My time at Kingswood University has finally come to an end, even though it feels like I just started. My mind is blown at the fact that so much has happened over the past 3 ½ years from even starting here in the first place, to now packing up my room and saying, “See you later” to friends who have turned into family. But while I’ve been here I have learned so much and not only academically. I could probably write a book about my time here and everything I have gone through spiritually and otherwise, and how that has catapulted me rather quickly into adulthood. And for those things I am extremely grateful.

So for your enjoyment (and because these things have been kicking around my head for a while), here are 11 things I learned at Kingswood.

11. Kingswood (or any other college/university) is not the be-all-end-all of life

People might say high school is the best four years of your life. False. People might say college is the best four years of your life. Also false. Although your college experience may be the “bomb diggity” and you do in fact have some of the best four years of your life, the thing to keep in mind is that this isn’t the end of life; it’s just the beginning! There is a whole entire world out there ready for you to explore with your degree in hand, so get out there and start exploring it! Don’t wish your time away (something I am definitely guilty of), but make the most of it and cherish those memories for when you leave college. Four years is most certainly not the end of your life.

10. Having a mentor is a crucial component to your development as a student

If I had a dollar for every time I realized the importance of having a mentor in my life, I could most definitely pay off my student loans. From the very beginning of my time here at Kingswood someone saw the potential that was in me and wanted to utilize and develop that within me by meeting with me weekly and stretching me on things I never thought about. I am extremely grateful for the two semesters we spent together, but after she left it was up to me to find someone who could continue to do that for me and I found people. Yes, it might take some initiation on your part to seek out a mentor, but the risk is totally worth it when you look back on the things you talked about with each other and how that person was critical to your advancement as a student. A mentor is a confidant, a sounding board, and just a really great person to have around!

9. How you start is not how you will finish

God is truly incredible. I can do nothing but praise him for the transforming power he bestows upon others’ lives. It is such an awesome thing to know people when you start and then be able to see how they finish. There is so much growth and transformation that takes place in people’s lives during their time here, and I love the fact that I can testify to being one of those people who is not the same as when I came in to school here. However you start, with all your brokenness, anger, regret, pride, whatever it may be, is 100 percent not how you will finish if you open yourself to the transforming power of the gospel and let the Holy Spirit take hold of your life. So much pain and frustration goes into it, but so much joy and fruit will come at the end of it. Be open, run with it, reap the blessings from it.

8. Don’t take the power of community for granted

There is something wonderful about being able to walk across the hall at night and bearing your soul in front of your closest friends and having them pray over you to receive God’s wisdom and guidance in a situation. There is something beautiful about sitting around the table with people who go beyond friends and into the realm of family and sharing a meal together over much laughter and jokes and good conversation. There is something mind blowing about joining in one voice in song and prayer during a spontaneous worship night and hearing those around you testify to the grace and goodness of the Father amidst a situation at home that seems so discouraging. The power of community is a strong one. Don’t take for granted the people God puts in your life to shepherd you along in your spiritual journey or the relationships you will build with those you are in close living spaces with because of the incredible impact they will make on your life.

7. Be flexible: It’s not the end of the world when things don’t go as planned

This is a big leadership lesson I have learned over the past three years. You can plan and plan and plan all you want but really (honestly!) it’s okay when things don’t go the way you wanted them to. Sometimes when you intended for an event or seminar or whatever it may be to go one way and it totally does a 180, IT’S OKAY. Sometimes those moments are better than what was originally intended. Being flexible is the greatest gift you can ever give to those you work for or with in a leadership setting.

6. YOU set the culture

How you act around and towards those under you (especially underclassmen) is a crucial component to setting the tone of your environment. How you react to events, situations, or rules is a crucial component to setting the tone of your environment. If you don’t agree with something or want to change something, raging about those in leadership above you is not the way to do it. Trying to get those under you (especially underclassmen) to agree with you by making them enraged about it is not the way to do it. You setting the culture means being submissive to leadership and teaching others to do the same. You setting the culture means following the rules (even when you feel like you’re being treated as a middle school student) and teaching others to do the same. You setting the culture means having a positive attitude even when those around you don’t. You want to see something change? Change your attitude, change the culture around you.

5. Never stop learning

There is always another book to read, another topic to take an interest in, another person’s brain to pick, and another non-academic conversation to be had over a third or fourth cup of coffee (or tea). Don’t be afraid to learn something new, and don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know everything about the field you are studying. There’s nothing wrong with not declaring a major, and there’s nothing wrong with declaring a major because you will always have something that you can learn about. As the old saying goes, “You learn something new every day” and that statement has so much truth. Don’t close your brain off to knowledge just because it’s not what you intended to study. Pick up a book, pick that person’s brain, and never stop learning!

4. You are not someone else–you are who God has created you to be

“Identity Crisis” is a phrase that practically became engraved into my vocabulary over the last year and a half. That’s the way someone described it to me, and that’s the only way I know how to describe it now. I was too busy trying to be someone else, trying to put up a front, and trying to be someone I wasn’t. How well do you think that worked for me? Now let me ask, how’s that working for you? God didn’t create you to be your roommate who is going on to get their masters and three Ph.D. degrees. God didn’t create you to solve the water crisis in Africa. What God did do was create you with a specific calling and task at hand that is unique to your giftings and abilities, not someone else’s. You have been called to something wonderful and extraordinary; so go and do it as you, not as somebody else!

3. Vulnerability goes a long way

If standing in front of people and revealing your deepest darkest secrets freaks you out, then don’t do it. I promise, however, that coming before your closest friends that you would take a bullet for and confessing your sins in a state of vulnerability and humility goes a long way. This community exists for that very reason. Although it hurts sometimes I have loved having the freedom to express that no, actually, I’m not doing okay today and not have people give me scowls and speak condemning words over my life. Instead, there are grace and compassion, love and acceptance, prayer and healing from those moments. Vulnerability goes a long way, and it’s totally worth it.

2. Don’t do things just for the sake of recognition

This is the second leadership lesson I have learned over the years as well. Whether you’re the person up front or the person behind the scenes who set up chairs before the event, don’t be discouraged when your name gets left out of the list in the thank you speech afterwards. Yeah it might be a little disappointing when you aren’t recognized for your work, but I have learned that it is my pride that wants the recognition, not me. This has been such a humbling lesson for me to learn, and it is one that I am still learning to find contentment with. Do things because of your passion and zeal for ministry or whatever capacity that might look like. Don’t do them just so you can hear your name said into a microphone. Check the motives of your heart and repent of your prideful attitude in your work. Do everything as worship unto the Lord.

1. Wait on the Lord

Simply because I haven’t been saying this enough in an attempt to get it through to myself! This has been such an important lesson I have learned, even from the beginning and I didn’t know it yet. The culture we live in says, “I want it and I want it now,” but (sorry not sorry to burst your bubble) that’s not what God wants. There is an art and skill that comes with waiting, one I still continue to pray I will possess. I hope that you too will learn this skill and that you will see the benefit of your patient waiting on God for whatever it may be. God’s timing is SO good and completely worth it, and I hope that waiting for God’s timing will be the desire of your heart.

Was this post lengthy? Yes. Am I sorry? Not really. I can only hope that these lessons will touch someone else as they go through their own journey through college or university. I am forever in debt to this great institution and it’s incredible Christ-like servant leaders inside and outside the classroom, my friends who have turned to family, and the memories I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Alecia da Cruz is currently serving as an intern at Hillside Wesleyan Church in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. The Presque, Maine, native will graduate from Kingswood University in April. View original post here.