Glass half empty

Reflections on being halfway through college

I have spent the past week unpacking and settling into my third residence since moving to Charlottesville. Every year, a part of that settling in includes making a photo wall with a plethora of mismatched pictures I have accumulated. When I arrived as a first year, this was filled entirely with nostalgic high school pictures — but this year, I realized the wall is overwhelmingly filled with pictures of friends from college and the fun things we have done during our first two years here.

I was then struck by the fact that I am halfway through college, and there are now more people who are younger than me than there are older than me. Time feels like it is slipping by faster than I would like, and it is daunting to think that this time next year I am going to have to decide what on earth to do with my life after I graduate. Nevertheless, as I pondered this change in status, I came to appreciate this moment more — this pivotal point in my life.

Usually, I like to look at the world with a glass-half-full outlook — but in this one instance, viewing my time at college as half-empty is actually the more inspiring route. While two years have already been filled with experiences both good and bad, there are two more that lie ahead — ready to be filled with more. At this point, my class and I have two whole years worth of knowledge under our belts — knowledge we can use to fill this empty half of college with as many wonderful things as possible.

Arriving to college first year is an event many students reflect on with a fond mixture of nostalgia and embarrassment. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but let’s face it — none of us had any clue what we were doing. We were figuring out what activities we wanted to do, what major we would declare, what type of person we wanted to be and what type of people we wanted to surround ourselves with.

Since my first year, I have learned so much that has helped me paint a better picture of these unknowns — even though I can’t claim to have them all figured out. Still, everyone has his or her own portfolio of lessons learned, and we can all use that portfolio to make our remaining time here whatever we want it to be.

I have learned that waking up early to go to the farmers market, hike Humpback or perform community service is always worth it. I have learned that many things are a better use of my time than going to frat parties, but that there are few things more fun than having a dance party with my friends. I have learned to enjoy my favorite parts of the University while I can, because tomorrow they may be under construction. I have learned that seeing Miss Kathy will always brighten my day (along with chicken nuggets at Newcomb), that the McGregor Room is my favorite place to study and that it is nearly impossible to figure out how to dress appropriately for Charlottesville weather.

I have learned that for better or for worse, first impressions of people are not always accurate — but that if you don’t like a class on the first day, chances are it is not going to get any better. I have learned that this University is filled with diverse and incredible people, and that I should try to meet as many of them as possible while experiencing as many different parts of the University as I can. I have learned that an inevitable part of being surrounded by so many talented people is that I won’t be accepted to every program I apply for or position I want, but that this usually ends up being for the better. And — last but not least — I have learned that on this list of things I have learned, nothing purely academic is on top.

If we think about all of the fun we have had, how much we have grown, the friends we have made and all we have accomplished, we can rejoice in knowing that we get to do it all over again — except even better. So here’s to two more wonderful years. Now that we know how fast they can fly by, let’s make the most of them.

Kelly’s column runs biweekly Tuesdays. She can be reached at

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