Hailey Gilman, gilmanhe@miamioh.edu

Perhaps I was a little arrogant entering my first year at Miami. I was scheduled to take biology, chemistry and other typical courses as a student aiming to eventually reach medical school. I assumed that with my past AP experience and high school work, my classes would consist of mostly review material, going slightly more in depth than my high school teachers.

Of course, I was incredibly naïve and I ended up learning more in 16 week long courses than I had learned in some year-long high school classes. I can honestly admit to learning so much this past academic year and I cannot limit my learning to within the classroom. I found that I learned equally, if not more, simply living in Oxford as a full-time college student. No amount of statistics or information sessions could have captured the three major life lessons freshman year taught me.

First, money is valuable, but nonessential to happiness. I came to Miami satisfied with my bank account. I had spent my summer working, saving up spending money that I felt would be unnecessary. I remember assuring my mother that I could never spend that amount of money even if I tried.

However, as the academic year went on, my bank account slowly dwindled and I cringed when I checked my available balance. I came to appreciate the value of my meal plan and would deny dinners Uptown for fear of using “real money”. My purchases were never extravagant, but added up over time. 15 dollars went toward an organization’s t-shirt, twenty went toward a night out, and fifteen toward an additional book assigned for class, draining my account in only a few days. I looked forward to holidays, when my relatives would send cards with the occasional five-dollar bill enclosed.

For their donations I was eternally grateful. Of course, as I reflect back on my time here, my happiest moments never concerned money, most simply it involved seeing friends and attending events on campus. I understand the work behind a dollar, but without it, I believe my college experience would not be diminished.

Second, college students are amazing. Never before have I felt so impressed by those surrounding me. I am quite proud of my résumé and I believe it to be decently developed, but it excites me to hear of the accomplishments of my peers. I have met students published in medical journals, students with travel stories abound and students with incredible personal triumphs. I know some that have beat cancer and some that hope to cure it. Their pasts unmatched, they also have lofty goals for the future. I expect my friends to be successful in their chosen fields, no matter their eventual career or the path they take to get there. I will miss this after I graduate. I can only hope that I will be surrounded by such hardworking, curiosity-driven people in my future.

Lastly, my freshman year has taught me to prioritize. Some things are more important than others. Professors have assigned me mountains of work – truly impossible to complete in the time allotted.

I have learned to decide what is necessary to do and what I can deem to be only mental fodder. Clubs and organizations conflict with one another and I have learned to find a balance. I have learned to walk the line between commitments, ensuring my participation in all my endeavors, and never neglecting my responsibilities. Of course, I must also think through my dedication, as I cannot fully devote myself to an event without the time. Above everything though, I have learned to prioritize friends. I value the students I have met throughout my time at Miami. They are smart, kind, passionate people and I credit my survival through these semesters to them. They allow me to laugh and learn from my failures and to celebrate my success. I can honestly say that they are my favorite part of Miami and to them, I owe my greatest thanks.

Each Miami student will experience something different during their time at this university. This is perhaps the beauty of college, that it is what you make it. However, I don’t believe you can leave this campus without learning life lessons like my own. Academia is of course the most important component of Miami University, but I believe that what this college can teach me stretches far beyond my career and into my future adult life.