Having just finished finals week, I am surrounded by many tired, half-functioning, and ultimately relieved friends. We have run the gamut of emotions this semester, from anxious to reassured, hangry to gluttonous, attempting to achieving. And we have come out successfully on the other side.

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Surrounded by the end of yet another semester and the laughter of friends who cannot believe they made it through once again, I couldn’t help but step back from the scene. Here we were, a group of people who were the youngest they would ever be right now. Yes, at present we were celebrating that youth by enjoying each other’s company and taking in the solace that winter break was finally here. But what about next semester when the time came again to complete another fifteen credit hours while trying to land the perfect, resume-boosting summer internship? When the stress and pressure of accomplishing reared its ugly head again? Would this youthful exuberance be reborn in the springtime?

Don’t get me wrong – I am in love with collegiate life. The independence, the ambition, the education surrounding one on campus is inspiring. I love going from class to class knowing the people around me are as like-minded as I am and want to build themselves a better future today. If that is not beautiful, I don’t know what is.

In exhibiting the lengths to which we are willing to go to accomplish our ambitions, though, how can we be sure any of it will come to fruition? How can we equate a college degree with guaranteed happiness? That spending four years at a university will teach us how to live our best lives from graduation and beyond?

College is the process of becoming. It is not the final leg of a journey where you are guaranteed success because of your degree. In becoming throughout your collegiate life, it is important to keep in mind you are always becoming. Becoming smarter, older, wiser. There are only so many things a classroom can teach us. It is not reasonable for college students to believe that earning a college degree will earn them the right to a happily ever after. That it is reasonable to not know where exactly your life is going.

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That’s why I am in love with Fox’s NEW GIRL. It is a masterpiece in its authenticity, sensitivity, and relatability. The actresses/actors who portray the characters of Jess, Nick, Schmidt, Winston, and Cece make you feel like you are not so alone in not knowing what the actual hell is going on in your life. Their lives are messy and unpredictable, just like the lives playing out on the other side of the screen.


In college, you meet a plethora of different types of people. There are the ones you can eat pizza out of a garbage can with, those who become the go-to study partner in a class, and better yet the person who waltzes into your dorm room and demands to smell your wardrobe’s wood. Through these and other experiences, you will make friends. Friends who don’t make any bit of sense to you, but you love nonetheless. Friends who ultimately become your second family.

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This is a trend seen on NEW GIRL. The show began with Jessica Day, a twenty-something middle school teacher, walking in on her boyfriend of six years cheating on her. Obviously upset at the betrayal, Jess goes on Craigslist, finds an ad to become a roommate to three random men, and moves into their loft. These three random men would begin the next chapter of Jess’s life, for better or for worse.

Like in college when you move into your dorm room, your roommate, neighbors, and Resident Assistants are all the company you have. There is a great change occurring in your life, and they are the people you have to undergo it with. Ultimately, it is your decision what to do with their presence. Hopefully, most of us make the best out of this situation much like Jess did.

By starting over, Jess opened herself up to Nick, Schmidt, and Winston. She let herself be vulnerable, lets them see her mourning her relationship by watching DIRTY DANCING on a loop. In turn, this allowed the three guys to come to care for Jess and open themselves up to her. Soon, Jess learned of Nick’s grumpy, angry, “There’s something bad in me” disposition. She became familiar with Schmidt’s douche jar-worthy tendencies and high maintenance ways. Winston’s character started unraveling itself before her big blue eyes, revealing his love of pranks and intensely weird habits.

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Like Jess beginning a new chapter in her life, college kids begin chapters in theirs when they move into their freshman year dorms. There will be strange occurrences. There will be challenges. But, if you let it, there will also be times where you can’t remember the days before you met the group of energetic, sarcastic fools you now call friends.


Upon enrolling in college, it is easy to imagine the things you will achieve there. There is the daydream of becoming the ultimate student, one who buckles down and studies for hours on end to procure a 4.0 GPA. However, you will still have time for fun and come to be known as a socialite in your respective friend groups. You will become the perfect balance of smart and social, focused and fun, accomplished and approachable.

