‘I feel like I look at the world differently’ after years at KSU

Erin Dean

Soon-to-be graduates say they’re ready, well-equipped to step forward into careers

As fifth-year senior Melissa Knestaut completes her final fall semester at Kent State, she prepares to step out into the world beyond college with more experience and knowledge in tow.

“I think the Melissa from freshman year is still very similar to the Melissa I am now,” said the dual major in dance performance and leisure studies. “I’m still outgoing, spontaneous, willing to take some risks but also very goal-oriented. However, I have more experience from being in college to help inform my decision making.”

Knestaut said that the change students notice in themselves as they spend their years in college can be both a natural process and experience-based.

“I think it is a little of both,” she said. “As people mature, they may see things from different perspectives and may just have different goals along the way that inform who they are. But at the same time, specific experiences play a large role in the way people see the world and their place in it.”

Katie Stata, senior early childhood education major, said she agreed.

“I feel like I’m more mature,” she said. “I feel like I look at the world differently. I have different views now about things in life like relationships and careers based on things I’ve gone through

in college.”

New responsibilities

Brandon Hall, junior dance education major, said he credits his change in maturity to the responsibilities he gained in college.

“Since freshman year, I definitely think I have become more mature,” he said. “Responsibility has kicked in big time. I find myself more on top of things; can’t depend on ‘mommy’ anymore. College definitely gave me direction in life. Being in the dance education program has allowed me to express myself artistically. It has reassured me that this is exactly what I want to do in life.”

Stata said she agreed that she feels reassured about her career choice since being in college.

“I always knew I wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “But since being in college, I have experienced several things that just solidify that feeling for me. For one, getting into my major was a big deal. It’s very selective, so knowing that I was good enough to get in really gave me confidence. And now that I am getting to go into the classroom and actually work first-hand with kids makes it real for me.”

Besides the workload changing from high school to college, Hall said living away from home was one of the biggest changes for him.

“At first, living away from home helped me gain a sense of freedom,” Hall said. “Now that I am a junior, I find myself wanting to go home more. College sometimes makes you value your family and all the hard work they put into making sure you have a better life. I’m not saying it does for everyone, but it sure did for me.”

Stata said being away from home made her feel more independent and responsible.

“Moving into my apartment was great,” she said. “I think it makes college a lot easier because it feels like a home, which is something you don’t get living in the dorms.”

For Knestaut, moving off campus meant becoming even more responsible for herself.

“Paying rent and bills every month,” she said. “Cooking and cleaning. It helped me to mature, and take one more step toward being an independent adult.”

Life-changing events

As Stata and Knestuat looked back on their years in college, they said the big events and experiences they went through were really the points where they felt they changed as a person.

Stata said she recently learned about her parents getting a divorce, and that has changed her outlook on a lot of things in life.

“It makes me think a lot about the future,” she said. “It makes me think about marriage and how fragile it can be. It takes hard work, and you have to be willing to work at it. But on the other hand, if something doesn’t work out, I know it can still turn out OK.”

Knestaut said a pivotal point in her college career was when her cousin passed away.

“When my cousin passed away, who I was really close to,” she said, “it was a real struggle to focus on work and deadlines after such a loss. I think this changed my outlook. For instance, I have always been very excited to move away to New York. Now I am worried that being far away from family might mean missing out on important things.”

Embracing the change

Regardless of the things college students experience, Stata said she thinks change is inevitable for everyone, just in different ways.

“I have even changed with my friendships,” she said. “In high school, I always had a boyfriend, but in college I value friendship a lot more. I definitely go out more, and try to meet new people. I definitely have closer friends that I make an effort to make time for.”

For Hall, the change he discovered in himself landed him on a different path.

“I am nowhere near where I thought I could be five years ago,” he said. ” I thought that I was going to be in law school or in athletic training. I never knew that a hobby of mine would later turn into a college career. But I would not change my major for anything.”

Whatever small or big changes that occur to people during their four, five or maybe six years that they are here at Kent State, Stata said to embrace it all and grow from it.

“Don’t be afraid to take risks,” she said. “It’s OK if you turn out differently than you’d planned. Take advantage of this time in college because it is really the only time you get in life to be completely selfish, in a good way, and learn who you are and who you want to be.”

Contact student life reporter Erin Dean at [email protected].