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10 Things You Start Realizing From Your College Life

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10 Things You Start Realizing From Your College Life

College. Think about that word and what that means to you. The odds are, everyone has a different image of what college is or what the typical college experience may be. Images of long study nights, dorm or frat parties, new friends, classes, club activities, etc. are probably some of those in mind. However, there are valuable lessons we learn in college or as recent graduates that aren’t always tangible things or memories.

College is most certainly a time for learning and cementing who we are as people. This is my list of 10 lessons I learned from college life.

1. You don’t know everything

Okay, to be fair, you probably already knew this, or just really didn’t give it too much thought. The next thing you know, you’re walking into your first college classroom and realizing you know no one, you know nothing about what you want to do for the rest of your life, how to navigate the campus, or even what major you want, and those are just the beginning of your thoughts. This is likely the first time most of us learn about debt and financial responsibility, mostly paying the price the hard way.

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2. Learning is forever

Being forced to go to school can be really frustrating and can lead to rebellion and angst during growing pain periods where we all want nothing more than to hang out with our friends, play or write music, or do other things we consider fun. We finish high school thinking it is all over, but it is really the beginning. Sure, we will all go to college. Eventually, that, too will end, but we will never stop learning about relationships, each other, and we regularly rediscover ourselves. We start realizing that in college through our group work, the awkwardness that is trying to make new friends, and learning how to move on.

3. Worrying about what people think about you is a waste of time

You could be the best person in the world, and someone still won’t like you and will find plenty to criticize. Sometimes, someone will just find looking at you annoying. Yes, there are people out there who will simply look at you, think “I don’t like that person”, and from that point on, you’ll be on their bad side. The fact of the matter is, are those people really trying to impress or waste your time over? Do you really want to worry over people who are devoted to misunderstanding and undervaluing you? If someone doesn’t have an honest critique of you or is talking about you to everyone else except you, don’t worry about it. What they do says more about you than it does about them. You start realizing these things in college, as going gives you exposure to all kinds of people you perhaps wouldn’t normally meet or associate with. College is a definitely a time where you learn to develop a thicker skin.

4. You can’t have everything

And that’s okay. You don’t need everything. Living in a dorm or at home with Mom and Dad while pursuing your education is evidence of that. Long study nights on the laptop you still use from 2008 and endless ramen noodle cups will likely become a staple in your dorm, if you aren’t living at home. If you are living home, expect no rules to change on the account you’re slightly older and in college. This is an important lesson, though, because life is all about making choices and priorities. You will learn about what is important to you and your values based on the choices that you make.

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5. Relationships can be complicated

Entering college can sometimes mean losing all of your former friends from high school, etc. Earning new friends can be difficult, and romantic relationships are no different. Dating is complex. Sometimes you’ll know you’re dating someone, but you won’t talk about it. You won’t use the title of boyfriend or girlfriend. There may not be many conversations about the relationship. Don’t expect your college relationships to make much sense or be concrete. Everyone is trying to figure themselves out, and that involves learning how to communicate, express desire, and figure out what and who they exactly want for the future. I don’t encourage anyone in college to take dating seriously, but although we leave college, relationships never end up less complicated. They may become simpler, better defined, less insecure, but will take work and dedication.

6. College is a big bubble

You’ll learn a lot in college, but it isn’t exactly the real world. Unless you’re a working student while going to school, something I recommend every student becomes and does, you’re going to live in a big, college bubble. If you have loans, you won’t have to worry about them, until you graduate. Much like how you had to exert yourself to make new friends in college, you’ll have to learn how to live without many of those friends upon graduation. The cycle starts all over again, and before you know it, you’ll have a 9 to 5 every day. You may get married and have a family, or go travel the world. I, for instance, teach English in South Korea now, and it is amazing! I am slowly learning a new language, new customs, how to live on my own and support myself, etc. Sometimes I stumble and fall, and  other times, I surprise even myself with the resolve I see myself have sometimes. There is a whole world outside of college. Explore it.

7. Things don’t always work out the way we hope for them to

We could all always use just a little bit more money, a little bit more time, or a little bit more of something else. We’ll make plans that will fall through, we’ll change majors 3 or 4 times, we’ll learn to live without that person we thought we could never live without. It happens that on occasion things seem to not go our way, but that feeling isn’t permanent. There is always something else to discover and to strive for.

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8. People change and so will you

Your dress style, who your attracted to, your values, and what ideas you support and activities you deem important will change in your new environment. This is where you start becoming and realizing who you are. You have to sculpt that person, and that begins in college. No one is there to hold your hand and walk you through doing your essay. No one is there reminding you to check your daily agenda for anything you may have missed.

9. Trying to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life isn’t so simple

My honest opinion is choosing one path in life for a permanent career is extremely limiting and dangerous to the human mind and spirit. We need to be stimulated, creative, excited, and always dreaming, so don’t limit yourself. Yes, trying to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life isn’t so simple, and maybe it’s something you shouldn’t be doing. Like I said before, desires change and people change, they grow and they evolve. Limiting yourself in terms of friendships, relationships, and career paths doesn’t benefit you. In college, there will be a lot of pressure to pick that one major and do something in that field. I say study what you like, and use all the tools you learned to promote yourself the way you want to in the industry you want to. You can have a chemical engineering degree and be a brilliant writer. You can have an English degree, and be an incredible inventor.

10. Always have a back-up plan

College is not for everyone, despite the push for everyone to go to college. Some students go in and excel, others have a hard time affording it or aren’t having their unique gifts catered to. Other students don’t find the material they are learning applicable to the lives they think they want to lead, and therefore, they drop out. It is important to always have a back-up plan. Maybe you know college isn’t for you, but how about a paralegal certificate from a community college or through online learning? How about vocational school? In college, you will be told about the reality of your degrees and your employment prospects. You will have the resources to build an impressive resume, consult a career center, and other valuable options. You will learn that despite having your degree, you will need additional experiences and ideas moving forward. Whether you’re dealing with an unpleasant roommate, soaring tuition costs, or other ideas, having a backup plan is invaluable.

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That’s it for the top 10 list. I hope you enjoyed it. Let me know if you agree or disagree with the points I mentioned here. For those of you needing a back-up plan or have questions about your degree path, don’t hesitate to reach out.  Happy learning!

Featured photo credit: Diego Grez-Cañete via commons.wikimedia.org

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Emina Dedic

TEFL Instructor, Traveler, Professional Writer, Model

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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