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Graduation is in two days, but I must be in denial or something because it hasn’t hit me yet. I’ve been doing all the graduation things like trying to find a job, decorating my cap and getting ready to move out of my apartment, but it all feels surreal. I anticipate once I sit down in the Skydome on Saturday it will finally feel real.

I will be the first person in my family to graduate from a four-year university. It’s been a challenging journey, but an enjoyable one. I think I did really well in college. Some people may say that getting a degree these days isn’t special because almost everyone has one. Or that a bachelor’s degree isn’t going to be enough to get you the job you want, that you’ll have to also get a master’s degree or seek even higher education.

I think they’re wrong. A degree is such an achievement. While it seems like that’s what everyone is doing, there are plenty of people in the world where getting a college degree means everything. It’s not just to get a job. It's to provide for their families. It means opportunities and success. I think a lot of people find it easy to discount their achievements — I know I do — but we have to see them for what they are: achievements worth being proud of.

If you are graduating, don’t let those people get you down.

For the freshmen coming in as I prepare to leave NAU, a piece of advice to you that really helped me is to get involved as soon as possible. I knew what I wanted when I came in as a freshman. I knew I was going to major in journalism and I wanted to get involved. I joined The Lumberjack, various on-campus clubs and activities and even got an on-campus job. I volunteered at my church and gained so many more friends because of it.

Getting involved is how you make new friends. It also allows you to experience things other people may not get to do. I was pretty lonely my freshman year. I had a couple of friends, but definitely not as many as I do now. I have a group of people that are part of my family now. And that’s because I put myself out there.

Looking back, I think my biggest regret is not studying abroad. I have friends who ask me if they should studying abroad and I always say yes because I wish I had said yes.

I looked into it and met with an adviser, but there are only a handful of places that offer journalism programs abroad and none of them really appealed to me. I have a couple of friends that went to the Netherlands and they said it was an amazing experience. One of my friends is studying abroad in Ecuador right now and I can tell that she has matured and grown as a person from conversations we have now.

If you are thinking of studying abroad some time in your college career, do it and plan for it early. It is totally doable.

You may think that in order to get good grades and be successful academically that you will have to sacrifice your social life. I’m here to tell you that it’s not true.

Time management is key, and I was able to get a 4.0 GPA while doing internships and other extracurriculars and still had some time to hang out with friends. Having both is possible.

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Ariel Cianfarano is the circulation director of The Lumberjack, Northern Arizona University's student newspaper. College Chronicles aims to connect Flag Live! readers to various aspects of campus life.

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