By Vuthy Pisey and Ouk Suntharoth,
What do you hate, miss and cherish the most about college life? We believe that for those who have experienced it, college life is filled with bittersweet memories. When we were students, we complained a lot about how crazy the school workload was. We hated it the most when the lecturer gave a surprise exam or assignment, which we had no idea about. And importantly, we remember how happy we were whenever class was cancelled and we could sneak out and gossip with our friends.
Now that we have successfully graduated (Thanks to google, if you know what I mean!) and entered the workforce for quite a while, we realize how much we miss and cherish those beautiful years. But we also came to regret some decisions we made in college, both on what we wish we had done and what we didn’t. Here are our four biggest regrets and things we wish we would have and wouldn’t have done as a college student:
- Taking things for granted
Like any fresh college student, I (Pisey) was young, energetic and proud to start college. I knew I had plenty of time, opportunities and resources to spend. If I wasted one day or even a year, I still had the next day and another year to spend on. And so, I took everything for granted— time, health, resources and especially friendships. I just did what I was told to do or what I liked. I thought I could make friends anytime I wanted, or make even better friends in the future, so sometimes my ego and pride came first before friendship.
Looking back now, I really wish to go back to use everything I had wisely and treat college life seriously. With all the resources, energy and time, if I had treated college as the years of experimenting and exploring to challenge and develop my capacity and to build the road to a specific dream, I would have found ways to achieve success in my work today faster and more effectively.
- Focusing too much on dead knowledge and achievement
To me, grades came first before everything else, and documents such as books, research papers, newspapers and magazines were my main sources of knowledge. I thought that by studying hard in school, learning school materials and listening to lectures to become an outstanding student, I would have a good future and an achievement to prove to the world. Never did I expect that the knowledge learnt in class and in those documents could be out of date and unrealistic when applied to the real world. Earning those grades, GPA and awards may not be able to beat the hands-on experience and knowledge gained from working and interacting with people.
I don’t mean to say that focusing on academics is a bad thing. Do so if you can, but make sure to open your eyes and seek for ideas and opportunities to broaden your practical knowledge. Build your potential networks by learning outside the classroom such as joining volunteer activities, workshops, seminars, group discussions, or simply hanging out with friends/family and traveling, etc. So, by the time you finish school, you will have both academic and professional credits.
- Following the flock
When I was a college student, I was afraid to be an outsider and stranger. I went along with my friends’ lifestyle and interests. If they liked to watch movies, I would go with them to the cinema even though I hated it. I loved to read philosophy books, but my friends didn’t like it and found it strange because they could not understand what I was talking about, so I stopped reading those books.
Just to belong to a particular group, I chose to walk on the path that they walked, and I was afraid to make my own decisions and create my own way. I didn’t know that those behaviors in college would have a powerful effect on me even when I started working. As a result of conforming to social pressure, I still have a hard time taking charge, being brave to make my voice heard and walking alone in my own way which is different from the rest. I’ve realized that if you don’t choose to follow your own way, you will have to follow others, and you will be missing out on a lot of beautiful things and experiences. You will lose yourself when all you do is compromise with the group.
- Ignoring the outside world
For me (Suntharoth), my most regretful decision during college was slacking off on finding volunteer works and part-time jobs. At the time, I thought working while studying was the worst choice anyone could ever make because it would not only affect your body but it could also drag down your GPA. During the four years of college, I volunteered less than five times and I have never had any part time jobs, while some of my classmates had participated as volunteers at various events and obtained several part time jobs. As a result, some of them could find a job the moment we graduated. Meanwhile, because of the lack of working experience, my journey in finding a stable job was not smooth at all.
So if you are still in college right now and have the same perception as me, end that perception, go find a part time job or apply for a volunteer position! It is not too late yet! As someone who has graduated and experienced many rejections from employers, I advise you to prioritize not only GPA but also the outside world, particularly working experience, because at the end of the day school teaches you theories and the real world allows you to practice those theories. Like a random quote on the internet says, “Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.”
We can’t turn back time to resolve these regrets, but we can hope they can be learning points for you to avoid. We hope you will not use the phrase “I wish I could have…” because it shows that something was not done and will never be. Your life during college is supposed to be fun, interactive, and adventurous meaning that score, GPA, or awards are not the only important things for you. If you are reading this and you fall into one or more of the four regrets above, go make some friends, apply for part-time jobs, stop trying to fit in a certain group and take care of your well-being because once you have graduated you will come to the realization that school is not the only element to your success unless you obtain other elements such as friendship, health, experience and so on which are something that are not taught in textbooks.
Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.