On the first day of my last semester as an undergraduate student, my small senior seminar class of about 13 students played the Introduction Game. We stated our name, where we were from, and what we had learned from our time in college.
A lot of students reminisced on how time flew by and on all of the good memories, and I couldn’t help but also be grateful for the experiences I’ve had and people I’ve met; however, there was a nagging thought in my mind that reminded me of the tears and anxiety that had also followed me to and throughout college.
College is a time for change: from teen to young adult, from student to potential employee, from dependence to independence; not to mention all of the changes in interests, relationships, and ideologies that many college students experience as well.
As an adoptee, my biggest fear is abandonment, or more specifically, change. I was left in a box somewhere in my village at the age of two weeks. I was taken to an orphanage, given to a foster family for eight months, and then ripped away from them too in order to be taken by some Americans. I’m not resentful of my wonderful, American parents in any way, but by the time I was one year old, I had already changed families three times. So for as long as I can (and can’t) remember, change has been something scary.
The transition from elementary school to middle school was scary, because it meant we would have to change classrooms every hour, and it meant that half of my elementary school friends would be going to a different school. I would have to meet new people, new teachers, and adjust to a new schedule.
I ended up making a lot of friends in middle school who I stuck with in high school, and a couple who I still keep in touch with in college. Middle school started me in a community that I would stick with all the way through senior year of high school: orchestra. Concerts and trips and early morning sectionals were all crucial to my middle and high school experience.
College, however, was the worst. It was full of change and the unknown. After high school graduation, it seemed all of my friends were going to different universities. Questions like what if I don’t like my roommate? What if no one in my classes like me? Isn’t this when you’re supposed to meet the person you marry? Is this the right major? were the only things I could think about the summer of 2013.
Three and a half years later, this December, I will be graduating from James Madison College – a prestigious, political science college – at Michigan State University – a world-renowned university. I will graduate with a double major in Social Relations and Policy, and Chinese.
I ended up meeting a group of friends who have supported me more than words could ever say. I realized that college isn’t for meeting your one true love – it’s for meeting new people with similar interests and finding out interests of your own. I’ve managed to find a close group of friends who have helped me through transitions, from seasonal breaks to broken hearts. Most of us have found each other by chance, but I’ve never been one to believe in coincidences.
I changed majors twice, and still managed to complete a double major. The belief that you have to choose what you want to do for the rest of your life when you’re eighteen years old is completely ridiculous. College is a time to change and grow in your interests and passions. It’s okay to switch from pre-med to the liberal arts or from English to Mechanical Engineering. Your interests and passions are valid, no matter how often you change them.
Most importantly, my self-development in college was huge, and filled with changes I couldn’t even begin to imagine going in as a freshman: my beliefs and values; my outlook on life; and most importantly, the way I handle transition and change. I’ve learned that change is necessary in growth, and I am thankful every day that I am not stuck being my angsty, stubborn, high school self.
Just because I’ve learned to accept the necessity of change does not mean that it makes me any less anxious than before because honestly, change is still terrifying. It means something is leaving you behind, but a lot of the time, it’s something that needs to be left behind: a person, a toxic situation, or an experience. Time only moves forward, and we cannot be stuck in the past. Taking a step forward can be hard, but if we root ourselves in fear, we cannot learn to grow and experience life.