10 Things I Learned in College

School

It’s that time of the year again where in a large part of the world, it’s Back to School season. Students of all ages make up much of our world so it’s only natural we feel and see all around us, the buzz of a new school year. I was asked recently about how I was feeling about Noah entering school next year.

Belgian children mostly start full-day pre-school at age 2.5. They mostly play and eat and make friends, but school begins early here in my American opinion. As to how I’m feeling about it? I’ll feel more about it when the time is closer, but today I’d like to address a question I received as to…things I took away from my college experience that help me now?

I had three college experiences because I attended three different colleges over the course of 10+ years.

I started my college experience as a freshman at NYU in 1993. I’d graduated high school with honors and as class president, and with scholarships and financial aid my parents ended up paying just a small fraction of what the tuition was at the time. I was pretty hot shit by Korean parents’ standards. I was in a heap of shit by the end of my first NYU semester, and eventually left the school a year after that.

My next college experience was not until 2000, and until then I’d worked full-time. After leaving NYU I’d moved out on my own and supported myself. In 2000 I’d been working at Citigroup for some years, and I enrolled in the tuition assistance program at the bank. Citigroup paid for a few semesters for me at LaGuardia Community College in Queens, in the evenings and weekends. The school was a part of the City University of New York system. I graduated with a nearly perfect GPA, easily, and received my Associate’s Degree in Social Sciences. I went on Big Brother and eventually returned to banking.

My career on Wall Street progressed more years and in 2008 I was one of two Learning & Development Managers at a major global investment bank. It was ironic that I was involved in professional development of some of the brightest financial minds, yet I’d never returned to school for my undergraduate degree. Most of my banking life had revolved around my simply working hard and networking, and it had never mattered how I lacked more diplomas.

Then came the crash of 2009 and subsequent third college experience while unemployed in the cold maze of economic chaos. I chose another school in the CUNY system this time. Hunter College, and transferred my credits from LaGuardia. I graduated three semesters later magna cum laude with a Bachelors in English.

I wonder if I I would have studied further for a Master of Fine Arts, and I wonder especially when I receive correspondences about it.

For now…

10 Things I Learned in College

1. College is NOTHING like high school. No matter how much of child you may still be treated like at home, when you’re enrolled in college then the college treats you like an adult. So act like one.

2. Deal with stress and don’t ignore it. I got pregnant my freshman year at NYU, and it didn’t end happily. I didn’t handle the stress in a healthy way, and it affected my academic record so poorly I dropped out. Shit happens in college, and while you’re in college. Figure out a way to deal with shit that works for you, for the good.

3. Everyone is nervous or anxious, just like you. We know nobody’s perfect, but we don’t know right away what makes all of us imperfect. College means new faces and fitting in for everyone so don’t pressure yourself too hard. Not fitting in is sometimes more than okay.

4. Set your own bars, and know there’s nothing wrong with adjusting them I mean this as no disrespect to the City University of New York system, but I chose a community college in 2000 because I thought it would be easy. At the time, I was succeeding professionally in banking, but I was still insecure about the fact that I had no undergraduate degree to go with my corporate title. Instead of just putting the time into a four-year degree, which is what I should have done, I chose the quick route.

5. If you want it bad enough, then you’ll give up nights out and weekends for it. When my parents had served up university on my plate I’d rejected it only to serve myself my degree, out of my own pocket. It was one of the best things I ever did for myself.

6. If it’s your decision, then don’t make anyone else make it for you. By college, you should get used to making your own decisions because after college nobody really has to take responsibility for you.

7. If you can, then do it. If you have the time and the means and the skill, then do most everything that comes your way in addition to gaining credits towards graduation. It’s how you learn and gain experience, and that’s better than any education you’ll get in a classroom.

8. College can be rewarding. I didn’t feel “rewarded” in my first two college experiences, but I did in my last one.

9. You’ll probably never use most of what you learned in textbooks. This has nothing to do with how good a school is, or how bad your memory is, but you simply will never make a global impact because of any text you read. You may be inspired, but It’s the whole experience and bigger picture that matter most.

10. Remember there are those who’d die to be in your place so don’t force yourself go to college if it’s not for you. 

Always dishing,

Jun

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