I think we all wish we could go back sometimes; back to a former time or place or phase in our lives. I don’t think this desire is uncommon, or that it only applies to me. It’s not that I’m dissatisfied with the present, or that I continuously think about how I could have done things differently. I just think there is something so special about the past… something lovely, wonderful, sad, exciting, and mysterious. It is something that no longer exists, yet it will forever be etched in our memories.
With that being said, I don’t encourage beating yourself up about anything in your past, and we shouldn’t waste our time in the present wishing to go back to the past. What I think we can and should do is look back fondly, with gratitude… and a healthy amount of self-appraisal to see how we can improve our future.
When I think back to my time as an incoming student at John Cabot University, I remember the mix of nerves, joy, and giddy excitement I felt in my stomach during the first few days. It was a time of transition in all of our lives; we were starting a completely new phase and we were thrown into a beautiful but totally foreign environment. In a way, we had to figure out who we were while learning how to live on our own and manage a whole slew of other responsibilities.
Without regret, and with a clear mind, I can say in hindsight that there are a few pieces of advice I would give to 18-year-old me. But these don’t only apply to new students; the same advice would have been a great refresher all throughout my time in Rome, including the days leading up to my graduation. These thoughts might be helpful to any incoming freshmen, transfer students, or study abroad students who will be spending their time discovering what JCU has to offer, their incredible new city, and of course, themselves.
If I knew then what I know now, I would…
1. Get out!
Get out more. Out of your apartment, off the JCU campus, beyond Trastevere. There will never be a shortage of things to do in Rome or sites to see. You know it’s a lie if you’re telling yourself you’ve done and seen everything that Rome has to offer. Get out and explore more!
2. Get involved.
You only get one undergraduate college experience. Don’t waste it. Get involved in your community! Join clubs; if you have a particular interest that’s not represented yet, start a club. Embrace your skills, passions, and hobbies, and put them to good use. Join one of JCU’s athletics teams, take a photography class, volunteer in the local community, whatever you enjoy! There are plenty of ways to get involved in the JCU community. Find one.
3. Don’t be afraid to be yourself!
Be yourself. It’s that simple.
4. Don’t be lazy!
It’s okay to relax, slow down, and take time for yourself. But make sure you don’t get stuck in a rut or start getting lazy. Be productive, do your school work, write your papers, and put the maximum effort into your classes. It will be worth it.
5. Take advantage of where you are.
How many people get to live and study in the most beautiful city in the world, in an international community with people from 70 different countries, and receive a high-quality American education? Not many. You are one of the few who have made a decision to do something out of the ordinary; take advantage of your surroundings.
Alexa Vujaklija (Shearer)
Class of 2015
Grew up in the United States, Germany, the Republic of Georgia, Russia, and Bulgaria