(Not everything had to do with school…)
1) How to make friends
My friend-making experiences pre-college were few and far between (maybe . . . four?), and a significant percentage of them (I’d say 50%) turned out to be the kind of dismal failures you warn your children about years later.
Living on a college campus, however, was a major change from the hermit-farmer existence I’d previously enjoyed, and there were people everywhere. All the time. In class with me, at my cafeteria table stealing my books, in my room, pounding on the walls next door, out in the hallway holding cookies and staring at me, talking to me while we walked down the sidewalk, screaming happily across the lounge at me: it was interesting and completely overwhelming and I would have had to be a HUGE jerk to not somehow make a single friend in that crowd of people.
I wasn’t exactly the essence of warm and inviting, but I did my best to remember names, to listen, to offer polite conversation, and to return friendliness with friendliness and respect the keep-your-distance vibe from people when it came up. And eventually, I realized that I had people to eat with, talk with, and walk with. People I actually liked. People I still know today.
It’s kind of cool.
2) That writing is an elusive magic for many people
It’s a little shocking to realize how many students get out of high school without a clear idea of how words should go together on the page. Forget proper citation or traditional essay format or even basic punctuation rules: I’m talking about putting sentences together in a pleasant way or at least a way that makes sense.
Why is this? I don’t know, but there you have it.
3) That homeschooling was an excellent college-prep course
I went to my first classes shaking in my shoes, certain that I was going to be behind, that I wasn’t going to be as smart as anyone, that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the instructor, that I should have applied myself more at home and I was going to disgrace my poor hardworking parents and–
Yeah. Not true. Like, any of it. Most classes, even the ones professors were most excited about and involved in, boiled down to, “See this book? Go read this book. You will be tested on it.”
This was my mother’s approach once I got up into the higher grades. She’d choose and purchase what she believed to be the best curriculum, and then I’d work through it, the responsibility for completing the assignments on my head because it was my education. So, while I watched some of classmates struggle with the concept that they had to make themselves study and attend lectures, because no one else would, I was already practiced at living with this mentality.
I’m not saying that homeschooling is the only way to prep for college: far from it. I knew many other students whose public or private high schools were more difficult than most of their college classes. But it was a relief to know that homeschooling had done precisely what my parents set out to do, and that my fears had come to naught.
4) Boys are people too
If friend-experience was limited before college, contact with the opposite gender was even more limited. My response to young men, for several months, was the eye-rolling terror you see in a cow when a dog shows up inside the fence. But once the novelty wore off, I stopped seeing them as an alien species (mostly), and now count several as very good friends with one in particular, who I saw for the first time a couple months into my first semester, being of special importance.
Live and learn, I guess.
5) Writing is important to me
Part of me was afraid that college would consume me, and that all the stories I used to spend time writing would lie forgotten and alone in a dusty bottom drawer.
But instead of being stamped out, my passion for writing was affirmed, honed, and disciplined. I took what I learned and applied it to my favorite secret projects, at two o’clock in the morning on the bathroom floor where I wouldn’t wake my roommates with the light and where I couldn’t be disturbed by last-minute paper-writers looking for a talented proofreader.
We make time for what we truly love, and I discovered that my love for writing went far deeper than I thought, as I fought for that time to write: walking between classes, sometimes (*cough) IN class, early in the morning, between exams during finals week, late at night, and in the cafeteria when I should have been paying attention to my tablemates.
With my younger sister finishing her own college years, and another sister just finished with her very first semester, I’m reminded of my own experiences, and how so many of them had to do with learning things I never expected, but don’t regret.
Yay for graduation, vacation, and a break between semesters for online tutors. =]