My undergraduate career is coming to an end a lot differently than I thought it would, but here I am nonetheless. I find myself looking back on my time as a whole, considering what went well and what didn’t. There are things I wish I could’ve told myself along the way. But of course, that’s impossible, so this one’s for those still on their journey or just starting it off: my best advice for your time at the University of Alabama.
Throw all your preconceived notions out the window.
About people. About college itself. About anything. Most of the opinions you have up to this point are not well founded because you haven’t had enough life experience. If you discount people, places, things, or ideas because of preconceived notions you might have, you’re only cutting yourself off to potential opportunities. And with potential opportunity comes potential joy, which you should never pass up.
Try stuff you know you won't like.
Concerts of any kind. Events for sports you didn’t know existed. Art house movie nights at the Bama Theater. You’ll never have such a wide selection of things to attend as you will in college. And with student discounts like UA’s free student admission to any athletic event, it’ll truly never be as affordable. They’re also great opportunities to bond with friends. And if none of your friends can make it, have a personal experience on your own. Either way, do it now.
Avoid "student living" apartments like the plague.
One of the unique aspects of the UA experience is that after Freshman year, you’re not allowed to live on campus anymore. Therefore, countless apartment complexes in Tuscaloosa have established themselves as “student living communities,” offering “unbelievable deals” and “incredible amenities.” News flash: these are all scams designed to take advantage of clueless, poor young adults who have no means of defending themselves legally. I lived in one such complex (Parker 301, now The Reserve) for a year and a half, and in that amount of time, two shootings occurred on the premises, and my roommate’s bike was stolen. Since then, I’ve lived in two different “regular” apartments managed by real-estate company H.A. Edwards, and the difference has been night-and-day. I haven’t missed the amenities at all (mainly since UA itself offers the same ones), management is unbelievably more helpful and accommodating, and the value for what I pay is unbeatable. So take my advice—steer clear of student housing facilities.
Realize that college isn't trade school.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make during your college career is zeroing in on one topic and trying nothing else. Yes, it is wise to find what you love doing, cause that’s how you plan your career, but you’re never again going to have access to all the knowledge you have at a university. If you have room in your schedule, take all the random electives you can. Check out books of every kind from the library. Double major—why not? The things you’ll learn will only benefit you. Once again, if you don’t realize or take advantage of the academic opportunity you have, you’ll regret it later on.
Learn to love Tuscaloosa.
I came to UA after spending my whole life in the Hoover-ish/Greystone-ish area of Birmingham (it’s spotty; if you know B’ham, it’s where 119 meets 280). Therefore, for my first two years living in Tuscaloosa, I discounted it as a poor man’s version of my hometown. Once I changed my ways, I realized the huge mistake I was making. Tuscaloosa really is an awesome place filled with great things to do (the Bama Theater and Riverwalk are my personal favorites). You’re going to be here for about four years, so whining about how much it sucks is not doing you any favors.
Use your gut to find your people.
I wasted several semesters spending time barking up the wrong tree with people who only brought me down. These people were so cynical that it made me question my faith in the university and humanity as a whole. Don’t make the same mistake I did. The sheer number of students at UA is daunting, and the pressure to make as many friends as you can is immense, but in the end, it’s no big deal—if you just trust your instincts and be yourself, you’ll find your folks. Give it your all, but at the same time, don’t try too hard.
Learn to be OK with the mistakes you make.
I was convinced I’d picked the wrong school. Then I was sure that I’d picked the wrong major. Now, I still regret the time I spent not working on films, not writing, and not editing. But the thing is, I wouldn’t trade what I was doing instead for the world. Because whatever you do that you consider a mistake, really just makes you more who are, and as Walt Disney once said, “The more you like yourself, the less you are like anyone else, which makes you unique.” Even though I may wish I had done other things here and there, there are very few things I truly regret doing or trying. Plus, due to the impossibility of actually carrying it out, wanting to change the past is a sign of truly arrested development.
For those of you just starting out or still on your way at UA, I hope this helps. College is like visiting a foreign country—it’s impossible to describe unless you’ve done it, and there’s no way to do it right. That being said, make the most of your time—you’ll never get it again.