Reflecting on the college environment

Anna Malesiewski, Features Editor

Being a student in college is exhausting. 

And I don’t just mean the classes, the schoolwork and the pressures of attempting to be an adult for the first time. 

Compounded with these comes another kind of struggle that can take a huge toll on the mental and emotional health of students: the college environment and social scene. 

To put it lightly, it is extremely toxic. 

The constant pressure to party. The incessant nagging to fit in and be molded to a particular stereotype. The culture of dating, or actually the lack thereof. 

This has been weighing so heavily on my psyche lately that I’ve considered transferring. Only to realize that would not be enough and for me to escape it, I would have to drop out completely. 

But what would I do? Where would I go? Would I be able to accomplish my dreams without a degree?

I don’t know what I would do or where I would go or how I would attain my future career without staying in college. And that is honestly really disheartening to me at this stage in my life. 

College can push people to do incredible things. It can be the catalyst that causes some to grow up and can be formative in sending a person into emotional maturity and personal development. 

But more often than not, I see college doing the opposite to those around me. I see college as a game, a master competition that changes people into something they never thought they’d be. I’ve seen college bring out the worst in people. 

A lot of the time in college, the social scene encourages moving up on the social ladder at the expense of authenticity or ingenuity. I’ve seen close friends become people I don’t recognize or respect. I’ve seen people viciously use others with no remorse. I’ve seen once admirable people turn into master manipulators and abusers. I’ve seen people get so wrapped up in their sense of self that nothing else matters and suddenly, they’ve lost every genuine friend around them and replaced them with shallow friendships formed over meaningless things. 

The dating scene is a massive power struggle. Rape and sexual assault are common. Loyalty is uncommon. Men and women constantly compete to see who can use the other more and serious relationships are frowned upon. 

And this is all so normal it’s almost unrecognizable if you’re not on the outside looking in, wondering why you’re sitting on the outside. 

It’s become normal to hurt people for personal gain or self-satisfaction. 

Before I came to college, I heard people call it the “good days” and I heard stories of lifelong friendship and good times and self-development. While I want this to be my college experience, it is really hard to find the silver lining in a culture of artificiality and unkindness. 

However, the last years I have left here at Gannon are going to be about me. I’m going to channel the selfishness that is so commonplace and turn it into something beautiful. I’m going to use all of the times I’ve been hurt by unkindness and use it as inspiration to always be kind. Instead of using others and going to extremes for personal gain, I’m going to use the last few years I have to truly focus on myself to grow and maintain a version of myself I’m proud of. 

While so many experiences I’ve had in dealing with people at college have been painful and left me feeling hurt and alone, I’ve learned so much about the strength and beauty that lies within myself. I’ve learned so much about who I don’t want to be and the type of people that don’t belong in my circle. 

For now, I will relentlessly work on myself, because I know the future me will thank me. I will cherish the authentic friendships I have with genuine people. I will continue to encourage others and fight for change. I will continue to dedicate time to schoolwork and my job. And I will only invest energy into kindness. 

Just because the college environment can be toxic doesn’t mean I have to be. It doesn’t mean you have to be. We can be in an environment without being of it. 

I encourage everyone who reads this to be a little kinder to those around you today. I encourage everyone who reads this to look in the mirror and evaluate what your goals are and what truly fulfills your soul. I encourage everyone who reads this to reflect on who you truly are, who you want to be and how you are going to get there. 

We can all be good people. We can all create a healthy and kind environment. And we can all work to lift each other up instead of tearing each other down.