very real thing, but it is important to find the strength to value your “me time” and push that FOMO aside every now and then. This I have learned through the easy and hard ways, and I hope to continue my occasional moments of solitude.
Furthermore, I have learned that it is ok to be single! This sounds weird, especially on a blog about COM, but I think everyone can relate, right? We all face moments of weakness when we miss the idea of someone to constantly rely on, to text, or to call when we are in need. But I have learned that an underclassman may just be better off without that! College is a very fickle period of time, filled with growth, change, and challenges. “Singlehood” results in independence and, I have found, the strengthening of relationships with friends who will always remain constant. It also helps us value the times where we do find positive relationships, while leaving us the ability to flexibly explore the youthful world in which we live. Never need the idea of a romantic partner in college. Need your friends, need your family, need yourself, and if you happen to fall for someone, it is wonderful to need them too! But don’t get hung up on wanting the idea of one. It’s distracting and unnecessary, because I don’t think the best relationships are ever forced. Like I said, it’s ok (and fun and empowering and exciting!!) to be alone. Embrace it, man!
- You get to do things in college you may never get to do again, so by all means, do them.
A big school like BU offers more opportunities than you can ever imagine. During this year particularly, I have realized that these opportunities are very unlikely to pop up again, and it is so important that we take advantage of them while we can.
In two years, I have performed in two musicals and a play, and choreographed a musical too. I choreographed a whole musical! I am not studying to be a choreographer nor do I intend to become one, but I have loved dance and theatre since forever and would never turn down the chance to try it. Thanks to BU, I got that chance! I watched a cast of 19 people perform dances I created and saw an audience smile as they watched it all unfold. After graduating from college, not many people get to continue with their hobbies, and I can’t be sure that I’ll get the chance to either. But I will always be able to have that experience under my belt, and it is certainly one I will cherish for a lifetime.
Honestly, I hope heaven is like college. Who wouldn’t want to live out an eternity in a place with constant new things to learn and opportunities to try?
- Sometimes other people like your natural ability a lot more than you dislike it (even when you dislike it a lot).
I spent a large portion of high school doubting the bajeebies out of myself. Settling into college helped my confidence expand, but I still felt a pang of nervousness and apprehension every now and then. During my first screenwriting class at the start of sophomore year, that doubt snuck in as I wrote my first short screenplay. In my mind, every character, plot line and piece of dialogue was out of place, and I dreaded the day when my class would read and critique it aloud. I dreaded it so much that I apologized in an email to my Teacher’s Assistant, Felipe, and told him I figured he would probably hate it. The characters were bizarre, the story ridiculous in the bad sort of way, and I wanted nothing more than to drop dead on the floor the minute Felipe projected my script on the screen for my small class to see.
“Hanna,” he said, “Don’t apologize for your writing and tell us it’s bad. I actually really liked it and thought it was very good!”
I didn’t believe him. He was just being nice. He knew the class was about to silently criticize every word I’d turned in, and he was just trying to make me feel better.
As classmates started to read aloud, a few of them laughed. They laughed at moments I didn’t think were very funny, and they read the characters in ways I hadn’t thought. They were shocked with the ending, engaged during the twists, and even satisfied with the ending. The feedback was constructive but positive, and I sat there in shock as I heard them actually enjoy it.
I still don’t like that screenplay, and I still have a lot to learn about writing, but the experience taught me that we are often our own worst critics. I shouldn’t apologize for something I think is bad, no matter how badly I want to, because someone else might very well see good in it that I don’t see.
- When in doubt, channel your inner Elle Woods.
Many college scenarios will lean slightly toward the uncomfortable end of the social spectrum. You have to introduce yourself at parties, find your place within a student club or activity, or feel comfortable within a class. Whenever I feel nervous or intimidated, I do this silly thing where I just pretend I’m Elle Woods for a little bit! You know, Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde? That chick rocks! Elle was confident, positive, and friendly. She wore a constant and radiant smile, especially in moments of weakness or uncertainty. Remember when she wore the playboy bunny costume to the classy party because mean old Vivienne tricked her? She owned that embarrassing situation and never once showed signs of awkwardness or fear.
An awful situation like that will hopefully never happen to you or me, but her attitude is one we can carry into any situation. Afraid to approach a professor during Office Hours because they are super intimidating and mean? Elle would walk in with a smile, a genuine compliment about something in the class, and confidence in her questions and knowledge. Offended by someone who made a nasty comment at your expense? Elle would wonder what happened in that person’s day to put them in a bad mood, and she would never take the comment to heart because, after all, something must have put them in a bad mood! And don’t even get me started on what Elle would do if someone doubted her. Working hard and achieving goals beyond all expectations are among her specialties, and it sure doesn’t hurt for real college students like me to try and do the same.
This character is a role model and I don’t care if it sounds silly! Elle Woods wouldn’t care if it sounded silly. She would own it with a smile and a hair flip.
I have saved the corniest lesson for last:
- There is still a lot to learn.
There is a lot to learn in my next two years of college, and there is even more to learn over the course of my lifetime. A friend of mine has a tattoo with a message I adore. In the language of wolof but written in ajar (she studies those because she’s very awesome) it says “student,” and I love this idea of being students for life. Like I said in #1, we are sponges, and every opportunity provides a lesson. I know this is common knowledge, but I think we often forget to think about all the things we’re learning as we move throughout our busy days. Knowledge overlaps and fits together to formulate our worldly understanding, and this understanding helps us create our goals. I took four classes this semester: Introduction to International Relations, Microeconomics, History of Television, and the class I mentioned earlier which interlaced public health, engineering and law. Every single one of these classes somehow catered to what I was learning in the other, and there were moments where the overlap blew my mind completely. It also pushed me forward in deciding what I actually want to do with my life (HOW SCARY!) because their connections made so much sense in my head. Only I could experience those connections and bring the new information together into something meaningful for me. Everyone has chances for individual understandings like this, and it is so exciting to think about where the constant addition of knowledge will lead us. People should strive to be students until the day they die, and I have learned that I would honestly rather die than give up that title. Learning is not confined to college, but it sure does happen a lot while you’re here. Everything I’ve learned so far has made these two years the best of my life, and I can’t wait for the next two to be even better.