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What I Wish I’d Learned in College

One question I dread being asked is why I studied what I studied in college. For so long, the answer has been one of hems and haws as I stumble over my insecurities, and while it’s tempting to re-write my own narrative to justify the choice and sound more confident, embracing the reality of those choices has been much more valuable.

I graduated as a Spanish major, with what would have been a minor in Film & Television if I’d gotten my paperwork in on time (I maintain that working at a TV station for two years, interning for Nickelodeon and NBC and a film production company, and winning a National Geographic film contest more than compensate for that clerical snafu).

Throughout my first few years of school I changed my focus a number of times, from English to Global Studies to Cognitive Science, all while maintaining a hope of getting into the Film & Television school, which accepted applications before our junior year. After my application, I went through the interview process where I crashed and burned quite spectacularly. At that point, I changed my Spanish minor to my major, as that seemed the most reasonable way to keep on pace to graduate, while taking all the film, TV, and animation classes I could manage.

It’s odd to admit now, given how driven I was toward the Film school just a few years ago, that with the exception of animation and some TV, I don’t really care for movies. I’ve had stretches where I see upwards of 50 a year, and years where I’ve seen less than 10. Often, I fall asleep while watching them. I don’t keep up with TV shows. On the other side of entertainment spectrum, I love cartoons. I love animation (I watched Kung Fu Panda 2 a few nights ago). As I look back, I can recognize a lot of actions back up that passion – I spent my free time making stop-motion movies, animating intros to college TV station shows, and taking classical animation classes where we each hand-painted hundreds of cels to make a 15-second film.

Looking back like that makes me wish I’d spent more of it drawing and animating and writing. Then, looking back like that, I feel regret toward where I allotted my time in school, as if spending time now dwelling on the choices I made then would alter the life I’m living now.

At least, I used to feel that regret.

What I choose to focus on now is an appreciation for diverse interests rather than moping around like I’m living a life of Missed Connections. If anything still eats at me (I used to search for Masters programs in Cognitive Science – it’s like I have phantom limbs for the majors I didn’t pursue), I do something about it, because, anything I could have studied than I can still learn now.


So while there are still many things I could have learned in college, I’m not sitting here wishing and waiting for that learning to happen. I’m grateful for what I explored, and for the pools I didn’t dip my toes into back then, I’m diving in now by adding books to my To Read pile. I’m seeking out the languages I wanted to study then (because, shockingly, those languages are still around). I’ll enroll in Coursera or Udemy or Lynda when I have hiatuses from work, and I’ll take classes through General Assembly.

Ultimately, it’s important for me not to see my college experience as the finite time when I could learn whatever I wanted. What I wish I’d learned in college is that while college is finite, education never stops, and that we should all keep learning and chase down our curiosities, wherever they may lead.

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  1. This. THIS. The phantom limbs, the Missed Connections, all of it. I recall my own trainwreck film school interview almost weekly. Thanks for the reminder that learning is never really over.