The moment my car, loaded to the max with college gear, pulls onto West Chester’s campus, I already feel the familiar feelings of stress commence. My hands begin to sweat and my pulse steadily increases – and it is not even the first day of classes. College is an entirely new environment, especially for those of us living on campus who are pulled away from the reality of home life and sent to an, at times exciting while still overwhelming and perhaps terrifying, place where class and schoolwork seem to dominate our world. The reality to which we adjust ourselves on campus can be a difficult one to face but it is the transition period between summer vacation and school that is most crucial to our success here at West Chester University.
Why do we bother going to school? We attend class and often walk away feeling like we just got slammed with another round of way more work to do than we have time in which to do it. Often, I feel like a lab rat running constantly, spinning my wheels and getting nowhere; the work we finish just gets replaced by more week after week. Albert Einstein once said, “It is little short of a miracle that modern methods of instruction have not already completely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry.”
But this cannot possibly be all there is in going to school, and it is not. Although at times we feel boggled down with work and stress, the accomplishments we make, step by step, accumulate overtime and become something worthy of praise. As freshmen, the mountain before us seemed endless, but as each semester has passed, we have come to realize our own capabilities by putting our minds over matter. The work that makes us feel stressed, that sometimes feels tedious, unnecessary, or useless, is actually the work that elevates us towards an admirable goal: graduation. We are educated individuals able to use our knowledge to better ourselves and to lead a better life. The work we do and the skills we learn (i.e oral and written communication, networking, extracurricular involvement, time management) are such valuable techniques that we will carry with us throughout our lives. The work we do may not seem to directly correlate to the real world, and it may not at a surface level. What are more important are the skills and relationships we acquire and refine. Every day in class, you are exclusively exposed to material and information that is inaccessible to many people. It is what you make of this experience and what you do with your time here at school that will help turn these stressful events into something of value.
Now the trick is how do we stay sane and move past the stressful parts of school in order to enjoy it? Should we drive ourselves crazy all week running on empty in a high-stress environment and then spend the weekend partying? Some might say yes, but perhaps a more reliable source of inspiration might come from within. Our bodies work in such mysterious ways, but we are so accustomed to these bodily reactions that often, we miss or ignore the signals and allow these seemingly uncontrollable feelings to dominate and determine our course of action. Stress comes from the mind. Buddha once said, “Man’s troubles are rooted in extreme attention to senses, thoughts, and imagination. Attention should be focused internally to experience a quiet body and a calm mind.” It is so vitally important that we remain in control of our thoughts and our reactions to stressful situations because our reaction to an event is much more important than the event itself. We must utilize the stress in our lives to work in our favor, to create a better reality for ourselves. In the words of Anwar Sadat, “He who cannot change the very fabric of his thought will never be able to change reality.”
We go to school to foster our love for learning and to better ourselves to live an enriched life. So, as you are sharpening your pencils for the new school year and cracking open those textbooks, remember first and foremost to breathe, and then, try to remember why you are in school and enjoy every moment you spend here. These first few weeks, during the transition between summer vacation and school, is the perfect time to start fresh and approach the new semester with new tactics. The feelings of intense stress will fade with time (without too many side effects!), but the memory of those precious things you learn while you are here, we hope, will stay with you forever.
Laura Wayne is a third-year student majoring in English literature with minors in spanish and business and technical writing. She can be reached at LW738484@wcupa.edu