Lessons learned in higher education

Jacob Jardel
Assistant Managing Editor
@JJardel_Writing

You learn a lot in college.

By the time you leave Cameron University, you will have a pool of knowledge you probably never knew existed while you were still taking English IV or Algebra II in high school. However, not all of what you learn happens within the confines of a classroom.

The information you get in lectures will help you in career endeavors and “Jeopardy” if you so incline. That information is some of the most vital and valuable you will get while here.

But if you leave Cameron with just book knowledge, you miss out on a lot of what you could learn. Instructors, staff, faculty and peers have so much to teach outside of biology lab or speech class.

That’s where your real learning – your life learning – happens.

I have been at Cameron for almost six years now. In that time, I learned more than I ever thought I would in the classroom. More importantly, though, I got some valuable pieces of life advice I would not have obtained without that extra conversation with someone.

Hope you’re sitting down, kids. I’mma learn you a thing.

The first piece of guidance to come to mind I received was from Dr. Chris Keller, Chair of the Communication Department. He was my instructor for Intro to Journalism and saved six of my friends and me from a hurricane as we were traveling home from a conference.

But one of the best things he taught me did not come from a textbook, a research conference or the confines of a crowded Ford Flex.

I remember not the context or the time, but in a talk about bringing friendships from high school into college with you, he said something to the tune of, “You make your lifelong friends in college.”

I failed to realize it at the time, but this statement is more than just a general comment. It’s a way of saying that the experiences you have, the things you do and the people you bond with during your time getting a degree last with you longer than most high school memories.

It took me a few years to realize the truth in this statement, but I now realize its validity.

In fact, it was in the toughest times where I learned how true that statement was. It harkens to another piece of wisdom from Dr. Joanni Sailor, the head of the Marriage and Family track for those obtaining a Master’s in Behavioral Sciences.

During numerous skill set classes, she would talk about trying to help couples and families bridge the gaps between them. It would inevitably lead to this saying: “You bond in your weaknesses, not in your strengths.”

It took me a while to truly fathom what that statement meant, but tons of introspection shed light on it. Think about it – good friends help you when times are good, but the best friends are the ones that carry you when times are bad.

Trust me when I say that I’ve been through some bad in my life.

In those bad times, I knew I could always turn to Dr. Mary Dzindolet, Chair of the Psychology Department. If I had an existential crisis about love, life or grad school, she would be there for me. She was – and still is – my faculty mom.

During one particularly unusual breakup, she gave me a piece of wisdom only a mentor or parental figure could give: “You deserve somebody as healthy as you are.”

Without giving away too much context, the breakup involved a situation where we both needed to tend to our mental health situations, albeit to different extents. In essence, we both needed to work on ourselves before we tried being with anyone – and she knew that.

Two years ago, I would not have taken to that sentence or that breakup very well. One person who has noticed that is my counselor. She has seen me grow in ways I never thought possible. But she also gave me one piece of advice I constantly remind myself about: “You cannot control how other people react to you.”

One of the issues I had the most trouble dealing with has been my anxiety, a lot of which is people-based and relates to my need to be a people-pleasing perfectionist. But those words from my counselor helped me think about the concept of interaction with people and, ultimately, control over my emotions in lieu of trying to control others’ emotions.

I learned to not let other people get in the way of me being me.

Along those lines, there is one other piece of unconventional advice thatScreen Shot 2015-03-13 at 12.47.41 PM sticks with me. I was having a conversation with Student Activities Specialist Megan Canfield en route to an event. We talked about music preferences and things of the sort when she told me, “Life’s too short to pretend to hate Top 40 music.”

Now, it seems like a silly life quip, but it is an important concept to keep with you if you think about it. Pretending not to like or feel something takes up entirely too much time and leads to stress and incongruence.

Really, you can reframe this advice to say, “Life’s too short for cognitive dissonance.”

All in all, I think these pieces of wisdom all revolve around one theme, and it’s my personal advice to you: Be yourself, no matter what. You are unprecedented and unique, so surround yourself with people who foster that idiosyncrasy.

It sounds trite and is easier said than done, but it’s the truest thing I will ever say. Be yourself, and don’t forget to be awesome.

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