Let the Countdown Begin

You guys.

It’s happening.

50 days until graduation.

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Personally, I never wanted to be one of those people who posted every “last” thing about my senior year of college on social media. So far, I’ve been fairly successful. But this past week has been unreal.

With the Scripps Dinner on Tuesday (a formal dinner for Reynolds School of Journalism alumni, faculty, and graduating seniors), the grad fair, an email about an upcoming graduate luncheon, and the shipment of my graduation announcements, I was an emotional wreck. In addition, today marks just 50 DAYS until I graduate, earlier this week Graduation by Vitamin C came on my shuffle (commence tears, commence redoing makeup before class), and this weekend, I will take my senior pictures. WHAT IS LIFE?

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So here I am, giving into the unavoidable graduation count down. 50 days. 50 days left of classes and homework and studying and exams and papers and projects and all-nighters and the library and presentations. 50 days left of theme parties and shotgunning beer and tailgates and football and fraternities and formals and party buses and The Wal and Wine Walks and Wine Wednesdays and bringing wine to class and six-day weekends. 50 days left of “What am I doing with my life?!” and confusion and nervous breakdowns and hating life and being too old for this and needing to grow up already and needing a nap and wanting to move on to the next chapter of my life. 50 days left of being right here, right now and seeing familiar faces around me on campus and in the community at all times and being able to call up any of my friends at any time to do anything and having random adventures and not having responsibilities and friendship and laughter and the good, the bad, and the ugly and making memories that will last a lifetime and magic and perfection and collegiate bliss.

50. Days.

I have no regrets that I’ve started the countdown. I don’t know if I could avoid the countdown if I even tried. You kind of have to have a countdown, both for the good and the bad. You have to be aware in one sense that you only have to get through 50 more days of stress and classes (my last days in school ever! …unless I go to grad school one day, but that’s another post). At the same time, you have to be aware that you are only allowed 50 more days of what you will one day look back on as your “college days.” And that’s the reality.

50 days, and there’s nothing you can do about it. So make the very, very most of it.

Are you also winding down to graduation? Do you feel like you had enough time in college? Let’s talk about it on Twitter!

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Check In: My Last First Day of School

This past Tuesday was one of the most confusing days of my life. Why? Because it was my last first day of school. Like…ever. That’s right, I have now officially begun the last semester of my collegiate career, and I am, to put it lightly, completely freaking out.

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How was I supposed to feel? Happy? Sad? Nervous? Confused? Excited? Stressed? Relieved? A combination of all the above? Because those are all the emotions I experienced at some point on Tuesday.

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Believe me, beginning the last lap of college is a very bizarre feeling. At this point in my life, I have more on my plate than ever before. I’m taking all 400-level courses that actually challenge me — in a good way, I can see the finish line (and therefore the beginning of the rest of my life), and yet, I want to try to enjoy my last few months of being a 22-year-old, freeloading college student. Somebody, please send help.

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As I walked around campus Tuesday, saying hi to new and old friends, and reading the syllabi of the last college courses I’ll ever take, I noticed a few things.

First, I am more sure of myself and what I’m doing than ever before. That includes last semester. It seemed that some miracle occurred on Tuesday where the stars lined up and for the first time ever, nothing phased me on my first day of classes. I knew exactly how to handle everything that was thrown my way, and I felt confident about myself.

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Second, I noticed that I began thinking about my experiences during my very first week of college in August 2010. The first day of classes that semester coincided with my 18th birthday, so that day brought strange feelings of growing up in several ways at once. This past Tuesday, I remembered exactly how I felt the first time I saw my college campus — the dorms, the student union, the quad, and so on — and I wondered if any students passing by me were experiencing the same emotions. I tried to start thinking of my current experiences on campus as being my last. That way, when I look back on my time in college — whether it be in one year or fifty — I will have snapshots in my mind of more than parties and late-night study sessions; I will have memories of the seemingly mundane experiences, like walking around on campus and grabbing lunch in the student union.

