What I learned in college Print
Youth Column
Written by Erick Rommel, Catholic News Service   
Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015 -- 12:00 AM

I almost changed colleges after my freshman year. I never considered dropping out, but transferring crossed my mind many times. It wasn't because of my grades. I was doing well. It wasn't my social life. I had friends, and I still keep in touch with many of them. My dissatisfaction came from the enjoyment, or lack of, that I felt for my classes.

Looking back, my displeasure was probably nothing more than a freshman wanting to get involved and be active in his chosen, future career path. Unfortunately, the scheduling office had other ideas.

As a communications major, I had dreams of creativity. Instead, I was stuck learning theory. Even worse, I was stuck learning theory at 8 a.m., three days a week, with a professor whose demeanor encouraged a return to slumber rather than energized learning. I spent most of my time in that class struggling to understand ideas that made no sense to me. I couldn't grasp the concepts because I saw no relation to the real world.

When I wasn't learning theory, I was trying to learn probability and statistics. Throughout the class, we had to determine likelihoods for a variety of questions. In a jar with 100 jelly beans, seven black, what are the odds of picking a black jelly bean on your third attempt? If there are three people in a room named Jennifer, what are the odds they'll be the first three people you meet? The questions were endless, but in my mind the answer was always the same: You will or you won't.

I realize now that the ideas I struggled with have an application in life. I may not be able to determine how likely I am to meet one of the three Jennifers in a room, but I can evaluate the obstacles I face for any given project and determine the likelihood of achieving the outcome I want.

When considering what I want, I ask myself how to go about it. Do I appeal to a person's vanity? Do I explain my idea and its attributes? Or, do I make the case that it's something we can't afford to avoid? Even though I couldn't name the elements, I realize that I'm subconsciously falling back on the lessons I learned in college, which I learned during the courses that I didn't think were applicable in life. If nothing else, I can emphasize my points until they can't be ignored or denied.

Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if I never realized how much I learned in those classes. I wonder what my life would be like if I had left? Who would I be today if I'd transferred to a different school? I would have different friends. I'd have a different degree. More than likely I'd live in a different state. How can I compare that life that never was with the life I currently have?

The moments that cause monumental shifts of what might have been are those we look back on the most. They don't need to be dramatic to make an impact. Sometimes they're as simple as sticking it out when you think of quitting.

Erick Rommel is head staff writer for The Catholic Spirit in the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J. His column is syndicated through Catholic News Service.


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