When reflecting on the past few years of my college experience, I think back to the memory of an 18-year-old kid walking into his dorm room for the first time — you know, the one that wouldn’t even let his mom hug him in public for fear of embarrassment and ridicule. As I’m sure many of my fellow graduating seniors can relate to, I look back at that person — that kid — and laugh, wishing that I knew then what I know now, but also thankful for the lessons that these years have given me.

Take this for what it’s worth; I know everyone’s experience is different. But here are some things I’ve learned that I never thought I would understand four years ago.

College is easy … but it’s actually really hard

Yes, upper-division courses can be very challenging. Yes, every once in a while you’ll come across that class where the material feels impossible to learn. But the fact is that the fear mongering from our high school teachers that “what you do here is nothing compared to what you’ll have to do in college” is one of the most ingenious (and effective) scare tactics I have found in my 17 years of academia. In the vast majority of flunking-out cases that I’ve seen, the failure has much more to do with a lack of work ethic/motivation combined with excessive FIFA-playing and too many “distractions,” rather than the person’s actual ability to learn the material being presented.

The greatest challenges of college don’t come directly from the classroom. Rather, they come with finding a balance. It can be exceptionally difficult to find the perfect combination between class, a job, extracurriculars, a social life and basic human necessities like, for example, eating and sleeping. Problems arise when someone puts too much weight into one of these categories without investing at least a little bit of time in the others. Find that balance and you’ll find the best possible level of happiness.

It goes by fast

It seriously feels like four days ago that I was walking into Room 102 of Nye Hall to start my freshman year of dormitory debauchery, not four years. Three days ago my college idols were walking across the stage to receive their diploma, two days ago it was the most intelligent people I’ve met and just yesterday it was my best friend. How can it be that it’s now my turn to be the one that others are staring at on the big screen? My piece of advice is to take advantage of every moment. Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

Things change

The transition from the end of our teens into our early 20s results in some of the most dramatic, formative years we will have in our whole life. What does this mean? A lot will change from freshman to senior year. This is a good thing. We can’t be a college freshman forever, no matter what Kehoe says.

As we evolve as individuals, the people we surround ourselves with will evolve as well. Some of the people that I thought would be in my life forever just three years ago are now sort of an afterthought. The other night I was having a conversation about this with one of my customers at the bar, and he said something that particularly struck me: regardless of the longevity of a relationship that you have with someone, we owe it to ourselves to learn something from every person we meet. There is no need for elongated resentment; sometimes life will just take people in two different directions. But if we take the best qualities of each person that we meet with us, we will become better people. A strong person will accept that things change over time and dream of the possibility of a happier life.

Still, as things change around us — and as we change as people — the few that do stick around through it all, the good and the bad, become absolutely invaluable.

Nobody is perfect

Reality: even the person that we least expect to will let us down. And sometimes we make mistakes that will even surprise ourselves personally. The only thing that can ease the pain of being let down is acceptance of the fact that we will never find the perfect person. Life’s perfection is its imperfection! It is failure that makes our world’s possibilities endless. Embrace it.

The best is yet to come

We’ve all heard our parents’ generation tell us how college is supposed to be made up of our most memorable years in life — our “peak.” So many students misinterpret this to mean we should drink ’til we forget our names or accept every dare without hesitation. I don’t see it this way. Personally, the times from college that I’ll remember the most are the ones that were spent alongside meaningful people doing meaningful things.

College is about creating a foundation to build from for the rest of our lives. As we grow older, we have the ability to build upon our roots to create something we can be proud of — a piece of art that is unique to us and fully understood by nobody else. We can change the world.

Who knew that something so wonderful could rise out of a tiny brick campus of 20,000 dream-chasers in Reno, Nevada.

What will your story be?

Caden Fabbi studies political science. He can be reached at alexandraschultz@unr.edu and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.