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Life Lessons We Learned from Our College Interns

Why college lessons still apply, wherever you are in life.
Charlotte (left) and Sabrina (right)

Charlotte (left) and Sabrina (right)

You may know our spring interns, Charlotte and Sabrina, as the "twinterns" from their appearances on our weekly emails and Instagram. Over the past several months the two of them have helped us with a variety of editorial tasks from sourcing the perfect yoga pants (coming soon!) to assisting with blog posts and photoshoots, but what impressed us the most was just how much they do outside of their internship. On top of interning two days a week, they're constantly running off to sorority meetings, to chair some club, make dinner for a friend, oh, and study! Because we've learned so much from them, we asked them to share the greatest lessons they've learned so far in college as their final project for us. Enjoy! - Emily

We've learned countless lessons while attending the University of Southern California—not to eat the "meatless meat" at the dining hall; to always wear shower shoes in the dorm bathrooms—but here are the most important life lessons we've gathered in college:

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Whether you end up liking an activity, job, or class, or deciding it’s just not for you, pursuing new things result in, if nothing else, a lesson learned, and if you’re lucky, one of the greatest decisions you ever made. 

Sabrina's Take: One of my first days at USC, I went to an involvement fair for The Marshall School of Business, which was flooded with tables of consulting, accounting, and investing clubs, none of which I saw as the right fit for myself. Nestled between a few of those booths, though, I saw a table with three girls and a banner that read Marshall Women’s Leadership Board (“MWLB”), and joined on the spot. Two years later, and I now serve as President. The club I joined on as whim has truly defined my college experience. It serves as a constant reminder to take every opportunity you think could be right for you because you never know what job/club/opportunity could change your life.

Charlotte's Take: As a freshman, I signed up to be a part of the horseback riding team, the environmental core at the USC club fair, and the marching band—I don’t even play an instrument! My strategy was to sign up first, attend the first meeting, and decide later if I actually wanted to participate. Since then, after some trial and error (including one overwhelmingly packed semester where I became the person who always apologizes for the delayed response in my emails), I've narrowed it down to a few key clubs that are more relevant to my journalism major. If I had just walked by all of those booths at the club fair, I would have never known that they weren’t for me. P.S., I never ended up learning that instrument...

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In high school, maintaining a "hobby" took little to no effort, but as soon as we entered college, we momentarily lost track of what made us happy. It didn’t take us long to realize, though, that keeping up with activities, for the sole reason that they make you happy, is key.

Sabrina's Take: In high school, I ran cross country and track competitively and loved it. When it ended senior year, I no longer had a team to hold me accountable, and I stopped running almost completely, except for a few days a week when I'd head to the track. Still, running always took the back-burner until I realized I'd have to actually work it into my academic schedule to keep at it. Last semester I took a class called "Physical Conditioning" with friends, which forced me to get my daily workouts in. It’s amazing how much adding exercise back into my routine improved my happiness, confidence, and overall wellbeing. My biggest piece of advice for bringing back your hobby: Do it with friends because it holds you accountable and makes the activity all-around more enjoyable. 

Charlotte's Take: Nowadays, I barely have time for the things I enjoyed in high school, so I did the same thing Sabrina did and started to sign up for classes. If there's one life lesson I've learned in college, it's that committing 30 minutes or more to an activity you really enjoy can make a big difference in my stress and overall happiness. If I can get a run into my busy schedule—or something else I enjoy, like photography—my day is automatically better.

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When moving to a new city, state, or country, it’s easy to lose touch with people you once spent time with everyday, but picking up the phone—even when it’s finals season—is always worthwhile. In that same light, when things at school or work feel overwhelming, we’ve learned the value in taking time to treat yourself to a break. Sometimes, a little R&R is all we need to get us back in the groove.

Sabrina's Take: I remember telling myself that I wouldn’t let the distance between my friends and me make us lose touch freshman year. But with new classes, new friends, and new cities to explore, it’s so easy to fall out of communication with people you love. But catching up with old friends always puts things in perspective. There was one time during my Freshman year when I FaceTimed one of my best friends from home and we talked for two hours about our similar freshman experiences, including our new friends, roommate situations, dorm food, etc. I was so surprised to hear that we had had similar experiences despite being across the country from one another. Sometimes college feels like a bubble, but reaching out to old friends helped me realize that my feelings are valid and shared.

