“Make sure to appreciate every moment…”

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Last week I graduated from the University of Maryland with a Bachelor of Science in general biology and a minor in French!  Sitting in the stadium in my awkward graduation regalia, surrounded by friends and family, I couldn’t help but think about how unbelievable it was that, after four busy years, it was all over.

I first found out about the University of Maryland through my cousin.  She majored in accounting there so when the time came for me to look at colleges, UMD was on the list.  After a few visits I fell in love, which led to an application, an acceptance, and eventually an enrollment.

After my cousin graduated she settled in Washington D.C. for a few years.  One day during my freshman year she called me saying she was getting her nails done later that day and that the two of us should get lunch, so I happily agreed.

When she picked me up from my dorm, she told me how nostalgic it was for her driving through campus, seeing the same streets, buildings, and even the same dorm since my dorm was where she lived her first year.  As we drove through campus she told me “Make sure to appreciate every moment, because it’s going to fly by and be over before you know it.”  Being a typical freshman, I agreed without thinking too much of it.  I still had all of the time in the world.

Three and a half years later and I can’t begin to say how true her words were.  It feels like it was yesterday that I said that first emotional goodbye to my parents in the Cumberland Hall lobby, excited to officially be a college student.

The years were full of ups and downs.  There was a lot of anxiety when I realized that I wouldn’t get perfect grades effortlessly like I did in high school. There were feelings of doubt when I (very quickly) realized I wanted to change my major from biochemistry to general biology. There were periods of sadness, anger, isolation, feelings of helplessness and inadequacy.  There were days (more than I care to admit) where I wondered if I really made the right decision, choosing UMD.

But there were also classes that taught me things that I could never have dreamed of, and there were professors that changed my life! There were three incredible weeks in Montpellier, France the summer after my sophomore year, and an absolutely perfect final semester in Nice.  I discovered how passionate I truly was for all (well, most) things biology, and that maybe, just maybe, I kind of have an idea of what I want to do with my life!

There were friends that made waking up every day incredible.  There were nights snuggled in blankets watching The Princess Diaries, and days exchanging massages when our backs hurt from being hunched over our desks for hours.  There were mutual addictions to Starbucks and Studio Ghibli movies, and nights where we were undoubtedly the most obnoxious people in the library.  There were nights swimming in the big fountain and releasing our anger through racquetball at the gym.  There were road trips to concerts and 2 AM talks and a mutual hatred for dining hall food.  There were 1 AM snack runs and Pokémon midnight releases and group panics about what the future held.

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Three of my best friends. From left to right: Isaac, Emily, me, Andrea

There was a family that supported every choice and decision I made, and let me follow all of my dreams.

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My wonderful parents
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From left to right: Will (my brother-in-law), me, Chris (my brother)

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I think part of me will always wonder what would have happened if I chose a different school, or if I had been more involved on campus, or if I had let any of the bad times really get to me and define me.

Maybe I didn’t appreciate each and every moment during these four years.  Maybe there were weeks where I went through the motions without really savoring the details.  But the people I’ve met and the memories I’ve made will always outshine any doubts I’ll have, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world.

Do I have some doubts about any of the choices I’ve made?  Sure.

Do I regret some things?  Absolutely.

But would I change anything?  Never.

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