Wednesday, April 8, 2015

10 Things I Wish I Knew Sooner as an Iowa State Student

Like I posted earlier this week on the Root's Facebook page (which you should go "Like" right now if you haven't) I just can't believe we're talking about finals already! The spring semester just started! In only a few short weeks, it will be time to say "see ya later"  to so many dear friends who are graduating and starting their big kid jobs. That being said, I think it gives me the right to post a sappy-student-advice-and-reflection post! (And include random fun photos from my college career thus far).

Here are 10 things I wish I'd known sooner (or advice I wish I had actually listened to earlier) in my career so far at Iowa State.

1. Be comfortable in your own skin... errr clothers... to a degree: There is always someone prettier than you. It took me 3 full years to completely come to terms with this, BUT if it's hot, wear shorts. Even if your legs are white. You'll be more comfortable and be more productive. There's certainly a line here, and I'm not saying if you're tired wear your PJs. However, there's always going to be some one more fit, with nicer shoes, and more pairs of blingy jeans. Get over it. Be you. You're awesome.

2. You don't need a car as a freshman: I may be biased, but I met some of my best friends because I didn't have a car when I lived in the dorms. Here's five good reasons you don't need a car as a freshman: 

a. Not having a car forces you to carpool. Need to go to Wal-Mart? Someone else on your floor probably could use a trip too (or at least a study break). I still regularly carpool to the store with a friend from freshman year, and it's actually a good time. You'd be surprised how much fun sleep deprived 20 somethings can have at 1am in Wal-Mart on a weeknight. Try it.

b. It keeps you in Ames and forces you to try new things. Sure there are exceptional cases, and people who need to go home every weekend, but when you go home, you miss out. Stay in town. Meet people. Branch out. Try new things here. There's a lot to do.

c. Ames has an awesome bus system. You can read more about my love for Cyride in this blog post, but seriously, learn to take public transportation. It's part of growing up. It's a life skill.

d. It's green. The less you drive, and the more you take the bus, walk, or bike the more you help the environment. It's the little things that count.

Maybe this is turning into a rant of its own, but one more point...

e. Fight the "Freshman 15". Iowa State's campus is compact enough you can walk/bike/jog/long board/scooter/etc. across campus in 15 minutes or less. Stay fit while you get where you're going.

3. Go to office hours: You'll get more of your money's worth. Maximize those darn tuition dollars. Plus, you'll find out quickly, your profs are people too. They like to know you care about their class and pay attention enough to ask intelligent questions. Plus, you never know what kind of cool projects they may introduce you to.

4. Learn how you learn: Do you need to read something to understand it? Hear it? Touch it? Study at night? Get up early? I have to write it and talk about it. Learning hands on works for me. Learn how you learn sooner rather than later, it'll make your life easier.

5. Learn the art of illegally parking on campus: This is one of those bits of advice that your mother (and mine) would frown upon. When you finally get a car, after following #2, learn how to park on campus and avoid parking tickets. They add up! We all have those days you missed your last bus, have a lot to carry, or need to go out of town immediately after an on campus activity. I can't really give you any tips here, and I'm certainly not going to reveal my secret spots, but I'm just saying it can be done most of the time. ;) Avoid the little white pick up trucks, and if you notice a chalk line on your tire, you better move. They're timing your stay and will give you a ticket the next lap around.

6. Look beyond stereotypes: Welcome to campus. There's blue hair, skinny jeans to bell bottoms, western boots to heels and pajama pants in class. You're going to work with people that have a different skin color, religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation, and any other label our society likes to put on people, than you. Embrace it. It's the real world. I may be tagged as a country, white, nerd, that wears boring jeans, t-shirts and a messy bun everyday. Some of my best friends are city-slickers, design majors, atheists, Asian, and look hip all the time. That's one of the beautiful things about a University. Don't judge a book by it's cover.

I'm embarrassed to say, I learned this advice the hard way. I distinctly remember doing my first load of laundry in the Towers and watching an "Asian, city-boy" with big hipster glasses and Sperrys take 10 minutes to fold a shirt, neatly creasing each fold, and thinking "Ha! OCD!! Probably not gonna talk to that guy." A semester later, this kid was friends with all my friends and he quickly became one of mine. Now, we have plans to hang out this weekend and always have a good time laughing about our countless memories. We spent the last real VEISHEA together. He took me to my first Imagine Dragons concert. Because of him, I experienced "real BBQ". When I didn't have internet at my house, he let me crash on his couch so I could keep up with homework. He showed me all over Kansas City, the great shopping, and joked about my boring taste in fashion. I took him to the Iowa State Fair, and explained halters on the livestock and why not all cows are milked. It makes me sick to think I almost missed out on all this just because of some dumb stereotypes.

7. Be independent: My mom would probably be the first to tell you I've got this down (to an extreme). I was pretty quick to learn "I do it!" as a little girl. But really, don't be afraid to try something new, even if you have to do it on your own. I walked into the AgEI office alone to claim my free t-shirt (a blog post for another day), and it was life changing. When I started this blog, it wasn't because all my friends were doing it. Do your own thing and be proud of it.

8. Use help rooms: There are these great rooms they don't show you on college visits called help rooms. They are all over campus in almost every subject. Inside, grad students wait to answer your homework questions and explain things a little more simply than your professor. Suck up your pride, walk in and get help. You're paying for it anyway and you'll be better off than sitting in your dorm room crying over your homework.

9. SMILE!: Be a happy face walking around campus. You never know when you'll be the person walking out of a lecture hall after just failing a test and a friendly smile will pull you back from the brink of tears. Plus, you're happier if you're encouraging people rather than grumbling about the crummy weather, upcoming test, or a boring lecture. (I'm still working at this bit.)

10. Make a plan: This advice probably sounds a lot like what your mom has been telling you since college visits Junior year of high school. Pick a major, try it out. If it's not for you, fine. Move on, and explore things that do trip your trigger. Four years is enough time to figure out who you are and what you like, but not enough to fail Econ 101 six times or ignore your degree requirements and hope they give you a diploma by the time you're tired of studying. Be responsible with your time here. Different people's plans look different, and if exploring is your plan, go for it! But don't wander aimlessly through the experience. Set, modify and achieve goals.

And this just wouldn't be as much fun if I only did 10 things, so BONUS...

11. Don't buy your textbooks: Wow! Yeah, this is another one of those bits that will get Mom's attention... and advice I wish I would have followed my first semester. Don't buy your books until the first day of classes. If you haven't noticed, textbooks are crazy expensive! A lot of them you never, or rarely use anyway. You're better off finding this out from friends who have taken the class or testing it out the first week. If you do end up needing the book, go to one of the zillions of used textbook sites, like Amazon, or the swap page on social media. You can't read the words of the page, so there's nothing important about having a brand spankin new book, and used books are tons cheaper. 

Before buying though, double check the library. Many times teachers put a copy or two on "reserve". This means you can go check it out for 2 hours if you stay in the building. I like this because when I know I only have a couple hours to get my reading done, I'm less distracted by social media. To me, this is the best option because it's free, saves your back from lugging around an extra 800 pages, and encourages time management. See Mom, not all that bad! ;)

Thanks for reading!

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