Charlotte: While all of my high school friends are happy at their respective colleges, life still happens and everyone has bad days, though social media can create the illusion that everyone is perfectly happy. When I call or FaceTime my friends, we can talk and laugh for hours—and discuss the tougher things candidly if we need to. My friends help me through problems I have in college all the time, and it's great to hone those relationships even when we aren't physically together.

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We didn’t initially plan going to college together, but it just sort of happened, for very different reasons. Since we have always attended the same schools and had the same friends, it’s important to both of us that we venture out on our own so that we grow as individuals, meet new people, and have unique experiences.

Sabrina's Take: One of the things I love most about USC business school is that it offers opportunities to students to travel abroad with a class freshman year through a program called LINC (Learning about International Commerce). When I was accepted to travel to Tokyo for ten days, I didn't know anyone in my group, had only a slight idea of what the class would be like, and had never traveled abroad without my sister and parents. Needless to say, I was nervous, but it turned out to be one of the most rewarding and exciting trips I’ve ever been on. I learned so much about international commerce, and it gave me the confidence that I could work (and possibly live!) abroad.

Charlotte's Take: Sometimes it feels like I’ve never been on my own because Sabrina and I have always gone to the same schools and participated in the same activities. But doing things on my own in college has been great for me to grow as an individual. This summer, Sabrina and I will be spending the most time apart in our lives. She's staying in Dallas, while I'm continuing my internship at Cupcakes and Cashmere. Spending summer apart serves as another opportunity for us to grow independently, and I know our reunion in August will be all the more special after spending two months apart, which could be said of any separation with a close friend or family member.

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College is hard. Between living in a dorm with roommates, taking difficult classes, and balancing our social and academic lives, we realized that, despite each being fiercely independent, asking for help is sometimes a necessity.

Sabrina's Take: I called my parents one to two times per day my first semester at USC. I was homesick (my “It’s not that far!” argument quickly lost its legitimacy when I realized I was indeed 1,436 miles from home) and disillusioned about the fact that Charlotte and I were now on our own. Before leaving for college, I was confident that I’d be fine all the way in Los Angeles, that I wouldn’t be homesick, and that the distance between LA and Dallas wouldn’t intimidate me. I quickly found out how wrong I was, and I don’t think I could have gotten through the first few months of college without my family. So, my advice is to call mom and dad (or whoever your adult role model may be) whether you're in college or not because maintaining a support system in a time of transition or new environment is one of the best ways to gain perspective, learn, and grow.

Emily also recently shared a list of tips for handling difficult situations, many of which I practiced when I was feeling homesick and lost freshman year. The advice readers gave are insightful for anyone going through a transitional or difficult time. 

Charlotte's Take: College has taught me that, in the real world, asking for help is encouraged and often necessary. Like Sabrina, I didn’t think I was going to be homesick at college, I assumed my classes would be easier than they were in high school, and I thought I’d make a friend group immediately—and I was wrong about all of that. I was homesick for months, my classes were tough and I stayed up until midnight or later studying every night, and it took time to make true friends and to feel comfortable in my dorm and in my classes.

I’ve never had trouble asking help from teachers—office hours are my jam—and I really thrive when I have individual attention to ask questions if I’m too nervous to speak up in class. But during the initial transition period freshman year, I learned the importance of asking for help from family and friends. I called my parents and grandparents frequently to ask for advice about school, new friends, administering medicine when I got sick (from the flu, and then when I broke my foot after tripping on an acorn...), and everything in-between. I quickly learned the importance of asking for help when I needed it, when normally I would keep everything bottled up inside and try to navigate life on my own. Getting used to being alone was difficult, but now that I have sophomore year under my belt, I know that asking for help isn't a sign of weakness—rather, it's a sign that I'm curious and willing to learn and grow. 

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Our final take: Whether you're in high school, college, or in your post-college years, the same advice rings true: Go after what you're passionate about; don't be afraid to fail or move on from something if you're not into it; maintain your hobbies, your friends, and your family connections; and do what you love. Doing all of these things has made us happier, more productive, and more inquisitive students, friends, and daughters.  

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