college shoes

Once I return from Winter Break I will have one semester of college left. It’s hard to even keep on writing when I think about how every moment the second hand clicks to the right, I have one less moment as an undergrad.

In short, college has not been at all what I expected. My dad, who still spends a good amount of time recounting college memories, always referred to college as the “best four years of your life.” As a result, I have always kind of had this idealistic version of what college would be like. Although I do have to agree that I have had some truly incredible times in college, I have also had some pretty challenging ones as well.

The moment I really understood how challenging “the American college experience” could be on an individual was when I returned home from studying abroad. Thanks to social media, my non-American friends and I have been able to stay very much in touch despite the oceans that divide us. Since I have been back in the States, the majority of my overseas friends have all been in shock of what my “life back home” has looked like.

study abroad

One of them even said to me, “Sari, your entire four years is what we build up just our single exchange semester to be.” I believe what she meant to say was: How can you continue the “exchange” lifestyle of constant socializing and extracurricular activities while also being a full-time student? This is when I really took a step back and realized just how chaotic many American college students can make their lives.

And chaos is the word I want to really focus on for the remainder of this piece. Chaos, of course, can lead to stress and anxiety but even more so, chaos can lead us to be self-centered. When it feels like we have a million and one things on our daily to do lists it is difficult to not develop an “I-am-the-only-person-that-matters” mentality. And let me just make this next point clear: If anything, college is the time to have this mentality. But when I thought more about how I was going to approach this article, I decided that it is not about putting yourself second, but rather about finding the pockets of opportunity where you can also put someone else first.

I have put together a list of five easy ways you can put someone else on your same priority level this holiday season:

1. Send out-of-the-blue texts.

I think we can all agree that receiving a thoughtful, out-of-the-blue text is one of the greatest feelings in the world. All it takes is to let your friend, family or even acquaintance know when they cross your mind. Whether that be a “by the way thank you so much for being such a great friend this past week” or a “I just want you to know how important you are to me,” any nice sentiment you can send someone else’s way is typically easy enough for you and incredibly meaningful for someone else to receive.

… it is not about putting yourself second, but rather about finding the pockets of opportunity where you can also put someone else first.

2. Make sure to celebrate occasions worth celebrating.

Milestones are more than just spending too much money on an arbitrary birthday present. Milestones are a time to not only show a loved one how excited you are for them, but also to take an even larger step back and really make sure that person knows how much they mean to you.

That being said, I believe it is important to notice the big and small milestones worth celebrating. If your friend comes back from class one day super excited about doing well on an exam, go ahead and grab a pack of his or her favorite candy the next time you’re checking out at CVS. Little things like that really do make all the difference.

college coffee

3. Call your parents.

This is an important one and something that I am still working on myself. In the midst of all the activities and studying that are constantly distracting us in college, it can be easy to forget to call those important people who got you there in the first place. Even if you feel like you have negative time in a day, the next time you are running from class to class and maybe have five minutes to spare, call your mom, dad or whoever that special parental figure is, and just tell them that you love them and are thinking about them, regardless of how incredibly busy you are. I promise this will go farther than you think.

4. Do your best to be a good roommate.

This one can be tricky because there are always a number of factors that go into roommate dynamics, but roommates are a part of the college experience and can often get the short end of the stick when you are stressed out, feeling sick or running late.

I know when I am in a rush in the mornings, it can sometimes feel like I have to go out of my way to be quiet and not wake up my sleeping roommate. Yet, here is a great time to mindfully not be selfish. I once had a roommate who set her alarm on quiet and put it right next to her head so she wouldn’t wake me up when it went off. Little things like that will go a long way on your personal journey to becoming a more considerate and respectful human being.

5. Remember that the world does not revolve around you.

The next time you are ordering your morning coffee, while browsing emails on your phone or while talking to a friend in line, don’t forget to stop and thank the person at the register. These days it can feel like we need to do three things at once in order to be productive, but forcing ourselves to be extreme multi-taskers is no excuse to not practice daily kindness and gratitude.

The next time you are doing three things at once, do your best to incorporate a fourth; say “thank you.”

Are you in the middle of a hectic college season? How do you find time to focus on others through it?

Images via Monica Friese

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