By: Contributor On: June 3, 2011 In: Campus Correspondents, Graduation, Student Life Comments: 0

Today’s post is by campus correspondent Juliana Zipay, a recent graduate of the University of Pittsburgh. Find out how you can become a campus correspondent, too!

College. Was it what I expected? I think that I can easily and unequivocally say yes. And no. And maybe.

High School Expectations

When I was in high school, and my brother and older friends went off to college, I always imagined them leaving behind the world that they once knew to become these completely different, older, more mature, and, well, responsible people.

The ideas that I had of college when I was in high school and what I know of it now that I have graduated (as of May 1, 2011) are completely different in many aspects, but also sort of the same.

As a 22-year-old college graduate with a BA in my back pocket and beginning my MS in the fall, the thought that pops into my head the most nowadays is, “Is this real life?” College was the fastest, and best, four years of my life.

College: A Time to Change

Within the first semester of my undergrad career, while living on the 18th floor of a building composed entirely of freshmen (Tower A is the best in case there are any Pitt students out there reading this), I made some of the best friends a girl (or boy) could ever ask for and I could already tell that I had changed drastically since high school.

I came into college thinking that it was a time to recreate myself—and I did just that. Being the only person from my graduating class in high school to go to the University of Pittsburgh, I was literally a blank canvas waiting to be filled.

As many people do, I used my undergraduate years to turn myself into the person I wanted to be upon being thrust into the “real world.”

In high school, I was studious (which I maintained throughout my college years), quiet and introverted. But I used being put into a new environment with completely new people to open myself up, speak my mind and develop into an outgoing and well-versed young adult. Not only did I use my classes to expand my knowledge of a certain field, but also to strengthen and finesse my writing and public speaking skills.

Study Abroad: Expanding Horizons

Then in junior year, I studied abroad. If there is one thing I expected from college, it was NOT that. I had always told myself that I wanted to study abroad, but my double major plans, at one point, would have made it impossible to do so and still graduate in four years.

Recognizing my desire to travel over having a dual-degree, I dropped a major (which I only recommend after a lot of thinking) and set sail in the fall of 2009 on Semester at Sea—which took me to 11 countries, on four continents, in four months, by ship, literally circumnavigating the globe.

To this day, I am still perplexed when people ask me, “Did you like it?” SAS drastically changed me as a person, and for the better. I was forced to absorb a vast number of cultures in a short amount of time. I have seen the likes of the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, Sagrada Familia, and Table Mountain. I have swum in the Indian Ocean. I have lived on a ship surrounded by nothing but sea.

Coming back with a hugely different view of society, the United States and the globe, I went forth into my last three semesters of undergrad by adding a minor (for fun), tackling an internship my senior year while working part-time and having a full course-load, and becoming a regular citizen again, which was the most difficult process, by far.
Then, just like that, I graduated from college.

Reflections of a Recent Graduate

So, based on high school expectations: I am indeed older, completely different and more mature and responsible.

But, based on expectations while I was in college? I have graduated with a BA, a double minor and a certificate; I have traveled the globe; I have become the person I wish to be; I have met the greatest people I will ever have the pleasure of knowing; and I have both the book smarts and street smarts (especially living in Pittsburgh) to get me through young adulthood.

With recently moving into my first big-girl apartment, getting a job and starting grad school in the fall, it is clear that one phase of my life has ended, and another has begun.

And, although I am often nostalgic for my college years (yes, even just three weeks after graduating), I know that experiences like what I had only set me up for the great life that I have ahead of me.

About Juliana Zipay: Julia is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a BA in Communication and minors in Theatre Arts and Film Studies, as well as a certificate in Children’s Literature. Her interests include, but are definitely not limited to, social networking, coffee, traveling, learning, and sleeping (whenever she can).

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