The advice i’d give my college freshman self

Lara graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelor’s in Pharmacy. After a few years working in community pharmacy, she hit the brakes and switched paths. Using her online Farmacy and the FoodieFarmacist blog – Lara hopes to inspire you to find optimal health and balance through natural and integrative. Always up for a challenge, she’s now finishing up a Master’s of Science in Nutrition. Follow Lara’s journey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

I’m about to wrap up my (first?) Master’s, and this phase of academia has a very different feel. I’m a decade older, therefore I’ve learned a lot about the world we live in, as well as myself. Now is the time for a reflection of what I have learned through these 10 years of experience.
I find myself sometimes wondering: What if I could travel back in time and give myself advice, what would it be?
So if I ever invent a time machine, I’ll share with you the advice I give undergrad me.
Eat better, sleep more, and don’t skip the gym.
As an athlete and former dancer, I’ve always been a relatively health conscious person. But I have to admit that maybe in my younger days, I had one too many dinners at Wendy’s, or Chinese takeout. Oh, and the all-nighters I would pull! All the energy drinks, late night coffees and sleep deprivation that came with them–I could definitely have done without.
I’ve learned to really cherish sleep and I’ve understood how much the lack of it affects my performance (and causes under eye circles!). At first, it seemed like no big deal to get through a day of classes, work and then partying on 3 or 4 hours of sleep. But at what cost? How present was I? How much sugar and caffeine was I consuming, and at what consequence to my health and weight?
Lest we forget–how many times did I skip the gym? “Too busy” and “too stressed” are terrible excuses. This study, this study and this NY Times article all reveal proof of the positive effects of working out on the mind and body, which include more focus, more energy and better retention.
Network more.
College offers a unique opportunity in time to really meet people and network in an authentic and practical way. Take advantage of it, join organizations you believe in, clubs, and intramural sports. When people are united by a common passion towards a common goal, there’s a unique bond that forms there. This is where the best and most genuine connections are made. It’s harder to find this opportunity in the “adult” world, so take advantage now.
Surround yourself with people who are fun, but also challenge you and help you grow – within 10 years, the parties die down, friends settle down and get wrapped up in family and careers- but those you still to turn to will be those few you connect and grow with.
This is the best time to explore and nurture your hobbies
Make the most of activities you have access to and make a list of anything you don’t, but would like to try. I wish I’d started so many things when I was younger or practiced while I had the opportunity as a student. College life grants you unique access and time to various activities and groups. Try new hobbies and discover or build on a talent. Those talents you cultivate now will be what will be the inspiration in your future you will need to find grounding, a distraction or a way to unwind.
Be flexible, learn outside the box.
Life does not come with guarantees, so learn to be flexible. This will be your most marketable skill. However, this doesn’t mean to forego your boundaries and lose track of your goals, so be careful of people/employers/relationships that try to exploit that quality.
Instead, learn skills even if they may seem unrelated to your field of study. I’ve come to realize the opportunities and learning experiences I missed out on during my undergrad years. Things like living abroad for a semester or two, taking more classes outside your major and going outside of your comfort zone are just a few examples of how to keep yourself challenged while you continue to grow.
You’ll most likely change your career path at least once. And that’s OK.
Whatever job you land when you graduate, remember that this is just your first step into the “real” world. As you gain experience you’ll learn about your likes and dislikes, and you’ll find your calling and find mentors to guide you along the way. Stay open to opportunities for growth–avoid excess pride and excess humility equally. Both will sell you short in the end.

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