Cheers to the unicorns
Published: Friday, June 22, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
About a year ago, I thought I was a unicorn.
No, I’m not a mystical horse with a horn on its head and fairy dust. I just had a less-than-stereotypical freshman year of college. Like the mythical creature, I was rare and unusual. But as a college student, I was more like a lame horse with the horn glued to its head; I didn’t really have a place at a big new school.
My first year away from high school was a little more rocky and strange than I expected.
I didn’t drink or smoke. I never got to party on weekends, weeknights, or anytime for that matter. I never spent my days hung over and exhausted from going out that Thursday and didn’t get to tell my friends how awesome South Campus was on the weekends. I can even count every college party I’ve attended on one hand.
What I did do, though, was work. A lot. I didn’t move hours away from home, but I thought that living on campus would make me feel like the college kid I always wanted to be.
I’ll admit that my house is less than 20 minutes away from campus, and I’ll even admit that I was still scared of living away from the comforts of a home I’d lived in my whole life. When I chose UB, I wanted to have the full college experience. I was living with someone I had never met, going to a school with over 28,000 kids, and starting over with all new people.
The only thing that I had in common with just about every friend I knew that commuted was that I was working 20-25 hours a week while still being a full-time student.
The local grocery store I worked at for almost three years was flexible with my school schedule. They understood that I was a student first, and that was my main priority. What they didn’t understand, though, was that being a college student is still a full-time job in itself.
I’m a college kid, and like every typical student, I don’t have much money to my name. Both my parents and I are not made of money, so I had no choice but to stay with my job. While the majority of kids spent their Saturdays at frat houses, clubs, or studying, I was working every weekend.
I would be lying if I said that I didn’t spend one too many nights falling asleep reading a textbook or sitting at my computer. It was honestly exhausting and hard for me to learn to balance all the work I was getting from my professors. I was jealous of those kids who didn’t have to work and the kids who seemed to be having an awesome time during their first year of college.
During my second semester of my freshman year at UB, I took on one of my most rewarding classes: The Spectrum. The Spectrum requires a lot of commitment, and I didn’t even plan on joining before my second semester. But when a good friend urged me to do it, I thought I’d give it a shot.
Sharing stories for students at UB is something that I found I loved doing. While the workload increased tremendously, I found that I didn’t mind spending just about every day with people that became some of my closest friends on campus. I realized that my story wasn’t rare or special – I just hadn’t found where I was supposed to be at this gigantic crazy school.
I found something that I love doing and people who I can say I love spending time with. Yes, it’s sometimes hard to balance the workload, but I found along the way that if you find something that you enjoy, it gives you an extra boost of energy. Besides, what college student doesn’t find it hard to balance everything going on in their lives at some point?
Juggling everything my first year taught me a lot. I’ve grown up more than I ever thought I would after I left high school behind, and I think that my work ethic has grown tremendously. It was really hard trying to balance it all at first, but at the end I found I could have a happy medium in my life.
My advice to those of you contemplating getting a part-time job while here at UB: money may be nice, but remember that you’re a student first. For those of you who plan on working throughout school, you probably will feel how I did about those who don’t work and look at them with at least a little pang of jealousy.
For you freshmen who are the rare unicorns like I was or those of you who may be in a different situation, the best advice I can give you is to find something you love to do on campus. Just putting yourself out there to try new things is what makes college some of the best years of your life.
Take time out each day to do a little work, even if it feels like you don’t have five seconds to breathe. Find a nice spot on campus where it’s quiet and peaceful to focus and do some work. Take some me time and maybe listen to music. If you are working, try and get more like 10 or 15 hours a week at work. Working isn’t the end of the world, but you need to find your own personal balance to really make it all work.
I may still have a little bit of the unicorn show up at times, but I’ve come to find that I’m okay with that. College is an amazing experience when you realize that you really can leave the person you were in high school behind and come into your own. It just might take you a little while.
So here’s to you finding your way, little unicorns.