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Five Things I Wish I Knew Before Going to College

College is a period of tremendous growth. As a first-generation college student, I didn't know that a growth mind-set would be my most valuable tool. But, having recently graduated from Seaver College, I've come to cherish the ways I grew more than the things I achieved. While I'm proud of my growth, there are five things I wish I had known as a freshman.

1. Learn to Take Care of Yourself

For me, the first few months of college were a time of extreme exhaustion. In an effort to understand why I was so tired, I discovered that I wasn't taking care of myself mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. I kept comparing myself with others and pushing myself into the trap of being "busy" instead of being intentional. I was fortunate to find an opportunity to grow and learn to appreciate myself. I dove into my spiritual life and started rebuilding my faith foundation with friends at a Bible study. At the same time, I focused on improving my mental/emotional health by receiving counseling at the Pepperdine Counseling Center. Taking these proactive steps as a freshman refreshed and empowered me to build better habits for the rest of my time at college.

Seaver student Kelly Rodriguez in China

2. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

I took one of the biggest steps outside my comfort zone by going to Shanghai, China, with Pepperdine's International Programs. In the process of managing this challenge, I learned to speak conversational Chinese, travel by myself, make local friends, and appreciate a variety of cultures in Asia—something that's been a major asset as I've applied to jobs. I would have never considered going to live and work in Asia if I hadn't made the decision to challenge myself and study abroad. When you step outside your comfort zone and open yourself to something new, you're bound to learn something about yourself.

3. People Want to Help You

I was afraid to ask for help as a freshman because I thought asking for help was a sign of weakness. But great things don't happen by one person's power. One of my favorite things about the Pepperdine community is how willing people are to help each other. Many of my greatest feats at Pepperdine were made possible by the encouragement and guidance I received from others: my work at the Pepperdine Graphic, events held by my sorority Gamma Phi Beta, and my participation with Songfest freshman year. I felt supported in all those endeavors because people wanted to do the best job together. The trick to this lesson is that someone has to be the first to say "I need help." Don't be afraid to be that person.

Seaver student Kelly Rodriguez on Bloomberg

4. If You Want to Pursue Something, Make It Known

Of all the things I wish I'd known sooner, this is one I'd italicize, boldface, and underline 10 times. Don't be afraid to tell people what you want to do because you never know who might end up helping you. This tidbit of wisdom was the reason I approached the deputy chief operating officer of Bloomberg, a Pepperdine alumna, and ultimately applied to Bloomberg's internship program. I never thought I would have the opportunity to seek admission to the program, let alone to have met the amazing people I encountered through that process. Talk about your dreams and ideas to people. You never know which ones will come true.

5. You Can Learn from Everyone

Learning doesn't just happen in the classroom. In college, it happens everywhere. You can learn tremendously from the clubs you are involved with, the speakers that come to campus, your friends and classmates, faculty and staff members, and even the wildlife you'll encounter. The times I kept my mind open to people's stories and innermost ideas were the moments I felt like I was really learning about the world. The best way to learn is to ask questions (especially the "stupid questions") and to genuinely listen with no secret motivation or judgment. When you seek to learn from a genuine place in yourself, it can break down barriers.

Although my time as a student at Pepperdine has drawn to a close, I'm incredibly grateful for the lessons I've learned, the challenges I've faced, the memories I've made, and most of all, the people I've met. Your personal growth will impact you far more than the knowledge you gain in the classroom. So, jump excitedly into this next chapter of your evolution, and don't forget to have fun along the way.

Seaver student Kelly Rodriguez on graduation day

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