Courtesy of Nelson Luu
Courtesy of Nelson Luu

My, how time flies. A part of me doesn’t believe it; but here I am, writing a reflection of my time spent in college. Has it really been four years since I first set foot in my dorm room? I’m in my fifth year and what people say about college being a transformative period for a young adult holds very true for me.

While there are times when I wish I can go back to my wide-eyed 18-year-old self, I’m glad that I’m preparing to leave UCR as a more sober, mature and capable adult. So what kind of wisdom, if any, can I impart for the underclassmen? What is the biggest takeaway that I have gained from the short amount of time I spent here on this campus? I’d like to say that it has something do with my academics, but the biggest thing I got from my time here is learning to be open to change.

Don’t get me wrong. UCR has provided me with the best education I could get, and I adore all of my professors, but one of the motivating factors for going to college was to escape my hometown bubble and open myself up to new experiences. As soon as I stepped into UCR, I began joining student organizations left and right to find out where I fit in. I made countless friends and expanded my social network with a diverse group of people from all walks of life.

At the end of it all, I eventually learned how to be comfortable enough in my own skin to come out of the closet to my friends and family. It’s something I never could have imagined doing my freshman year. While this breaches a whole other topic, coming out was possibly one of the most difficult challenges I have ever faced in life, but it has allowed me to redefine myself.

So my parting wisdom for those new to UCR is this: Reinvent yourself, grow and know that learning doesn’t just come from professors, but your peers as well.

See, the thing I noticed with a lot of underclassmen is that they’re afraid to step out of their comfort zones. They mingle with the same group of friends, do the same activities they did back in high school, and generally treat college like an extension of their teenage years. And while it’s a great coping mechanism to adjust to the collegiate life, you reach a point where you need to break free and grow.

College is the last period in your life where you can be surrounded with people of your own age, make a lot of mistakes and learn from them. As much as you pay for an education here, I feel like a lot of people forget that one must also learn outside of the classroom as well as in it. An education is futile if you come out essentially the same person as you came in.

Have your ideas challenged, be open to changing them if the ideas appeal to you and be free to share your thoughts with people. Seize every opportunity you can. Join that club you’ve always wanted, rush a fraternity or sorority, make art, dance, sing, create! What’s holding you back from doing what you want?

Since I became a Highlander, I have been a peer mentor for Asian Pacific Student Programs, been a part of the Asian American Christian Fellowship, joined a fraternity, helped found an art club on campus, started a fashion blog, interned, written for Life at UCR, and now, written and photographed for the Highlander. While I always started my adventures with a little trepidation, I always kept the mindset that in the end, I will learn something new and the excitement allowed me to jump wholeheartedly into these activities. All of these experiences have taught me bits and pieces of myself that I am so grateful to learn.

I leave with this quote from Les Miserables: “For a star to be born, there must be one thing that must happen: A gaseous nebula must collapse. So collapse. Crumble. This is not your destruction. This is your birth.”