by Carolina VonKampen
At this time last year, I slumped in my chair across from my wonderful advisor, Dr. Haley, complaining that I just wasn’t feeling college—I wanted to be in the workforce already. I didn’t like my classes, I didn’t like living on campus and I desperately wanted to start my career.
I had just come off of a semester abroad in Europe with a flexible schedule and plenty of time to wander, followed by a summer of four (four!!!) internships in publishing. I was used to getting up early, working in the office for one of my internships, going to a coffee shop to work on the other three internships and hanging out with my boyfriend nearly every day. I felt productive and professional over the summer; I dressed up for work, I worked on projects that I genuinely enjoyed and I ultimately chose which internships and opportunities to accept.
And then I was thrown back into my final year at Concordia.
I was frustrated that I procrastinated until my senior year to take several gen. ed. classes in some of my least favorite subjects. (No offense, science classes and Lifetime Wellness.)
I was frustrated that the work for these classes took up time I could be spending on my more enjoyable classes, like Art History III.
I was frustrated that I was surrounded by college students instead of “professional adults.”
I was frustrated that I lived on campus and wasn’t allowed to drink the occasional glass of wine with my dinner even though I was 21.
I was frustrated that I had to endure several more months of a long-distance relationship with my fiance.
I was frustrated that my on-campus job paid about half the hourly rate of my paid internship.
I was even frustrated that it was my last full semester of living with my best friend and roommate before she went off to student teaching.
Here’s the thing: Being frustrated and upset about my last year of college was a sucky way to spend my last year of college. These frustrations were all things that I either chose or couldn’t change, and focusing on them instead of the positive aspects of my senior year made me unhappy. As much as I tried to be self-aware and tell myself to slow down and enjoy it, I couldn’t. I kept thinking about how cool it would be to have a job, be married and have time to read all the books I wanted.
I had an attitude problem. I wish I could go back and fix it, but I can’t. So I’m urging you—whether you’re a senior or an underclassman—to enjoy your college years. It seems boring or awful or unbearable right now, especially if you’re itching to get out into the real world, but I promise you that come the first semester that you’re not walking into a classroom, you’ll feel a little sad and nostalgic.
That’s not to say that life after graduation is bad or worse than college—in many, many ways, it’s much better. But that doesn’t mean that college life is something to put down or feel negative about. It’s hard not to look ahead and anticipate the next phase of your life, especially when you think you know what it’ll be like. But you’ve got to remember that this phase of your life is unique, and you’d be a fool to waste it wishing for the next thing.
College is a special moment in your life when you are almost in the real world but aren’t quite there yet. You get free entertainment and sometimes free food on campus. Your dorms come with furniture and are free of bugs. People smile at you for no reason walking across campus. But most importantly, you’re surrounded by a group of smart, caring people—students and faculty—who are eager to learn, try new things, have fun and have late-night discussions about the black-and-whiteness of good and evil in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
I miss these aspects of college, even though I love being out. I wish I had spent less time yearning for my career to start and spent more time enjoying hanging out with friends, making late-night trips to Walmart, talking to professors and yes, even studying. Please, learn from my mistake.
Of course, you want to prepare for your career while you’re in college—not preparing is a mistake on the other end of the spectrum. Through this career advice column, I’ll give you some tips on how to do this and share stories of my own strategies, successes and failures as a Concordia alumna who recently went through the process of starting her career. But as you prepare for your upcoming career, don’t forget to enjoy your college years.
Carolina VonKampen is a former managing editor of The Sower. She now works as an editor and writes about books and her career on her blog. If you’d like to ask her a question about career advice to be answered in this column, please contact her here or send her a message on Twitter.