College’s race against time: how do you win it?


Lana Altunashvili ’27 is a prospective international relations major. She is a James Monroe Scholar and a member of Club Tennis. Contact her at

The views expressed in the article are the author’s own.

As a freshman of the class of 2027, I’ve realized this year that the entirety of the college experience, especially freshman year, is a race against time. Let me explain. I’ve started writing this article several times now, trying to find the right words to summarize an entirety of nine months in a couple of paragraphs of about 800 words. The longer I tried, the less sense I made. So, finally, I’ve decided to abandon my naive hopes of reflecting on countless experiences of freshman year in a single article and to simply share some things I’ve only internalized now, two weeks before the last day of classes of my first year at the College of William and Mary. A fact that may be obvious to everyone and still goes unnoticed in the everyday chaos of students’ lives is that college is a race against time — a race that we inevitably always lose, unable to tell how everything went by so quickly. But maybe if we were to set our own terms in this game, things could change then.

Seeing the dread settle in my friends’ eyes when I mention how much time is left in our freshman year, I find it a bit funny how we think of graduation as a “doomsday” of sorts rather than a liberation and a gaining of independence. Of course, I’m no stranger to the feeling either, but I feel like we have the wrong approach to all of this. I felt it myself this year. Coming into the College with one major, I then changed it not once, not twice, but three times, before finally settling on my last choice. It comes as no wonder then that I took classes I may never, ever need. General chemistry? Definitely of no use to an international relations major. Neither is calculus or accounting. That’s why, sometime in the middle of the second semester, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d wasted my freshman year on nothing but potential interests and majors. But then again, isn’t that what college is for? Especially this one, where all of this seeming indecisiveness is more encouraged than it is frowned upon. My “lost” race against time, as I’d been seeing it, became a productive use of time when I realized that all of the classes I’d taken had not only made me a more well-rounded person but also made me realize that I wanted to do something else, even if I really enjoyed the courses themselves. In essence, things are only as good and bad as the lens you look at them from, and time is only as wasted as you make it out to be.

Looking at the countdown in our dorm room as my roommate changes the number from “21” to “20 days left until move out,” I think back to what things were like nine months ago when I came here for orientation and everything that’s happened since. And you know what? I realized that the reason why I can’t reflect on the experiences of freshman year, the reason why I can’t write an article on just those events alone, is because I haven’t really been paying attention for most of these nine months. I’ve been getting good grades and I’ve spent good times with friends, but so much of the year has been about what I will be doing in the future and what major I want to choose, which semester I want to spend abroad, what internship I want to do in the summer, that I’ve neglected to think about what I have right now. I’ve been waking up every morning waiting for fall break, winter holidays, summer vacation. Now that the latter is almost here, I feel nostalgic about the things I didn’t fully experience, simply because I’ve been waiting for something else to come around. This freshman race against time, though, isn’t isolated to first-year students, which makes it so much worse. We only have so much time here, and since we’re not really going anywhere, why not make the most of it? Time goes by faster when you don’t constantly look at the clock, anyway, so we might as well pay attention to the small things worth remembering for years down the road.

I, myself, will remember the time we went canoeing on Lake Matoaka. The time my suitemate and I accidentally added too much Habanero powder to our omelets and could barely eat them afterwards. I’ll remember the time I first saw an article of mine in print and took it home. How my friends made fun of me when I said pineapple was the only real fruit here, and how later they sometimes brought me pineapple and blueberries in a cup. I’ll remember the time when we celebrated my friend’s birthday and then went on a tour of campus looking at the stars. How I helped my suitemate survive for a bit longer in a game of assassins by switching the names on our doors. And, look, I won’t pretend I am going to remember these things forever, but thinking about them now makes me smile like an idiot at my computer on the first floor of Earl Gregg Swem Library, so make of that what you will.

My point with all of this is that though I can’t speak for everyone on how this academic year went, I know that many of us will remember some of the small, insignificant and yet some of the most memorable things that happened during these nine months. I doubt any of the mundane projects we completed or essays we wrote will still be in our minds next year. And yet, the tennis games we played, the people we laughed with and the sunsets we saw — those things don’t tend to leave us that soon. So while you’re here trying to plan out your entire life, trying to win the race against time, why not try and make the rules of the game your own?


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