What I Learned in My Third Year at U-M

As the year comes to a close, I discuss the knowledge that I gained during my third year at University of Michigan.

By Ellie Younger April 13, 2022
What I Learned in My Third Year at U-M

I’ve always loved learning. Frankly, I never want to stop and never want things to become stagnant in my life, so I find it important that I take the time now to remark on some of the things that I learned this past year. This is not a comprehensive list, but it does cover some of the more notable things that I discovered as a junior.

  • Rest is an act of self-preservation. I have always struggled with balancing school, my social life, and taking care of myself. Having multiple chronic illnesses makes things quite difficult. This year I have actively worked to set aside time to lay in bed listening to music, resting my body. I have scheduled out time for rest and prioritized self care. It is vital to take care of ourselves, so that we can take care of others, and bring our best selves forth into all that we do. For me, this means taking early bedtimes, unapologetically sliding into bed around 9 p.m. I have to make sure to schedule things efficiently so that I can get my work done ahead of time, but I have learned that with my illnesses, I need as much rest as possible.
  • I can step outside of my comfort zone. This fall, at the recommendation of one of my friends, I took an American Culture class. I joined the class late after transferring out of a different one and was terrified, as historical topics have never been my strong suit. I was instantly intimidated by the intelligence of the other students in the class, people who were familiar with this subject and had vast background knowledge. I went to office hours to express my concerns and was recommended to simply do my best. I didn’t need to be an expert to learn from this course. Throughout the year, I battled with feeling like I wasn’t as smart as the other students in my class, but ultimately discovered that I actually just looked at things from a different lens – which is still valuable. I challenged myself to take a different course and from that challenge was able to learn a lot about American Culture, as well as my own skills as a student and person.
  • How to resolve conflict while centering restorative justice. This semester I got a job at the Office for Student Conflict Resolution (OSCR), and throughout my training with them I have learned a lot about conflict resolution, conflict styles, restorative justice, and relationships. I learned that we all have different conflict styles, and there is no bad style to solve conflicts. However, sometimes depending on the situation, one style will be more effective than others. I learned the importance of listening and validating, and the helpful acronym CLARA (which stands for center, listen, affirm, respond, add), which can be used when navigating a conflict nonviolently.
  • The value of family. In November of this year, my parents moved from Oregon to Michigan so that my mom could pursue a job at the University of Michigan Law Library. I initially was very nervous about the idea of them encroaching on my college experience, but over the last couple of months I have come to realize how important family is to me, and I truly appreciate having them nearby. I am lucky enough to live with my chosen family of friends in a house only four hours from my sister and 15 minutes from my parents. I have learned that I can be independent, while also sometimes relying on my friends and family for support.

three friends smiling and holding coffee cups
Posing for a photo on the sidewalk while snow falls.
  • Group projects can be fun. These last two semesters I was assigned my fair share of group projects. I wrote research papers, gave presentations, made a podcast, taught a class, and held discussions all as part of a group. Initially, I hated group projects. I disliked that I had to put my trust in other people for my grade, and I worried constantly about if I was pulling my weight and if my group members were too. This year I learned the value of teamwork and began to appreciate the fun parts of group projects. I got to interact with new people, make friends, and learn from their ideas. Forming connections is what life is all about, and these projects gave me an opportunity to do just that.
  • The power of live music. After having a break from live music for so long due to COVID-19, it has been so lovely to be able to enjoy it again. I feel so alive when listening to artists and their craft. This year I have been lucky enough to appreciate a variety of live music – in Detroit, Chicago, and Ann Arbor. Through the University of Michigan, I was able to see Musket’s performance of the musical “Once on This Island,” and the percussion group Groove’s performance “Groove Robs the Louvre.” I also attended various house shows and performances of local Ann Arbor bands. It’s wonderful to support artists, and music always feels good for the soul.

Crowd watching a musical performance.
Crowd watching a musical performance. ​​​
  • I actually can cook, and investing time into my meals (when I can) is important. I’ve always thought that I’m a bad cook. However, this year I tried to expand the range of things that I made in the kitchen. I got cookbooks and tried Pinterest recipes, widening my skill set and experimenting with different meals. I still don’t always find myself enjoying cooking, but it helps to listen to music and to know that I am putting good food into my body. I don’t always find the opportunity to put effort into my meals, but when I do, it always pays off. I learned in my Psychology of Happiness class that the act of savoring – slowing down and taking time to really see, smell, taste, and hear your food – can make you appreciate it more and has good benefits for your health.

Two cookbooks
Two cookbooks.
  • Five classes in one day is a lot. Winter semester I loaded up my schedule, but prioritized one thing: I refused to have class on Fridays. Because of this, I ended up with five classes on Tuesdays, almost completely back to back. As someone who deals with chronic illness and takes their medication on Tuesdays, I should’ve known better than to set my schedule up this way. However, what I learned from this experience is that I am capable of taking on a big workload, but that doesn’t always mean that I should. I was always determined to make it to my classes, and I persevered. Next semester I made sure to design a schedule that was more evenly balanced, as during this semester Tuesday evenings always had to be set aside for rest and relaxation.

This year I gained a lot of new knowledge. I learned about gratitude and mindfulness, research studies, post racial ideology, demography, and authoritarianism. Outside of class I learned more about friendship, dressing for Michigan weather, and how to take care of myself. I learned that healing is messy and non-linear. I learned never to give up on Michigan Football, that $2 conditioner makes my hair frizzy, and so much more. I hope you learned something new this year too, whether in class or outside of class. Never stop learning!


Ellie Younger

Ellie Younger is a sophomore in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts and plans to study Biopsychology, Cognition and Neuroscience. Ellie volunteers with the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC) and is happy to have found her U-M community in the club Survivor Michigan, for which she is an HR executive. She loves hiking in her home state of Oregon, conversations about social justice, and good poetry.