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Finally, I realized that there will never be another time quite as perfect as this. I feel great about my major, I have plenty of friends and connections on campus and in the community, I know exactly what I want to do with my life and how to get there, and yet, I still get four months to live a quintessential college lifestyle. I’m not yet a part of the real world, so my responsibilities seem relatively miniscule, but I have no doubt that I will succeed in the not-so-distant future.

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Everything is perfect at this point in time, so I want to ensure I make the most of it. My goal for this semester is to not make excuses for anything, but instead, to try everything. You’re only in college once, so now is my time to experience what I haven’t before. Everyone says that your last semester goes by the quickest; let’s hope that I can have a little fun along the way. It certainly doesn’t hurt that I’ve already booked my flights for spring break!

How were your first few days of the spring semester? Tell on Twitter and I might retweet you!
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A Look Back at This Semester

It seems like just yesterday that I returned home from Washington, D.C., moved into my first apartment, and embarked upon my last Fall semester as an undergraduate. Sometimes, we all get so caught up in school, work, clubs, our social lives, our families, our relationships, and our daily to-do lists that, before we know it, an entire 16-week semester has passed us by.

If you read this post, you know that I love taking time to reflect. So, in the spirit of personal reflection, let’s recap this semester, shall we?

There were new beginnings…

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My bedroom in my new downtown apartment

And chapters closed…

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I turned 22…

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Oh, Zephyr Cove

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And caught up on much needed beauty sleep…

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There were surprises…

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Celebrations…

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And remembrances…

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In memory of the lives lost during the 9-11-2001 attacks

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There were big moments…

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Serving as the Chapter President for the College Republicans

With Reno's Mayor at the time, Bob Cashell

With Reno’s former mayor, Bob Cashell

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At the Nevada Governor’s Mansion before walking in the Nevada Day Parade

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With Nevada’s 2nd District Representative, Congressman Mark Amodei

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Presenting my “idea worth spreading” to the University of Nevada

Little moments…

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And sassy moments…

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There were group projects…

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Early morning classes…

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Long days at work…

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Long days in the library…

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And lots and lots of Starbucks…

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I spent far too much time with this guy…

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And not enough time with these guys…

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There were quiet indulgences…

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Christening my new apartment with a margarita

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And rambunctious ones…

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There were Sunday mornings in church…

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And Sundays watching football…

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There were campus events…

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Football games…

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Weddings…

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Festivals…

Reno's annual Italian Festival

Reno’s annual Italian Festival

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And birthdays…

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I added to my stuffed giraffe collection…

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And had a few good laughs…

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There were new places…

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Familiar faces…

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New friendships were formed…

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And apparently I took a selfie to commemorate it all!

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Looking back, I’m reminded of all the wonderful memories I made this semester. When all is said and done, I think this semester was a successful one, and maybe even one of my favorites. Clearly, I had a lot of happy moments, and I learned from my moments of doubt. I reminisced on the time I spent in D.C., and I made a little home in my new apartment. I must say, however, that my favorite part of this semester was being surrounded by such incredible people.

Now, I have one final semester of college to look forward to! Ahhhh, that feels so weird to say!

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What was your favorite part of this semester? Show or tell me on Twitter and I might retweet you!

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I’m Thankful For…

Last year, I decided that Thanksgiving is actually one of my favorite holidays. Compared to Christmas or Valentine’s Day, which each come with unrealistic expectations perpetuated by Hollywood blockbusters, Thanksgiving has relatively low expectations. Still, everyone in the nation is given anywhere from four to ten days off of work or school to relax over this All-American holiday weekend.

For college students, the day before Thanksgiving, commonly referred to as “Blackout Wednesday,” is all about reconnecting with high school friends at hometown bars we used to only dream about getting into.

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And let’s not forgot that the day after Thanksgiving is the official start of the Christmas season.

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But today, Thanksgiving day, is all about a few things: food, football, and family. Oh yeah, and giving thanks.