While it is nice to imagine becoming these things, they are – for the most part – unrealistic. College is a brand new slate to begin creating a brand new you, but that does not mean remnants of the “outdated” version are alleviated for good. Nor does it mean the changes procured during this time will be easy. College students put too much pressure on themselves to be the perfect mix of professional and playful. They believe that if they are not establishing a regiment of successes week in and week out that they are not good enough. That they are failing where they should be succeeding.

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In NEW GIRL, the term success is redefined many times over. For all of the characters, it means something different. Take Jess for example. Being a middle school teacher, every success Jess earns is hard won. Whether it be giving kids attention by teaching them how to play bells, raising the money to go on a field trip to the ocean, or eventually becoming the principal, Jess gives her all every day. While Jess has earned the rights to these successes along the way, she has had to overcome many obstacles in seeing them realized. At one point in season two, Jess was even fired from her teaching position and had to take a job at a fast food place. Life is hard, and Jess’s professional journey reflects that.

Another character who faces endless trials and tribulations on the show is Nick Miller. At the show’s onset, Nick appeared to be the lazy, unmotivated, and good-for-nothing member of the group. As the show progressed, though, it was revealed just how unhappy Nick was with his life and its stagnancy. In his own college days, Nick thought he wanted to be a lawyer. Just shy of the finish line, Nick decided to drop out and started working as a bartender where he would stay for years. At one point, Nick believed he was cut out for writing and wrote one of the worst zombie novels of all times.

Through these identity crises, Nick continued his process of becoming. With every failure, he became more knowledgeable about where he did and did not want his life to go. Through earning little victories, Nick eventually came to know who he was and what he wanted. Satisfied in the knowledge that his terms of success were not equivalent to what others may have thought for him, Nick finally became an owner of the bar he tended for so many years. It might be a small accomplishment to some, but to Nick it is everything. Finally, Nick became his own man, in his own time.

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Winston also exemplifies the idea of coming into your own at your own pace. Initially, Winston had very little presence on the show. Once in a while he would contribute a good liner then go the rest of the episode without speaking. However, as the seasons progressed, so did Winston’s character. We came to know the former Latvian basketball player, how he struggled to find a permanent career, satisfy a woman, and be his own man. While Winston is purposeful in his friendships – he acts as the group’s conscience – Winnie didn’t have any purpose in life. That is until he went out and found it. Going from temp job to temp job didn’t make Winston happy. Being in relationships where his passion and love were not shared didn’t do the trick. Winston discovered what things in his life were holding him back and vanished them.

Of course, it wasn’t easy. Finding out that your girlfriend cheated on you while you were babysitting her cat never is. Having a little boy be a better usher than you at a wedding is a cruel realization to have. Through all these minor setbacks, though, Winston never gives up on the idea that he deserves better. By believing and doing, Winston eventually comes to be better as he becomes a police officer and fosters a positive relationship.

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College is hard. It is not a long party that breaks for tests. It is not a romanticized four years where you learn all of life’s secrets and are handed the key to a promising future. College is where you start preparing yourself for true adulthood, where you start building the gumption to meet every day with your chin up and your focus at full attention. NEW GIRL is a proponent of these ideas, and it is encouraging to see that, no matter how ridiculously presented, problems can be resolved if one only works at them.


As the semesters turn into full school years, college students can finally start creating a routine and rhythm to life that did not initially exist. You learn the geography of campus, manage to stay awake during math, and turn to Netflix when you should be studying. Having founded friendships with the people around you, you become comfortable in your own skin. Confidence ebbs into your daily tasks, competence starts to resonate in your academics, and significance finds itself in the relationships you are strengthening every day.

These relationships will begin to take on categories: acquaintances, lab partners, friends, romantic option #1, #2, etc. No matter how you delegate them, everyone in your life will serve a purpose. It is your job to weigh these purposes against each other, to see who is inspiring you and who is holding you back. It’s your job to invest your time and energy into figuring out who will help shape you into your best self.

