5 Things I Learned This Semester

1. Say “yes” more often

This semester was, by far, my toughest academically. Towards the beginning of the year, I found myself getting too caught up with the piles of homework I had constantly waiting at home. That’s right: I was actually too concerned with homework. Several weeks went by, then another, and I realized that I was using homework as an excuse not to get out and do things.

Halfway through the semester, my Teaching Fellows cohort went on a Beach Retreat. I was legitimately stressed about this in general because we were told not to bring homework. What?! No homework?! While that might sound like heaven for some, I was freaking out internally.

Over the course of the weekend, these fears began to dissipate. I spent time sitting on the beach, talking with friends, and reflecting on this semester. As I reflected, I realized that I had been missing out on so many things that I had enjoyed freshman year because I was using a busy schedule as my excuse. I decided right then and there that the last half of my semester would be different – and it was.

Two days later, my friend Amanda texted me and asked if there was any way I could drive her home to Asheville, NC the next week so she could vote in her county. Normally, there is no way that I would say yes to something last minute like that! However, this was the sign I needed to bounce back from my boring first half. I said yes, emailed the professor whose class I’d be missing and asked to submit a paper early, got a cover for work, and started packing. The next night, we headed to Asheville. In 12 hours, we managed to fit in an incredible dinner, dessert, and sunrise on the parkway.

Days like this are the ones that won’t be forgotten. Don’t forget to break the rules and say yes sometimes.

 

2. Take time for the things that bring you joy

To continue alongside my previous thought, say yes in particular to things that bring you joy! Sometimes, this means saying no to others and saying yes to yourself. Yes, I deserve to have a night to myself tonight. Yes, I want to go on a hike today! Yes, I deserve that cookie! Yes, I want to read a book for fun tonight! Yes, I have time to go workout!

Sometimes, we get so caught up in the things that we “have” to do: meetings, class, homework, more meetings, that we forget to take some time for ourselves! Whether this means spending time on hobbies you enjoy, reading a book, or just relaxing, we all need to things that we like!

I notice that when I neglect myself, my relationships and academic life suffer. If I’m doing things that make me happy, then I’m happier!

So, treat yoself, grab that cookie, and take that bubble bath and then get back to your seemingly endless to do list.

 

3. When you’re in the right major you’ll know

Last year, because I brought in AP credits, I actually was not enrolled in a single English course! I thought that I was in the right major…but how would I know without a single college English course under my belt?!

This original uncertainty ended up being a good thing. I got to explore different fields, gain interesting perspectives, and by the time sophomore year came around, I knew that English was the field for me. While I enjoyed some of my core courses, English and Sociology classes just feel right. Exploration is a super important part of the college process! If you don’t have anything to compare your “major” courses too, how will you know you’re in the right place?!

This year, I am happily enrolled in all English, Sociology, and Education courses. I feel so lucky to take amazing classes alongside many people that I now call my best friends. In Teaching Literature, we focused on asking big philosophy questions: what is literature? why should we teach it? how should we teach it? Through TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), I spent my days volunteering at an Immigrant and Refugee Outreach Center in Greensboro and learning how to manage a multilingual classroom. Class became less of a chore and something I looked forward too.

Ultimately, I have learned how valuable a liberal arts education is. University is much less about getting a degree and much more about the education process. Living on campus at a University like Elon allows me to have educational experiences both in and out of the classroom each and every day.

 

4. Career choice is a lifelong process

Even if you know that you’re in the right major, it is perfectly okay to not know exactly what your life will look like in 5 years or 20 years. In fact, it is probably impossible for you to know. Instead, I try to focus on each experience I have and reflect on the things I learned and how I could use them in the future.

When I came to Elon, I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to be a Teaching Fellow. What if I changed my mind and didn’t want to teach anymore?! While I know now that English and education are “right” for me, I am still not sure exactly where I’ll end up.

Last semester, after taking a course called Sociology of Education, I added a Sociology minor to my 4-year plan. I do not know exactly how this fits in yet, but I absolutely love combining my fields of interest. Talking about things like the achievement gap, socioeconomic disparities, and tracking students is what I love. Additionally, after taking TESOL, I have developed an interest in working with speakers of other languages. Next year, I will be starting a research project and studying how ELL students are treated and regarded by my local school district. I am hoping to somehow combine all of my loves and experiences into a career path one day.

I have accepted that the only thing that I can do right now is fully immerse myself into each opportunity that I have. By doing this, I know that I will end up exactly where I am meant to be.

 

5. It goes by fast

I knew going into this (now past) semester that time was going to fly by. And like clockwork, it has now come to an end. It seems unreal that I am already packing up and preparing to go abroad to Oxford, England. Soon, my college undergraduate career will be halfway done.

Even though leaving Elon was bittersweet, I am trying to focus on living in the moment and loving each semester for what it has to offer. Yes, things will be different next time I’m back, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing!

Oxford, I’m ready for you!

 

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Courtney

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