By: Efrat Malachi | Opinions  | 

Lessons Learned at YU

Hopping off the plane fresh from shana aleph in Israel and transitioning into the big world of college and adulthood is scary and as you step foot into new, untested territory you are bound to come across some rocky plains. That is why I have made it my duty to share a few of the major lessons and tips I picked up during my first year on campus. My hope is that you are able to internalize these thoughts and messages that I’ve laid out and, in doing so, you minimize your chances to err,  giving you the opportunity to have a smoother experience at school.

Welcome to all the incoming and returning students! I will warn you, it will be a rollercoaster ride of a year — as is life — but in the end, it is worthwhile. Ladies and gentlemen, fasten your seatbelts and hold on tight as the ride of your life is about to begin.

In no particular order, here is a list of lessons I learned and want to share with you.

Firstly, it is better late than never, which, before this past year, has never rung so true. It doesn’t matter whether it’s coming late to a class, handing in an assignment past its due date or even being tardy to an exam/midterm/final, you must remember that you can only gain by going or handing in those assignments. Arriving late might feel like the most embarrassing moment of your life, but that moment is fleeting. The unpleasant moments that enter your life function as a substitute teacher that’s there to teach and then run off towards the closest exit. They don’t hang around.

Don’t settle for less just because you feel a bit nervous or embarrassed of what others might think of you by being late. If you do have those thoughts, just highlight them and use them to improve. Although you may be running late to class, it is still beneficial for you to go. It is better to be late and know you tried than never to show up at all, which might anyways result in worse consequences. Give yourself a chance. You deserve it.

My next piece of advice is that avoidance is never the solution. This means that avoiding and pushing off work until a later time not only decreases your chances of doing satisfactory work but also puts extra strain on your current workload. Unfortunately, there is no prophetic aid anymore — no one really knows what will demand time and effort and affect daily life. The only thing you can be certain of is the present moment, therefore it is better to do whatever work you can get done today than to wait for tomorrow. Additionally, unfinished long-term projects can create clouds that rain stress until the work is done. All in all, the faster you start then the faster you finish and whether you do it the moment it’s assigned or the moment it’s due, it still needs to get done, so you may as well use your time wisely. Be smart; don’t wait until the last minute to do your homework. You got this.

Thirdly, well-balanced social FOMO is better than you think. Having a fear of missing out can feel like the end of a potentially awesome social life you might have had. But it is important at times to realize that nothing is more important than focusing on your future success. If a social event or hang out with friends seem to trump most things in your life and fog your vision, then you need to redefine priorities. It is healthy to go out and have fun with friends, just remember that everything is best in moderation. It’s all about the balance.

It’s crucial to frequently check in to see that all areas of your life are fully balanced. One of the greatest things is to feel wanted and included in a social group. It’s exciting participating in events or campaigns, being a part of something bigger and having those good memories to look back upon. But if these fun times and friends are all that we are, then who are we?

You are not defined by how many people like you or dislike you. You are not more or less of a person if you do or don’t go to a party. No one and nothing can diminish your intrinsic value. You are a whole individual who has many parts and roles attached to you but still, those external things are not you. You are a part of a family, a part of a social circle, a part of an institution, but you are not limited to these associations because you are infinite at your core. Once you can feel complete with your infinite self, then you will become more comfortable with missing fun outings and working many long hours all alone in your room. Don’t forget what you’re fighting for. This is your future self, future career, and your future family that you’re investing in. Be steadfast in what you’re building towards and re-adjust your focus when you need to because college is a confusing time and things can occasionally get out of whack.

Don’t throw away the grand life that’s waiting ahead for a glamorous social life that you cannot take with you. Remember to take a step back once in a while and see the larger picture you’re painting.

Fourthly, I recommend you pray, pray, and pray some more. This is not just a comforting line or tip to say to someone when they are at a loss and can’t seem to find their way but a real-life skill. First, a person must have an honest conversation with himself to identify what his worries and weak points are and then he should address whatever is setting him off. Communication is the greatest tool one has in life, whether it be praying to God, seeing a counselor or talking to a friend or mentor. It’s not embarrassing or shameful at all; rather, it’s the opposite. It’s a sign of strength, maturity and responsibility. Taking the first step in asking for help shows a level of self-care, self-love and responsibility.

Nowadays we are truly blessed that at our disposal are countless resources to facilitate communication. Nothing is too big or too small to handle and no matter how scary and bleak the situation may seem, all the help and answers are there. Like with the struggles and fears that settle and build inside you, the strength to overcome and rebuild is inside you as well. Once you start establishing those helpful connections you will secure some peace of mind. So, whether it be a class you’re failing in, a relationship you’re unsure about, social challenges or even family drama, there is always someone on the other line. You just need to pick up the phone and make the call.

Finally, do what makes you happy. This is not to say you should go out and do whatever you want. Rather, I’m saying you should incorporate a recreational element into every day. It’s important to realize that you are not just a student but a person with complexities. It’s easy to get so bogged down by work that you end up skipping over this aspect of your day, but it’s crucial to recognize that you’re not a robot. Taking breaks in between long study sessions to do the things that make you happy makes you a more efficient, productive and satisfied student and person.

College is about balancing our multifaceted lives and maintaining them to a top-notch quality but sometimes we can forget why we put ourselves through it. You should keep your eyes on the future while remembering to care of yourself. While focusing on building a quality life for your future, remind yourself to consider the quality you have now and don’t be quick to compromise on either.

Dr. Benjy Epstein, a wise spiritual mentor of mine, once said, “self-care is not selfish.” This attitude will make your college journey more successful. Do what makes you feel at peace with yourself, whether it be sipping on a Dunkin Donuts coffee, taking a stroll in the park, watching a movie, playing cards, talking with a friend, meditating, working out, or even napping. The happier you are, the more focused, confident and driven you can become.

It is incredibly important to be aware of this inner self and know that you can always tap into it because it is the source of your efforts and motivation to pursue your dreams. Doing the things you like emits this positive energy which envelops you afterwards, and your smile will emerge simply because you are more in tune with yourself. That is what we all must be working towards: not just the quantity of the zeros on our paychecks but the quality of the one life we have to live. Let’s live it right.


Photo Caption: It is important to know that there are resources for getting help right at your fingertips.

Photo Credit: Google