The Gustavian Weekly

Reflecting on a time well spent at Gustavus | The Gustavian Weekly

By Ayushi Kalyani - Opinion Columnist | May 17, 2019 | Opinion

As an international student from India, people often ask me if I am going back home after school. Honestly, I haven’t had time to think about that. There are a lot of things I haven’t had a chance to do, and one of them is looking back at these last four years.
As a senior, I became aware of my environment, the people, and my comfort zones. I used this feeling of security to challenge myself to do things I didn’t do just because I was always insecure about what others would think of me.
I challenged myself at the beginning of this year to not stop myself from speaking up, chasing adventures, and taking chances. It is uncomfortable because rejections are demotivating, and as an international student, I am always watching my back so I don’t make a mistake that will cost me my student status.
However, I knew it was now or never because I don’t want a life full of ‘what ifs’ if I happen to leave the US after college. I studied abroad my junior year in Japan. I did not know the language beforehand.
I went for a run in an unknown countryside neighborhood and got lost on a highway. I was using the GPS, but due to the cold weather, my iPhone died. It is not a safe scenario, but I found a kind stranger who spoke English and drove me back to the town.
I still keep in touch with her, and spontaneous trips or unplanned events like these have made me fond memories of my study abroad program. I could take risks there because I knew it was, again, a ‘now or never’ situation. I was only there for a semester and couldn’t miss out.
This past year has been a year full of similar memories made only because of the chances I took. Of course, I faced some rejections, and all adventures don’t go according to the plan, but when you face rejections you move on to different opportunities and when plans don’t work out, you make new plans-the whole go with the flow ideology.
Coming to the end of a four-year program, I learned that bravery is not the absence of fear, but rather the presence of courage. The chances you don’t take will be the ones that will keep you wondering.
Another thing a liberal arts college has taught me is the power of words, and Minnesota (ironically) has made me realize how confrontations are a big part of my personality. Confronting with the right words can make a huge difference in all types of relationships.
If you’re struggling in a class, workplace, or in a friendship, saying something is always better than saying nothing. If we don’t make our feelings important enough to express, people won’t find them important enough to acknowledge.
As a history major, I have learned to look at past events through different lenses. I try to find perspectives in my daily life, too. It helped me rationalize my feelings and understand people’s actions better.
If someone’s actions make me angry, I find myself some time to be alone. I try to understand why the person might have done what they did. If I can’t, I confront them to explain to me so I can understand. The process allows me to work and maintain healthy relationships.
Over time, I have come to accept that what you think of yourself matters more than what others think of you. In any opportunity, failure isn’t the worst case scenario, not knowing if I would succeed is.
As a graduating student, my only advice to the girl who travelled from India to study at a liberal arts college would be to take chances. Don’t let the fear of being judged stop you. Gustavus has so much to offer, don’t be bashful in using the resources available.
Second, to speak your mind at all times. Sounding stupid is better than not expressing yourself or being ignorant. Conversations are a part of the college experience. Last, everyone around you is learning. Understand their perspective and always choose to be kind. You’re making friendships that will last a lifetime.

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