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Five lessons I learned from my freshman year at Rockhurst

There's always something to learn in college.

Jansen Rouillard, Staff Writer

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With a new academic year upon us and as I enter my sophomore year at Rockhurst, I have begun to reflect on my time so far at Rockhurst: the lessons that I will take with me, the connections that I’ve made and the future that I’ve begun to build for myself. In this spirit, I want to share with you the five biggest lessons and experiences that I lived through the first year of college.

Lesson 1: The phenomenon of the “Freshman 15” is a very real thing.

Coming into college as a student-athlete, I thought that the “Freshman 15” that everyone jokes and warns about was an urban myth, a legend relegated to those who binge eat ice cream and pizza over weekend Netflix sessions. I’ve never been more wrong.

The “Freshman 15,” more like “Freshman 50” in my case, is unavoidable. You can exercise all you want, eat only salads for lunch and dinner, do whatever you may think will stop it, but you will gain weight. But it’s the sources that you would not expect the weight to come from that play the biggest role. It’s the stress, and beauty, of being able to delegate your own schedule. It’s eating the food that has been prepared for the masses rather than made by you in your home. It’s 2 a.m. sessions of guzzling Mountain Dew and Red Bull as you try to eke out that one more page that you need for your paper.

In the end, though, the weight doesn’t matter. The way I look at, it’s the sign that you are a survivor, a battle-tested warrior that came out with a belly-sized scar. It’s proof that you can take new surroundings, new responsibilities, new expectations and come out on the other side.

Besides, “dad bods” are in.

Lesson 2: The friends you made at the beginning of the year may not be the same friends you have at the end of the year.

When I look back at the pictures I have taken throughout the year, I have noticed how much the faces in them seemed to change. The friends I took pictures with the first week are people I hardly see anymore; the pictures of friends now are people I didn’t even know existed when the fall semester began.

It’s not that I don’t consider the people in the earlier pictures still friends, it’s simply a testament to how much changes based on how your life changes. I have learned to be friends with everyone, because no connection is a bad connection, even though some may be stronger than others. You never know when your strong connections will become weak, your weak become strong, or God forbid, you sever the connection altogether.

Lesson 3: Communicate.

Communication, in all its various forms, is one of the most vital skills and lessons that I learned to develop throughout my first year.

For one, effective communication can solve many, many problems. Too many times last year I allowed something said or done to affect me on a deep level, or something I said or did affect others on a deep level. Communication is vital because so many people have different ways of approaching situations; the way something is said or done may affect someone differently than someone else.

Effective communication done in the moment, saying, “This bothers me…” or “I wish you would…” nips problems like these in the bud. I have also struggled a lot with being fake, or not allowing myself to be true to others. A big portion of communication is about being open and honest with others, about sharing the truth about yourself, rather than the perceptions you want others to see.

Part of forming your legacy at Rockhurst is about being honest about yourself with others, because if others don’t know who the “true you” is, how can you know who the “true you” is?

Lesson 4: Get involved.

If I had a nickel for every time I heard the phrase “get involved,” I wouldn’t need to be in college because I would be a millionaire splitting time between my house in the Alps and my yacht in the Caribbean.

In all seriousness, I have learned that getting involved is so much more than building your resume. Yeah, the resume-building is nice, but the connections and the experiences matter more than a piece of paper. If you see the value in a connection or experience, don’t let anything hold you back. Apply for the position or thing that is so unreachable, because without reaching for stars, how can you get there?

Lesson 5: Be the best “you” you can be.

This year has been filled with more mistakes and more successes than I could ever enumerate on paper, but it’s more about the lessons learned from those mistakes and successes than the actual experiences.

This year has taught me that I am one person; I am capable of great things, but I can handle only so much. It’s okay to say no, it’s okay to cry, it’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay to be excited, it’s okay to be proud, it’s okay to tell yourself “good job.” It’s okay to be human.

I learned to be confident in the good and the bad, to own my mistakes the same way I would own my successes. I learned that people can like me for being me, not for an office, a position or a certain characteristic. And while it might sound cliche, I wouldn’t trade the lessons for the world.

This year has been a whirlwind of activities, positions, lessons, experiences and learning a new way of life. And to be honest, 99 percent of this year has been overwhelming for me. But in the end, I know I am exactly where I need to be at this point in my life.

And there’s nothing better than the feeling of being content.

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Five lessons I learned from my freshman year at Rockhurst