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A few words for the sophomores

| Thursday, September 1, 2016

As the new year gets started, everyone has advice for freshmen; there are entire shelves of books in your local Barnes & Noble about adjusting to college life. Most freshmen need some sort of help, but they’re not the only ones.

I’d like to address the sophomores out there.

The summer after my freshman year at Notre Dame, adults — grandparents, aunts, uncles, older cousins, family friends, people I had just met making small talk — kept commenting on how, having completed my first year of higher education, I had “it figured out now.”

But I hadn’t figured it out. I didn’t even know what “it” was. College? Life? My future? I wasn’t a freshman anymore, but I had a new major and still felt like I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t have an internship or a research opportunity for the summer; I had a paper delivery route, making slightly less than minimum wage. Rather than feeling like I had entered a new stage of college where I magically knew everything, I felt more lost than ever because all of my peers seemed to be ahead of me.

My sophomore year came and went and I was halfway through with college. I still didn’t have a summer internship — despite having devoted entire weekends to applications — hadn’t done any research on campus and had just added an ever-practical English second major to balance out my studies in the Program of Liberal Studies. My parents were exactly as thrilled, as you’d expect.

I was a rising junior and I still hadn’t figured anything out.

In the middle of summer, my situation brightened. I had emailed a local paper back during school to inquire about an internship. I hadn’t gotten a response, but in June they asked me if I was still looking; their first intern, a college graduate, was quitting because she found a full-time job at another paper. I ended my summer with a (paid!) internship at MLive, the biggest local news source in Michigan.

This semester, I have the opportunity to intern (unpaid!) with a literary journal and to work for the College of Arts and Letters’ Office of Communications. A career in publishing doesn’t seem so far out of reach as it did just a few months ago.

I’m a junior, not a sophomore, and this is the first time I’ve felt even remotely confident in what I was doing and pursuing while attending Notre Dame. I still wouldn’t say I’ve “figured it out,” but I think I’m closer.

So, sophomores, things will work out. Or maybe they won’t; I’m not a blind optimist, that’s a very real possibility, depending on your specific goal. But even if your plan is in the process of falling to pieces or it does later this year, or the next, or after you graduate, now is not the time to panic about failure or the future or whatever abstract and/or far-off thing is stressing you out. I promise, most of your classmates probably aren’t better than you; at least, not by much.

You’re not already a quarter of the way through college; you’re only a quarter of the way through college. This is still the beginning. You have plenty of time.  

Contact Megan at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Megan Valley

Megan Valley was Assistant Managing Editor for The Observer. She majored in English and the Program of Liberal Studies and hailed from Flushing, Michigan.

Contact Megan