Being it my last year in college, I am thankful for the wonderful time I have spent at my amazing university, which I have come to love so dearly. I am thankful for this brief moment in time that I will one day view in hindsight as my college years. I am thankful for the here and now. I am thankful for the opportunity to actually be in college, furthering my education in pursuit of a career. I am thankful for all the doors that college has opened for me. I am thankful for everything I’ve gotten to do in college, and for getting to experience it all one last time.

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I am thankful for the friends I’ve made, the incredibly wise professors who have supported me, and for all the things I’ve learned from each of them. I’m thankful for those things I’ve learned outside of the classroom, which have helped me mature into the woman I am today. I’m thankful for each of the little ups, downs, twists, and turns that college has thrown at me because they taught me that I was strong enough to survive them.

Mostly, I am thankful for my parents, and all that they have given me. I am thankful for them providing me the means necessary to receive a higher education. I am thankful that they have always believed in my dreams, and that their dream is for me to be happy. I am thankful for the times they pushed me to keep going when I didn’t believe I could. I am thankful that they’ve always known I could. I am thankful for them answering my late-night phone calls, for helping me through my mental breakdowns, for proofreading my essays, and for helping move me in and out of my dorm room, sorority house, and very first apartment. I am thankful for the occasional Sunday morning money transfer. I am thankful that I can tell my parents anything, that I’ve always known that I am loved, and that my parents are proud of me, no matter what.

I am thankful that, for now, home is only a four-hour drive away, and that my agenda for the rest of the day consists only of cheering on the Niners and helping Momma Collins in the kitchen. Do you think she’ll like this turkey recipe I found?

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What are you thankful for this year? Tell me on Twitter and I might retweet you!

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Advice from a Graduate: “Take Your Time”

It’s a conversation that I am all too familiar with. Someone asks me, “So, are you graduating this semester, or…?” leaving the question open-ended, as if I don’t have a plan for my future, or as if I’m somehow ashamed that I’ve chosen to remain in school for a fifth year. I find this conversation amusing for a few reasons.

First, I actually feel more confident now than ever before in regards to what my future holds. Maybe this victory lap is exactly what I needed to realign my priorities and figure out what’s next. Second, I find that the people who ask me this question tend to be the same people who don’t have their own lives quite in order yet. How about we take Miley’s advice and not judge each other, kay? Thanks.

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The thing I find most amusing about this conversation, however, is the general reaction I receive when I tell people that I’m in school for a fifth and final year. The general consensus tends to be, “Take your time!” *See also: “There’s no rush,” “Stay as long as you can,” and “That’s normal.”

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Among those who reassure me that my life is not some sort of disaster-in-the-making is my good friend, and former Van Wilder himself, Elliott. Elliott graduated from the University of Nevada in May 2012 after an impressive six-year college career, when he was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. He now resides in San Diego, Calif., where he works 50 hours a week at a PR agency, lives with his girlfriend, Lisa, and often reminisces on his college days.

Being just two years removed from the college scene, Elliott is in a perfect position to provide valuable insight to undergraduates who want to make the most out of their college experience.

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EC: What does your typical week look like nowadays?
ES: Work from around 8-6ish, go home, eat dinner with the girlfriend, usually catch some TV or play some video games, then get in bed around 10. Occasionally I’ll go to happy hour with some of my coworkers from the agency, but that’s only about once a week.

EC: Compare that to your typical week as an undergraduate.
ES: I was also working most days the last year or so, so I would be going to work and class all day Monday through Friday, but I would be going out a lot more often on weeknights. Also, I was doing university and Greek events throughout the week — always kind of running around.

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EC: If you could, would you change anything about your college experience?
ES: I honestly wouldn’t change anything. It’s funny how, looking back, a lot of things you stress out about in college can end up being insignificant. The experience you get both inside and outside of the classroom is the most important part of attending college, and I definitely feel I made the most of it.

EC: Be realistic, there isn’t anything you would change?
ES: I guess I wished I had a better idea of what I wanted to do earlier so that I wouldn’t have taken so many unnecessary classes.

