What I Learned In College (Outside Of The Books) | Alyssa J Freitas: What I Learned In College (Outside Of The Books)

April 27, 2017

What I Learned In College (Outside Of The Books)

“It’ll fly by,” they all said. “Graduation will be here before you know it,” they warned. Whether or not you heeded these statements as you were eagerly beginning the new phase of your education, there is no way to stop the clock. As this is the last month of my college career, I have been reflecting on the lessons I've learned and the unexpected experiences that have been major parts of my personal development. Today, I am going to share with you some of my major takeaways from 4 years at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) and reminisce because this blog is a place where so much has been recorded.
Check out or pin the top lessons I learned each year of college. Look out for these learning experiences to maximize your college experience
Photo credit: Ally Marcino

Freshman Year: Do something you've never done before


I absolutely adore being on the water. Preferably in a boat, engaged in some sort of competition. When I started my freshman year I decided to join the crew team at my mother's encouragement (see Lady, I'm giving credit where credit is due!). It was hands down one of my best decisions to start off my college life because it gave me a smaller community within TCNJ and taught me how to work with all different people. I was a coxswain, which is the person who steers and yells commands and motivates the rowers during races, and I coxed for the men's team. Coming from an all girls high school, it was certainly a change to be around guys all of the time, but it is also one of the highlights of college.

Aside from learning how to work with others and the new skills required to strategically navigate, I also developed my endurance. Being a coxswain is not physically comfortable, especially in a bow loader where you have to lie down and with each stroke you get slammed around. On top of that, we practiced at 4am and I would often be lying in a puddle of freezing cold water, soaked all the way through to my underwear (hence the bright yellow rain coat haha). From this experience I learned that discipline is one of the strongest character traits you can have and that being part of a team that relies on you gives incredible power to the influence of accountability.

If you want to read more about freshman year, I did a more detailed reflection post, and another post about what to know for your first month. Also, my friend Casey in the picture above just got an Instagram account and needs followers.  

Sophomore Year: Don't be afraid to change all of your plans


I came into college thinking I would go to law school. I have a Law, Politics, and Philosophy minor and majored in Management so I could take a ton of business classes for my dream of being an in-house attorney. However, in my sophomore year something happened that changed the course: I became a CA (Community Advisor, known as an RA on other campuses) so I stopped doing crew to instead stay up for late duty nights and to work on programs and take care of my floor. As sad as it was to end crew, a girl's got to make money and I needed this job to continue to live on campus. Since I no longer had crew to dedicate my time to, I decided to pick up another activity and joined a business fraternity called Pi Sigma Epsilon (PSE) that is focused on sales. This change completely altered the course of my life.

I started doing sales competitions (and doing really well at them), met a whole new group of motivated, intelligent people, and met Dr. Pelham (in the photo below), who is my sales professor for the sales minor I added, and my mentor. I discovered my passion for identifying problems, developing solutions, and helping others understand how they can improve their businesses, and decided to move my focus from law to sales.

Although it was scary to alter the vision I had for my life since my freshman year of high school, I discovered that by trying new things and being open to other possibilities I could find something even better than I had imagined.

Junior Year: Get comfortable in your own company

For some people hanging out alone is a dream. For others, it can be disconcerting to be in the quiet with your own thoughts. During my junior year I had some shifts in relationships as people began to move off campus and I had a treasured friendship end. This, combined with helping dear friends weather tough relationship challenges opened my eyes to the fact that the only relationship you will be in forever is the one with yourself.

For me, finding a project I am dedicated to and passionate about is the best way to make use of alone time and to develop myself more and more into a person I want to hang out with. In my junior year I channeled my energy to training for a major national sales competition and my hard work paid off (I won!) with what I consider to be one of my greatest achievements. This experience was a major boost of confidence after I had been knocked around by others and reaffirmed that you can always develop yourself to become better.

I also had one of the most magical days of my life when I went by myself to a Darling Magazine event. If you follow me on Instagram you've doubtless seen my use of the hashtag #thatsdarling. It is from Darling Magazine which is a major source of inspiration and affirmation for me. If you haven't heard of them, make sure you go and take a look. What was great about this event was not only everything I go on and on about in this post, but the fact that I went by myself. None of my friends were available to go with me and I was hesitant, but at the encouragement of my mentor at my internship I went for it and am beyond grateful I did. Having a positive and uplifting experience despite going alone taught me that I can always find ways to connect with others and learn. Plus, I met another girl who went by herself and I found more confidence by seeing that it isn't embarrassing to be on your own at all!

Senior Year: Hard work will be recognized

Since my freshman year I had a dream: to be on the homepage of TCNJ's website. Not because I wanted to be campus-famous (ok, maybe a little...), but because I wanted to do something worthy of being recognized. I wanted to achieve something that made my school proud. When I first started at TCNJ I had no idea what that would be, but the way it worked out could not have been more "me". The summer between junior and senior year I interned in sales with IBM (I have an entire series on the internship you can check out. I also did a collab with my friend Austen about how to go from an intern to full-time) and I decided to blog about it not just here, but also on LinkedIn. I got a great response and was able to connect with professionals both in and out of the organization, leading me to different projects and learning from people I wouldn't have otherwise. My school wrote an article about my blogging work and put me on the homepage. Believe it or not, it brought tears to my eyes because this was something I had dreamed of for years.

This lesson goes for anything you are trying to achieve. While it may seem like great accomplishments come easily to others, that is nearly never the case. We view the glamorous side of success and rarely get to see the challenges behind it. When you set your mind to something and take the steps everyday to move closer towards your goal, I promise you that you will progress as you should (you can look at this post I did on how to make your dreams a reality).

Although this a very "Alyssa's experience" centered post, I am sure that you are able to draw parallels to your own life. As the cliche goes, college is the time when you will grow and transform in ways that you couldn't imagine.

For those of you who are graduating, I am so proud of you! I hope that you take this last month to soak up all that is left. If you are somewhere else in your college career, I hope that these insights will help you to see how you are changing and what else you can work on.

Seniors out there: how are you feeling about graduation? Are you as simultaneously anxious and excited as I am? 

-AJF    
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