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Lessons I’m Glad I Now Know

As I set down the book of my Juniata Experience, I reflect on the many lessons I gleaned over my four years at Juniata College. From graduating with an individualized Program of Emphasis to coming to terms with being a student-athlete throughout COVID-19, here are some lessons I’ve learned at JC.

Don’t fret about what comes next. Even during my first year, there were students who had clear plans about what they wanted to do after graduation – going to law school, medical school, teaching or more. By my junior and senior year even more of my peers had plans set in stone. I was different. Sitting at my desk for hours each week brainstorming ideas, I still didn’t feel that same drive to commit to some idea of who I want to be that I wasn’t fully on board with. It wasn’t until my last semester of college that same drive to decide finally came. It’s okay not to know what awaits you after Juniata, but once something motivating jumps out, make sure to grab on to that next adventure and hold on tight!

Motivation can come from anywhere. This lesson I learned from the journey leading up to my next adventure after college. I’ve vacationed outside the US before, but never lived elsewhere for an extended period of time. When COVID-19 crushed my opportunity to study Communications abroad in Germany in Summer 2020, I felt even more motivated to travel overseas. I briefly held out hope that a reprieve would come in the form of a trip to Brazil for my men’s volleyball team to play in a preseason tournament my final semester. Not surprisingly, even that was postponed. In the winter when I was given the chance to continue both my academic and athletic career by getting a Master’s Degree in England, I immediately jumped on the opportunity. Although the decision was my own, the opportunity given to me came thanks to the complete higher education experience that I underwent at Juniata. And, the motivation driving my leap of faith to move overseas to earn an MA was thanks to the strong encouragement to study abroad and opportunities for travel at Juniata that I was sad to have missed.

Live in the moment was the most important lesson I learned from Juniata. When people told me freshman year that four years will pass in the blink of an eye, I had no idea what they meant. It wasn’t possible then for me to see that one day soon, I would be walking across the stage to pick up my diploma, saying so long to the halls of BAC and having an especially sentimental final meal at Baker. It’s sad when the chapter titled ‘College’ in the book of our lives closes but part of living in my new present means living with our connection to Juniata.

As an alumni I expect to stay connected with both the lessons learned and people met through my alma mater. And when it’s your turn to leave the nest, I hope you don’t forget your eagle family either.

What I wish I knew – Jules Slater ’21

Jules Slater
Jules Slater ’21, Advocacy Communication POE, Future Mayor of Picklesburgh

This blog post started as a “What I wish I had known before starting college,” but after staring at my screen for longer than I’d like to admit with no ideas popping forward, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s nothing I really and truly wish I had known.

Some may say that they wish they had known who their friends were going to be, or how to study for a college exam, or how to pay their taxes, but I truly believe that everything I’ve learned between my senior year of high school and my senior year of college have shaped me into who I am. I would not be the person I am today without these formative learning experiences. Sure, it would have been so much easier on my GPA had I known how to study for a college exam, but learning through actually doing  is what taught me things about myself that I didn’t know before and taught me how to deal with failure.

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What I wish I knew – Madison Wrightstone ’23

Madison Wrightstone
Madison Wrightstone ’23

I wish I knew what I needed to say.

I wish I knew how to start a paper about myself.

I wish I knew how to write without being cheesy.

I wish I knew what kind of person I would become.

I wish I knew how my identity would shift into something entirely new.

I wish I knew that I would become a better friend, daughter, sister. 

I wish I knew that I would meet some of the people that would change me the most.

I wish I knew that it was okay to mess up and not be 100% certain in everything.

I wish I knew myself in high school to tell her everything will be okay.

I wish I knew that Juniata would make me who I wanted to be all along.

There are so many things that I wish I knew when I began my college search. Being the first kid in my family to go to college on top of being an intense over-thinker made these years filled with lots of crying, spreadsheets, and trying to rationalize a million different factors I didn’t even know how to begin to comprehend everything. You always dream about going to college, but you never realize that those same dreams lead to some of the most intense headaches. Getting sucked into the tornado that is choosing the “perfect college for you” is a force that leaves your head spinning and you craving the solace of solid ground and certainty once again.

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What I wish I knew – Alisha Boerstler, Assistant Dean of Admission

Alisha Boerstler
Alisha Boerstler, Assistant Dean of Admission

I didn’t believe this 10 years ago, but there is, in fact, zero chance that you will wreck your life by choosing the “wrong” college. Or the “wrong” major. The wrong roommate? That might be more serious. I had one who slept during the day and worked on her assignments, lights on, from 1:00 – 5:00am. But that’s another story.

I was a giant ball of stress my senior year of high school, largely because I felt so much pressure to choose the perfect college so I could get the perfect degree so I could land the perfect job…etc. There are thousands of colleges in the US, as you have probably discovered, which can be overwhelming. Do I want a rock wall? Do I want to go to Vermont? Do I want a D-1 field hockey team? Do I even know how to play field hockey? (No.) I painstakingly narrowed down my search criteria to three things:

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What I wish I knew – Steven Simons, Senior Associate Dean of Admission and Marketing

Steven Simons
Steven Simons, Senior Associate Dean of Admission and Marketing

“College is the best four years of your life. You’ll make your best friends there!”

I remember when I came home from my first semester in college and it felt like it hadn’t even happened. It had gone by so unbelievably fast and yet so painfully slow. Everyone wanted to know: Was I having the time of my life? Had I made lots of friends?

But nobody seemed to be asking me the other important questions. Are you struggling? Are you managing the transition? Do you even want to go back?

I wish I had known how hard college would be, and that not every day, especially as a first-year student, was going to be perfect. I experienced a level of academic rigor that forced me to work harder than I had ever worked before. I remember earning a “D” on an exam and wondering if I was smart enough to succeed. Was I in over my head?

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