renata making an annoyed face in front of morgan hall at dickinson college

Why College Was Perfect for Me

College was quite an interesting time for me. 

As someone who had lived in the same town (even house) for my entire life, it was the first time I was away for an extended period of time. I’ve always been close with my family and very attached to my friends, so going away to college was really challenging. I was in an entirely new place where I knew no one, which can be daunting for an extrovert with social anxiety. I felt utterly alone. I cried every time I returned to campus after visiting home, even through my senior year. It never really felt like home.

At the same time, I always say that college was the time that I felt most myself. Since it was the first time I truly got out of my comfort zone and moved away from everything I knew, I really came into my own in college. I learned what my personality was actually like away from all of the influences I had in my young life.

It was intense and challenging and enlightening and awesome.

Now that I’ve embraced who I am as a career generalist, I realize that one of the reasons college felt so right to me was because it was my generalist origin story. As cliché as it is, college was the best time of my life in a lot of ways. It was practically made for me…here’s why!

A generalist is born

Okay, so technically I’ve always been a generalist, but in college, I was really able to be my generalist self. I had two majors and one minor, and I took classes in several other departments as well. While my degree is in Neuroscience, French, and Mathematics, I also took classes in Spanish, Modern Dance, English, Portuguese, Religion, and Sociology. When I wasn’t in class, I was working at one of my on-campus jobs, either working as a cashier, Zumba instructor, package pickup worker, or orientation staff member. I loved how varied my experiences could be in college!

Every day was different

I cannot tell you how soul-crushing I find routine. Okay, to be fair, I find routines both extremely helpful and also impossibly soul-crushing. So that’s fun…

In college, having 4-5 classes and 2-4 jobs every semester, each day was different than the one before. My days started and ended at different times with different classes and jobs in the middle. It was awesome!

Everything was within walking distance

Whether I was going to class, work, therapy, the gym, or somewhere a couple blocks off campus, everything was within walking distance. This was perfect for someone like me who hates driving! Not only that, but depression can cause me to struggle to go places — this is much easier when they are just a 5 minute walk away!

Oh, and friends, too!

My extrovert heart has always wanted me to have a big house where all of my friends could live together and I could see them whenever I wanted. I regularly dream about having a sitcom friend group that hangs out all the time and has a signature place where we always meet. Everyone just one text away from chilling with me while we’re both on our phones with the TV on in the background. Sigh…yep, that’s the dream…

In college, none of my friends were very far away. Some were right down the hall. Some I saw in class or at one of my on-campus jobs. Some I bumped into while just hanging out in the library. The rest were just a text and a 5 minute walk away. It was an extrovert’s paradise. I never ever had to be alone with my thoughts!

College felt safe

I have anxiety. While it was far less severe before my early twenties, it still affected much of my young life and affects me today. One thing I loved about college was that there was a built-in security blanket, which enabled me to do many things I might’ve otherwise been too scared to do. I was able to study abroad twice even though I was absolutely terrified because I knew that going abroad through the college would mean that I was going with a fellow group of students and would be staying with someone that the college had vetted.

College just felt safer! I tried out for the hip hop dance group, an a capella group, our improv troupe, and applied for several jobs, none of which I got. I was comfortable enough to go out on a limb in college. I even wrote and delivered a speech at our baccalaureate ceremony. I came into my own and spread my damn wings, and it was GLORIOUS.

…and I almost didn’t leave

As you can tell, my college experience was amazing. One of my favorite parts of my college experience was working in orientation. I joined the orientation team as a freshman because I was determined to help other incoming students who were struggling to acclimate with college. Throughout my time at Dickinson, I poured my heart and soul into orientation, eventually becoming the co-student director of orientation. Helping college students was a mission I was really passionate about. When I left college, I was fully intent on working in Student Affairs someday, and even applied and interviewed at graduate school to get my degree in Student Affairs. While I decided not to pursue my degree, I still consider my time in orientation to be the most rewarding time of my college career.

I’m really grateful for my college experience and how awesome it was, but just because college was amazing doesn’t mean the awesomeness has to end! Now that I’m a career generalist, I feel like I’m living that college life again. Now, I just need that huge house where all of my friends can live with me…and convince my friends to live there…

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