Originally published February 2018
When I was 16 I started my first college classes, through a dual enrollment program called Running Start. It was my first time ever being in a classroom setting… unless you count Driver’s Ed which I started a couple weeks earlier. I was homeschooled my whole life up to that point, which I absolutely loved! But never having been in a classroom before meant I didn’t know if I would do amazing or if I would get terrible grades and fail.
My first week at community college, I decided to quit. I had so much homework! So many assignments. Dozens and dozens of pages to read in the next couple of days. I couldn’t do this. The workload was too much. I wasn’t cut out for college. I would just quit school, find a job, and work instead.
Those were really my thoughts. Finally I decided to wait it out at least until the deadline for dropping classes without any consequences, and then I could quit. But I had better at least try.
And the next week, it got better.
I realized that all the reading I had done over the weekend was actually for the next several weeks, not the next day. That was quite a relief… and I got used to the workload, which was not quite as demanding as I had originally thought. I enjoyed my classes and I did really well. Thankfully I found college to be very enjoyable and I loved learning, taking notes, writing papers, and especially quizzes and exams. (I’ve always loved quizzes, exams, or any sort of test… I know, I’m weird!)
The next two years were non. stop. school. Okay I’m exaggerating a bit, because there are breaks in between each quarter. But I had to take classes during summer quarter in between my first and second year, so I didn’t get a long summer break. But I really enjoyed it! Attending community college, especially at 16, was an amazing opportunity. I loved learning, I loved essays and exams and projects. It was amazing to graduate with an Associate’s degree at just 17 (I was just a few months shy of 18).
I learned a lot while I was at college. I learned how to write a good essay. I learned how to do proper research. But more than the academic side, I also learned life lessons.
1. I learned to step outside of my comfort zone.
I used to be incredibly shy. The first week of my second quarter, I had to drop a class that I knew wasn’t going to work out for me. As classes had already started, there weren’t many options left to replace it. The one that I chose was a public speaking class. I don’t know why. If I had thought about it more I would never have taken public speaking. But at the time, I needed something to replace the class I’d dropped, and this is the one that worked with my schedule and sounded interesting.
It was a wonderful experience! I learned how to research and write a speech, to speak better, and to be more comfortable in front of an audience. At the end of the quarter, my class voted me as the most improved student! I’m not taking all credit for that, as my professor was amazing and my class was very supportive of each other. But that never would’ve happened if I had stayed with what was comfortable. If I had decided not to take that class because I was too shy to do public speaking.
I’m still so glad that I took that class! I learned a lot and I was also able to speak about topics that mean a lot to me, which leads into my next point:
2. I learned to stand up for what I believe in.
The city I’m from is very liberal, and the community college I attended even more so. One year they didn’t put a Christmas tree up at Christmastime because someone had told the student council that some people might get offended if there was a Christmas tree… I’m not going to say anymore on that, but I do want to say that it’s a difficult environment at times if you don’t hold to the liberal beliefs and ideologies that many, many of the professors, staff members, and students do.
In my English Honors class, when I stood up to give my presentation to my small class of 13 about my essay topic… I knew that not one person in that room agreed with me. I knew they all took a different stance than mine on the controversial topic that I chose to write about. But I also knew that I had to do the right thing, and stand up for the truth. And not just that I had to- I wanted to. I was pleasantly surprised that instead of the adverse reaction that I had anticipated, my classmates were polite and more or less objective in the ensuing discussion.
Another time, standing up for my beliefs didn’t go so well. In one class, in a graded group project, I found myself in a situation where I had to go along with something that I believed was wrong. I thought about it for several days and battled over what to do and finally came to a conclusion. I decided to just sit out of that project, and take a zero instead. However, that didn’t work. Our professor made us all come to an agreement, people got upset and offended, and when we finally gave our presentation to the class, everyone laughed at us.
Did I enjoy that? Certainly not! But I had to do the right thing. Did I learn from it and grow from it? Yes. And to be honest… if anyone is rude to me or calls me a name now, I don’t even care. I just say, ‘hey, I’ve been called worse’.
These are just a few of the times that I had to stand up for what was right when I didn’t know if anyone else would stand with me. It can be so difficult. Not just because you’re alone, but because sometimes people get offended, or hurt. But I learned that I have to do what’s right, and do it lovingly.
3. I learned to politely disagree.
I used to be pretty gullible and naive. I was eager to believe everyone was genuine and believe what everyone said. But at college, there are all kinds of people, coming from different backgrounds, opinions, and beliefs. Being around so many classmates, professors, and strangers, many different from me, helped me learn to stand for what’s right and to stand for what I believe regardless of what others say. But I learned to do it in a respectful way, too. With so many opinions around me I learned to search for the truth in God’s word.
I really enjoyed college! So many of my classes and professors were amazing, but some of my favorites were American history (1900-1980), cultural anthropology, Spanish, and geology.