My entire life has been about college—and not because I had overbearing parents or overwhelming school pressure, but because I set my own ambitions to a glorified view of what I thought college would be. Growing up, I couldn’t wait for the college social scene. I’ve always been extroverted, bubbly and outgoing, but at the same time, serious and studious. These traits don’t seem compatible—but they also sound like the quintessential college weekend. Throughout my childhood, I saw college as an opportunity to control my social and academic pathway. It was the chance to climb at the school with the best academic opportunities and, of course, a straight line to the social scene I always wanted to indulge in. So much so that I graduated high school as a junior.
At age 17 and in the scorching summer, I checked into the University of Texas at Austin for orientation, eager and ready. I expected to meet others with ambition, drive and excitement. I searched for parties and social gatherings while also trying to find that chill group of friends who listened to cool music and were humble people. I jumped at every organization’s booth and planned my schedule super early. Truly, I expected all the things I thought came with going to college: friends, parties and the opportunity to soar.
While I did not get a college experience straight out of a movie, I got something much more refreshing. Just during orientation, I made many friends who were all eager but cool in their own way. There were an abundance of social gatherings during that first week—karaoke, late night dance parties, roller-skating. Most of these events were thrown from 10 p.m. to midnight, and even walking back to our dorms after was a thrill.
Furthermore, everyone I met was relaxed and friendly and not anxious to better each other’s merits or worry about the next step. Instead, we reveled in the idea that academic, social and self-growth opportunities abound and that all of it was within our reach. Maybe we were just all excited, friendly fishy-freshman and my time at orientation was a near-nothing experience to what college will be, but it made me excited for what’s to come.
In my high school, many students treated clubs like resume builders and, as a result, the quality suffered. The purpose of each club was overshadowed by the individualism and the thinking that it wouldn’t matter after four years. The lack of passion made every project much harder. Roaming the many booths at UT Austin’s organization fair, I saw that activities here mattered more. Clubs were more serious and clearer in their messages. Sororities had a philanthropic cause, service clubs were diverse in the ways they helped the community, and cultural clubs created more tight-knit bonds. The fact that there are an enormous number of clubs while we each only have a small amount of time makes it such that when we choose something, we devote ourselves to it.
Likewise, I realized that I have become more passionate about my education in college. When we choose our majors and schedules, we do so with full freedom to explore what we want. From childhood to our late teenage years, there is a set course of classes to take and rules to follow. Certainly, this structure helps us mature and learn the ways of the world, but the magnificent thing about college is that it lets us experiment with what we have learned and use it to be who we want to be.
I’m a firm believer that people can do anything they want and I’ve always felt like college would be the opportunity to explore myself more freely. While I still have more to learn about college life, I’m glad to know that it is all in my hands. Perhaps that is part of becoming a young adult: gaining independence and the freedom to make a life you love.
Tiffany Ngo is a writer, student, and foodie from Texas. She has been writing professionally since the age of 12 and has since also developed a passion for literature, the humanities and learning. Tiffany is currently studying at the University of Texas at Austin and can be found learning how to code or exploring new restaurants in her free time.