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Parting advice for surviving college

Samaria Johnson

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I’m the lone senior in a room full of freshman in my introductory psychology course. It’s a course I chose solely for its ability to help me finish my Honors College electives requirement but has proven to be fairly enjoyable. It feels like coming full circle, sitting in that stuffy classroom with newly-minted college students, except this time I have seven prior semesters behind me.

I’m mildly jealous of these freshmen’s distinct lack of cynicism toward the University administration, and I admire their willingness to give their fellow students the benefit of the doubt.

Guys, there are a lot people who will tell you about surviving in college. On the eve of my graduation, here’s a parting gift from me to you, who may or may not know any better just yet:

Find your people. There are friends and there are your people. Friends can be found anywhere, but your people are the ones who will know you, understand you, support you. I’m a queer black woman, and I found love with other queer black folks, almost by accident, and it was the best thing the University could’ve ever done for me during my college career. This University has taught me the valuable lesson that people wanting you doesn’t mean they value you [hello there, University administration] and will ruthlessly take advantage of you for their own gain. I semi-jokingly call myself the University Box-Checker. If I let it happen, the administration, students and professors will use me as their token for all things surface-level progressive. When I’m too tired to pen yet another fiery opinion column or spend ten minutes of class time correcting the subtly anti-black comments of a racist classmate, I have my people who won’t question where I’m coming from or tell me that I need to be nicer. This campus is not always a welcoming place, but my people are there, in ways not just anybody can be for me.

Be honest with yourself. If something in your life isn’t working for you, no matter what you do or how hard you try to roll with the punches, the least you can do is admit it. Sometimes the dues are paid and the drop period is long past. Do what you need to do to put your affairs in order, grin and bear it for however long you need to, and then start over with something that works a lot better for you. Figure out why something gets under your skin and confront it head-on. Whatever you do, don’t let yourself get trapped with something that steals your energy and your joy.

Remember to take care of yourself. Sometimes that’s a hard course of action to take: You have two tests, a project and three meetings that you absolutely cannot miss or put off, and no amount of time management will give you enough time to eat a proper meal and get a good night’s rest. Sometimes that’s just something you have to plow through for a week or a month before you can catch a break, but you need to give yourself a break before long. Don’t feel ashamed of going to the Counseling Center; let yourself spend the weekend in bed reading a book for fun. It’s glamorous to do it all, but it’s toxic to do it all non-stop. Your health – mental, physical, and emotional – is sacred and should be treated as such.

And so, my darling underclassmen, I wish you the best. Time flies, you only get four years, etcetera, etcetera. You can do it. Stay golden .

Samaria Johnson is a senior majoring in history graduating in December. This is her 
final column.

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Parting advice for surviving college