How forsaking my planned-out path led me to try new things, explore new passion, find myself, and live a better life.
How it started
My name is Yugtha Jungbadoor, and I am a recent alumnus of Lycoming College. In December 2021, I completed my four-year college program in 3.5 years and graduated from Lycoming College with a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Arts: Photography & Commercial Design. However, the way in which my college experience ended is very far from how I thought it would be when it first started.
When 18-year-old Yugtha first came to the U.S. for college, everything was pre-planned. After having studied English Literature for my Cambridge O-Level and A-Level, I enrolled at Lycoming College as a Creative Writing Major. I was excited at the opportunity of living and experiencing life on my own, finishing college, going to grad school to further my studies in English. I could see it all ahead of me. But things quickly took a sudden turn after my first semester.
My first semester
The truth is that my first semester was extremely difficult. A big part of me was not at all prepared for the actual transition to being abroad, and I was overcome with anxiety. It almost took two whole semesters, but eventually, I re-reflected on what my plan for college was and realized that I did not want to graduate and regret never trying new things and facing my fears.
So, I did. I started with simple things, I decided to try classes that would be interesting, that I never would have had back home: archaeology, analog photography, philosophy, and theater. Why else would I go to a liberal arts college if not to explore different classes, majors, and experiences?
I applied for a campus job at the admission office as a campus tour guide, and for someone with anxiety, it was probably the biggest thing that helped me. Every day, I would meet new people and prospective students, and whenever I was on tour, they would ask me why I chose Lycoming, what I thought about classes and my experience here, and those questions allowed me to be honest to myself about my experience and how the best thing was being able to try new things, explore, and find myself.
One thing led to another and I started seeing a different side of myself. One that I would not have seen if it was not for the courage to forsake the planned-out path I chose before coming here and going for something completely new and different.
My second semester
Before I knew it, the next semester came and I continued exploring the classes available to me, including more photography, art history, and graphic design. I took on additional student jobs including ones in the marketing and art departments. All the new experiences and opportunities allowed me to learn more about the person I was growing up to be and what she loved. I realized I love learning about people, history, and life, and I love having a creative outlet.
Most importantly, I hate having to pick one thing and settle because I thrive off growth and new experiences. So, I changed my major, and I knew it was the right thing to do because ever since, I would wake up every day and look forward to my classes, learning, being around people who shared similar interests, and it made me really happy. Yet, things in life do not always go smoothly, and halfway through my college career, we were all introduced to the covid-19 pandemic.
The pandemic changed everything
In my case, I went from living my best life to suddenly facing uncertainties about my education and my career, and I was introduced to extreme anxiety and depression. If you come from any type of somewhat conservative upbringing, you would understand that it is something that we don’t learn to talk about and most of the time, it is something for which we are not prepared.
For a year, things were extremely hard and lonely. Being physically away from my friends for almost 5 months, it was hard to open up to people about what was going on. I would wake up and go to bed worried and ask myself, how would I be able to further afford college, what would happen to my career, did I pick the wrong major, would it be hard to find a job after college...
How I turned it around
Despite everything, I gained resilience and refused to give up. It taught me to be more outspoken about my opinions and views, on life, mental health, art, and living abroad. By the next semester I was working my maximum hours on campus, running between shifts at different departments, and classes, updating my résumé, applying for jobs for post-graduation, and taking extra classes online. I didn’t know how but I knew I would figure everything out no matter what. There were a lot of tears and panic attacks involved, but I was lucky to have gained an incredible support system. Having a community and family who constantly reminded me that I could do it kept me going.
A couple of weeks before I graduated, I turned 22 and received a job offer from a company I really connected with, and two months later, I received my OPT Employment Authorization. As I look forward to this new chapter and moving to a new city, I go back to thinking about how worried I had been that perhaps things would not work out for me. I still do not have my life completely figured out, and it makes me happy and excited for whatever else possibly awaits me in the future.
In my experience, the uncertainty is what encouraged me to try things out, go places and explore. It led me to discovering the real me. It taught me resilience because when things are not figured out, it allows you to be a little more prepared for the unexpected, and the unexpected can lead to incredible experiences. Studying at a liberal arts college in the United States allowed me to find my way around life and learn to be myself and live better. If it was not for this way of life and taking advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves as they did, I would think I am living my best life based on what had already been pre-determined years ago and never know what else could be out there.
Yugtha Jungbadoor is a recent alumnus of Lycoming College. Her journey was full of unexpected turns, but in December 2021, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Studio Arts: Photography & Commercial Design.
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