While the characters on NEW GIRL did not have the smoothest of starts in getting to know one another – Patrick Swayze was the only cure to Jess’s heartbreak – they did manage to find their dynamics within the group.

Schmidt is a big personality. Upon introduction, it is obvious Schmidt is egotistic, materialistic, and unapologetic. It appears Schmidt has it together when the show premieres, what with his fancy job, car, and wardrobe. The audience can only question how Nick and Winston have put up with him for so long. As Jess enters the picture, and Cece along with her, Schmidt begins to change. At first, it is incremental. An episode goes by where Schmidt doesn’t have to put any money into the douchebag jar. Half a season rolls around, and you see him chasing after one girl (cough, cough Cece) rather than a whole bar’s worth. Slowly but surely, Schmidt’s character gains merit. He starts to be caring, encouraging, and dependable.

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A big part of his character change and arc is Cece. Jess’s gorgeous best friend who so happens to model, Cece captures Schmidt’s heart from the get go. The relationship begins with Schmidt’s physical attraction to Cece. When they initially meet, Cece is only another notch Schmidt wants to make on his bedpost. As she continues to refuse him, though, Schmidt starts to learn about who Cece is under the title of model.

Honestly, Cece is a hot mess. Hopping from man to man, Cece only finds value in the fact that others find value in her physicality. Since she is young and pretty and no one else seems to be that invested in her mind, these are the parts of herself Cece plays up. It is by denying Schmidt and not including him into her pool of options that we get to see the real Cece emerge.

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Without a man on her arm – or rather her on a man’s arm – Cece is a clever, spirited, and fierce woman. Schmidt is the first man to truly see this. That is why Schmidt is able to love Cece so unapologetically, so ruthlessly, so passionately. They started out as friends who hid under their own self-guided delusions but opened up for each other. When they entered into a romance, it made it that much more meaningful to each of them because they saw each other. It took an imperfect person to make Schmidt realize perfection is not all it is cracked up to be. It took a man who saw her as perfect for Cece to realize her worth.

Whether it be in a romantic sense or otherwise, the people in our lives do have an impact on how we live. We all possess the potential to see our dreams become reality. It is only with the confidence we are able to muster for ourselves and that which we gain from our surrounding friends and family that we produce the strength to obtain the life we want to lead. In college, it is of the utmost importance to find people who help rather than hinder the process of becoming successful. Schmidt and Cece, along with the other characters on the show, represent the greatness one is able to achieve when they have an army of love at their backs and wage battles against life with that army.

Why you should watch NEW GIRL

I connect with NEW GIRL. I connect with Jess’s tendencies to dress girly and be quirky, but still be strong. I connect with Nick saying, “There’s something bad in me.” (Isn’t there something bad in us all?) I connect with Schmidt and how he wants to live his life so perfectly, but struggles to realize perfection isn’t attainable. I connect with Winston and how it feels like no matter how hard you try to shine, it never feels good enough. I connect with Cece and her only seeing value in her youth, beauty, and other surface characteristics.

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Maybe I connect with them because they are what I have to look up. In the ‘90s, college kids had FRIENDS, in the early 2000s they had HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER. Regardless, I relate to these characters. I see their struggles, I feel their pain, and I laugh at their ridiculousness. There are a lot of parallels to what I feel I experience day to day as a college student: the pressure to succeed, the need to perform, the exhaustion at both doing so and not.

NEW GIRL is another coming of age show. It isn’t new. Its ideas are recycled, the themes overdone, the show seen countless other times.

But it is relevant to today’s youth. Cece is the new Rachel Green, Jess is the modern Elaine Benes, and Schmidt the updated Barney Stinson. College kids need relatable protagonists in their lives that they can cheer on, that they can look up to. To show them that, while life is hard, it is manageable. That through laughing at the pain, it is possible to overcome it.

And NEW GIRL has given them just that.

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