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Instead of going straight to a 4-year university after high school, I enrolled in the closest community college to where I lived. At the time, I didn’t realize how thankful I would be for the 3 years I was going to spend at San Diego Mesa College.

In high school I wasn’t super popular or incredibly smart, but I had a small group of friends I was close to and I was pretty okay with that. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that my social life grew and that every day would become unpredictable.

Then August 2011 rolled around, and my social life became dead once again. It was my first semester of college and I had less friends than I could count on both hands that were still living in San Diego. On top of that I was taking classes at a new school, working a demeaning job I couldn’t stand, and taking the city bus. It was a lonely time to say the least. Once I got through the rough patch of my first semester, I found new meaning in my life in many ways.


I Found Out I Actually Liked to Learn

I was a good student in high school (besides that God awful computer science class I took senior year), but I never really felt like I enjoyed my classes. There were some classes in college I didn’t care for either such as Physical Science or Philosophy, but there were some classes I loved and looked forward to such as Art History and News Writing with Professor Cox. The classes were small and the majority of my teachers were enthusiastic about what they were teaching. I’ll never forget when Cox showed us a mugshot of a pervert he wrote an investigative journalism piece on earlier in his career. It was amazing to see a small room of people, that looked like they would never be seen together in public, laughing over the disturbingly funny image that is still ingrained in my head.


I was Able to Avoid the Many Mistakes of the Average Freshman

Many freshmen make horrible decisions when they get to college. It’s probably due to being away from home for the first time mixed with the fun and excitement of the partying life style. At the time I felt like I was missing out (especially when my old friends would drunk-dial me on the weekends), but looking back I’m thankful I dodged a couple common bullets.

I can proudly say I’ve never been reported for excessive drinking, I was never the victim or the suspect on an infamous SDSU crime alert, and I never had to awkwardly walk into the school clinic to ask for an STD test. Since my job at State was located in the health center, I saw way too many cases of the latter.

However, I did gain the freshman 15. Unfortunately, since I was still in the first year of my relationship and I like to eat, that was probably going to be inevitable.


The Atmosphere was Comforting

I went to a high school where everyone had the nicest clothes and shoes because most of the kids’ parents were loaded with money. I remember spending all of my birthday gift money on UGGs and overpriced yoga pants from Bloomingdales only because I thought I had to keep up. At Mesa, I was almost embarrassed to wear real UGGs. You were judged more on your personality and practicality than superficial possessions.

We also had a cafeteria that would make the best French toast breakfasts and affordable lunches that were actually delicious. I remember they even had a diet option of brown rice, veggies and egg whites that I would douse in Sriracha. There were also these coffee carts that I nicknamed “hybrid-Starbucks”. All of the coffee products were from Starbucks (even though it was a limited version of the chain’s menu) and all of the pastries were made by the culinary students on campus. It was kind of quirky, but I grew to love it.


I Earned My Associate of Arts Degree in Journalism

Not only did I spend long sleepless nights studying for my classes at Mesa, but I also received a degree when I graduated from there. I didn’t need to get an AA in order to transfer to San Diego State University (which I did in the fall of 2014), but I did it because I only had 2 more classes to take in order to receive it.

One of those classes I had to take was signing up to be a part of our school newspaper, the Mesa Press. I served as a staff writer and the Ad Manager during my spring semester in 2014. This was completely out of my comfort zone, but I decided to stick with it for the entire 16 weeks. I learned how to write news articles, opinion articles and features. I also learned how to interview powerful educators and administrators along with learning about organizing print ads. Even though at times my tasks were daunting and that degree didn’t make a huge difference in my career (newsflash: not many employers are looking for candidates with an associate degree in journalism), I’m so glad I had that experience.


I Realized How Much of a Scam (Financially) the 4-Year College System Is

I know this is a controversial statement, but you have to understand that everything at San Diego State University costs money. I even had to pay for summer parking when I worked on campus. If you weren’t a basketball player or a business student at SDSU, you basically didn’t exist. Another thing I couldn’t believe is that I had to pay a “graduation fee”. Yes, that is a fee of over $50 you pay before you petition to graduate. I’ll never understand that because shouldn’t my tuition cover that? What do they think I went to that school for - to watch a bunch of spoiled hungover freshmen stumble into my classes for fun? No, I went solely to get my bachelor’s degree and to GRADUATE. I digress.


Was Mesa glamorous? No, not really. Did it have nationally recognized sports teams and fancy buildings with the names of random donors plastered all over them? Not so much.

What it did have was character and authentic, hardworking people. Mesa fostered some of my most genuine friendships inside that weird little cafeteria. Going to community college taught me how to work and go to school at the same time, take responsibility for my own actions and improve my personal relationships. I’ll always value what I learned at SDSU, but Mesa will be near and dear to my heart forever and ever.


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What's something you've been thankful for as an adult? Comment below!

Published by Haley Daniels