I didn't know how easy college was until I left

My education career spans a few different colleges including Liberty University and, my alma mater, the University of Massachusetts. In that time, one thing I learned is that college kids don't know how easy they have it (I include 18-year-old me in that mix).

When I was hungry, I'd inhale a protein bar or slog down to the dining facility and grab a burger. If I was tired, I put off work and sleep for a few hours, regardless of what time it was. If I didn't want to work, I skipped class and goofed off.

Yes, I had deadlines to meet, but the consequences of failing weren't catastrophic, and I always had a safety net.

Back then, finding a good balance between work and leisure wasn't that difficult.

Today, I have bills up to my eyeballs, a 16-year-old Jeep to keep on the road and a million responsibilities that pull me in 1,000 different directions.

All of the stress, and lack of balance (at least for the time being) makes me kinda wish I was a freshman all over again. Of all the things about college that I miss, most of all I miss ... 

1. Dorm life

I was never a hard-core party-er, but I certainly appreciated the social aspect of living in a dorm, with people my age. Making friends was as easy as knocking on the next door and saying hi, and the sense of community was strong, especially freshman year. Perhaps best of all (during finals week in particular), there was usually a strong sense of together-ness. The closest feeling I've experienced to that sense of unity since college, has been staying in hostels.

2. The dining hall

What's better than a dining hall? Seriously. Yes, it was expensive, but it's not like I ever saw the bill (I paid for school by joining the military), and the food was tremendous! UMass was just ranked best in campus food by Princeton Review. 

3. Structure

If you asked me on my first day of class what my schedule would be on the last day of class, I could tell you. Today, I work a job that's pretty unpredictable. Most of the time, I have no idea what the next day will hold. Perhaps because of that, I miss the structure college-life provided, which allowed me time to pursue hobbies and other interests besides responsibilities.

4. Freedom for creativity

I was an English major, which allowed plenty of space for creativity and self-exploration. Because of that environment, where creativity was encourage and failure was allowed, throughout my entire college experience I was constantly pushed to try and re-invent the wheel. Since college, that creative space has been taken over by deadlines and pressure to succeed. Failure isn't really an option anymore, and I miss that.

5. Intellectual engagement

Thankfully, I work in a career (journalism) that challenges me intellectually, and with co-workers who critically think for a living. Even so, I miss intentionally study of subjects which, if I weren't required to learn, wouldn't give a second thought. For instance, I didn't realize that I enjoyed English so much until I took my first English class. I probably wouldn't have changed majors if I wasn't required to take that class.

Those are just five reasons why I miss college; of course, there are many more. I miss being so young and ignorant. Back then, I was brash, unafraid and thought I was invincible. Back then, I didn't know who I was, what I enjoyed or where I was going; I was ignorant about a lot of evils in the world. 

Over time, I've lost my innocence, and I miss it -- most of all, I miss that ignorance.


Published by Andrew Castillo


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