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EC: Do you think that college students should try to graduate in four years?
ES: No. 4 years is just too quick. Don’t be in a rush to leave college and start the rest of your life, because the rest of your life doesn’t start right after college. It’s a rough road going from graduation to career, and you need to be ready for that.

EC: If you could give just one piece of advice to undergraduates, what would it be?
ES: My advice would be to talk to your professors — actually get to know them because they’re there for a reason. That, and you should definitely skip class at least once a month just to hang out and get drunk before 11 a.m. Take your time.

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What are your thoughts on my conversation with Elliott? Tweet them to us @its_elliott and @misserincollins and we might retweet you!

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Pros vs. Cons: Being a Super Senior

Like most things in life, being a fifth year senior comes with its fair share of both advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, I’m, like, super mature and can provide soooo much insight to my fellow undergraduates. On the other hand, I still like to listen to *N Sync and eat ice cream for dinner. And why shouldn’t I?

Being in college means managing an ongoing internal battle between your inner-kid and inner-adult. Pssst… Here’s a little secret… It’s okay to be both. The tricky part is figuring out when its appropriate to show the different sides of your personality.

This advice comes from just a few (four, to be specific) years of experience as an undergraduate. This May, I will cross the stage, receive my diploma, turn my tassel, and pack my bags for the real world. In my last year of collegiate bliss, I’m enjoying not quite being a grown-up, while still harboring the knowledge I’ve gained throughout the years. Six weeks into my super senior year, I’ve found that these are the inevitable pros and cons that come with the experience:

Pro: Everyone around me only expects me to party.

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Con: My parents expect me to get something called a “job.”

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Pro: I still get to live the college experience.

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Con: Coming straight from an incredible summer internship, I’ve seen the real world and I truly miss it.

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Pro: Feeling like a hot shot on campus.

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Con: Freshman feeling the same way.

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Pro: The slight sense of maturity that comes with being an older student on campus.

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Con: Not *actually* being all that mature.

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Pro: I’ve met some amazing people over the past four years.

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Con: Why do so many have to live far away now???

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Pro: Not having to deal with taxes yet.

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Con: Still dealing with research papers, midterms, presentations, finals, and grades.

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Pro: Being over 21!!!

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Con: Not being able to stand the bars I used to go to as a freshman. I guess I’ll be drinking Barefoot Moscato and watching Parks and Rec on Netflix tonight. #Blessed

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Pro: I know what I’m doing on campus. (Or at least I look like I do)

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Con: The freshman clearly don’t.

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Pro: Laughing at all the suckers who already graduated and are now struggling to find jobs.

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Con: Being jealous of the ones who seem like they actually have their lives together…

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Pro: Not having a full course load means more free time for yoga, pleasure reading, doing an internship, or, you know… wasting hours on Pinterest.

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Con: Wait, I’m taking all upper-level classes. I guess I’ll be spending all my free time in the library.

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Pro: I have four amazing years of experiences under my belt that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

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Con: The slight sense of jealousy I feel when seeing freshman and thinking of the four amazing years they have ahead. (You don’t even know how good you have it)

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Pro: Finally knowing what I want to do with my life.

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Con: Not being able to do it yet.

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So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Being a super senior is great, but it’s not all fun and games. I’ve made mistakes along the way, sure. But do I regret anything? No.

I’ve learned from those mistakes, and I’m a better person for it. I wouldn’t be the woman I am today if hadn’t made those mistakes.

I’m not saying that everyone should try and spread out their college experience over five years. If you can graduate in four years, or even three, you should certainly do it! I’m trying to showcase that each experience can have its silver lining, if you look for it.

The things I’ve learned, and the experiences that lay ahead for me, well, those are my silver lining.

Share your thoughts! What are some advantages and disadvantages you think are associated with being a fifth year undergraduate?

To stay connected with me during my fifth and final year, follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and like my Facebook page.

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