As I sit alone in a coffee shop in Spain, enjoying the peace and quiet, I can’t help but think about how much I have changed since freshman year; how much everyone has changed. We can all look back on those first months of college and cringe a bit at our young and naïve selves, yet feel a pang of nostalgia for the fresh-faced, starry-eyed individuals we used to be. Yes, only two years have passed, and not that much has actually changed in our lives. But recently, as I transition into the second half of my college experience, I have realized some huge shifts in my mindset as I begin to understand the differences between the first and second half of college.

All of the unknowns of freshman year were scary at the time, but inevitably led to constant fun and excitement. Everyone enters this new stage in a similar situation; we don’t know anyone or anything. I didn’t know the difference between any of the fraternities, or which food places were the “trendy spots,” and I didn’t care. I was open to anyone, anything, and everything. Freshman year was also the time to be surrounded by people nonstop. I was always in and out of people’s dorm rooms, on a lunch date with a new person, and going out any and all nights just to keep up with everyone around me. Slowly but surely, I found my routine. But there was still a constant stream of newness.

As sophomore year came, my friends and schedule were more concrete, however the same social mentality remained. I was always concerned with “the scene”: whether it be what I was wearing to the next tailgate, whose pregame I was going to for my sorority’s mixer, and what parties were the “right ones” to go to. Although we were only one year older, I remember thinking we were so above everyone else at school. You’re in that stage where you’re not a freshman anymore, so you know the ropes, but you still have an excuse to act somewhat childish and naïve because you don’t have to worry about your future quite yet.

As I settle into the beginning of my junior year and my semester abroad, I have realized there is a switch in my life that seems to have flipped. Now that I am closer to my graduation date than to my move-in date freshman year, I am closer to the real world. Consequently, my mindset about college life has changed quite a bit.

I can admit now that I was 100% the overly social sorority girl my freshman and sophomore years. I still care about my Greek and social life, and I will always maintain my bubbly energy. But I have slowly started to see that some of these surface level aspects of Tulane, such as maintaining as many friendships as possible and going to every party, are not as pressing to my life anymore.

I hate to say it, but by junior year we start to become adults. We are quickly learning the importance of figuring ourselves and our futures out. This second half of college comes with learning who your true friends really are and what relationships in your life will remain through the years. This second half of college comes with learning how to be independent, making real life decisions, and dealing with the consequences of our actions. This second half comes with an understanding that we must make a conscious effort from now on to find happiness and success in the potential futures that are coming our way after Tulane.

A part of this makes me somewhat sad. Life is moving way too fast, and I know once I graduate college, I’ll never feel as free and young again as I do now. These moments teach me to be grateful for that wild, social butterfly that I was (and hopefully still am) and to truly take advantage of every second of college. As life becomes more and more serious, and responsibilities begin to increase, I am trying to embrace this new and mature side to myself. But I hope to never lose the spontaneous, lively mentality that freshman and sophomore year gave me. Although I’m starting to feel old, there is so much of life left to conquer. By finding a balance between open-mindedness and fun and being responsible and independent, we can feel better about attacking this second half of college and what is to come after.