What I Have Learned, Three Weeks into College

By Arianna Carr

“My name is Arianna, I am from Houston, Texas, majoring in Biomedical Engineering and I am a first year at Duke University.” I probably said this introduction more than 100 times to other nervous, energetic first year students during orientation week.

This trite greeting had absolutely nothing to do with actually getting to know the person listening to those facts.

We were all just trying to reach some type of personal common ground, the type of common ground that says, “Hey, I am anxious and excited about being at this school. I don’t know how I got in. I am away from home, and I don’t really know what I want to major in or do with my life either, so we’re on the same page!”

You could see the fear and anxiety on the parents faces too. It was clear from their smiles that they were proud of their child for getting into such a prestigious university. But their insecurities about their child’s readiness to handle living life as a grown up and their fear for them being treated by the world as such could not be masked.

For my parents and I, there was no secrecy in our collective fear and sadness of being so far away from each other.

there was no secrecy in our collective fear and sadness of being so far away from each other.

My mom and I watch, analyze, and commentate on TV shows almost every night as my dad charismatically observes us and checks up on his sports. This is our routine every night, and I would no longer have that.

Fortunately, this cold fact did not hit me over the head because of my tendency to overthink situations. I was able to prepare myself for the blow of not having my family, my core, and my comfort zone around.

But there were a number of things that I was not able to prepare for in advance: the overwhelming amount of work and tasks that I would have to do outside of my school work and the eal meaning of time management.

In the span of three weeks, Duke University has taught me too well the value of time and prioritization. Whether I have implemented that knowledge into my life…that can be answered by how many Grey’s Anatomy episodes I have managed to watch during my time at Duke. However, I know that I have grown so much as a person in three weeks, so hopefully I can take my Grey’s per day ratio down a notch.

Now, before I get into the lovely, rosy things about Duke University and college life, I’m going to tell you the number one most stressful thing about being a student in college: Opportunities.

Before attending this school, I never really thought about the actual steps to accomplishing my goal of becoming a Biomedical Engineer…or a grown up.

I thought that Duke University was that step. The only step. I quickly realized attending college is a main step, but it is only half the battle. Maybe even a quarter of the battle.

True, getting the good grades and studying to the best of your ability is essential, but when you learn about people doing research their freshman year and studying abroad after their first year, you soon find out that there is way more to the puzzle than just a few pieces. There are so many chances for college students to broaden their horizon and experience something new, and it is amazingly overwhelming.

Sometimes, I wake up to dozens of emails solely about opportunities and networking events. And as the eager person that I am, I have the urge to do it all.

Like right now, I just finished editing my resume for National Society of Black Engineers, I am working on this blog, I am about to attend a movie premier for females in STEM fields, and tonight I will have dance practice with a hip hop dance team called Street Med. Four things of my day that is absolutely unrelated to school, but four things of my day that involve my passions and the things that I love.

This is where “the lovely, rosy things” of college and the overly tempting opportunities converge. This school will force you to merge all of your goals, desires, and passions together. You will no longer be allowed to think about your life and your future in a singular manner. Instead, you will begin to recognize how you were not meant to just be the girl from Sugar Land, TX who’s only accomplishment was making it to Duke, or to just be a Biomedical Engineer, or to just be a Duke graduate.

I am already starting to see myself in a new way. Not the type of new lens that says the original me was not good enough, but the type of lens that says “you were fine just the way you were, now it is time to show the world who Arianna Carr really is.” I think we all need that type of lens in our life.

It’s imperative for all to find that lens.

That’s what I have learned about college in the last three weeks. Stay tuned for my next blog post about how to get into college. You may be surprised how college-ready you already are, without the 2400 SAT score!

Keep up with Arianna Carr on Twitter, @carri_ari.