What My First Semester of College Taught Me

IMG_0860As break finishes up and I prepare to pack up and move back into my 15′ x 13′ humble abode, I’ve been thinking about what I learned this past semester. Outside of the classroom. Here are some things you can expect to find out within your first few weeks of college. 

Suddenly all of your life’s accomplishments are negligible.  Nobody here really cares if you got an award for Highest Achievement in Social Studies. Nobody cares if you were in a play your sophomore year and the set was amazing and you even got a standing ovation either. I mean, sure, it’s great. But you are not in high school anymore. This can be scary because you’re just roaming around campus for awhile trying to figure out if you lost your identity or if you’re just being a dramatic eighteen year old. You’ve got a blank resume waiting to be filled up with new and exciting experiences; so pull yourself together, take this as an advantage, and get to work!

You find out who your true friends in high school were. Some people you thought were your closest friends may not bother keeping in contact with you. This could be because they are super busy and overwhelmed with their workload, were only your friend because you saw each other five days a week, or perhaps they would just rather focus on making new friends at college. All of these are perfectly logical, acceptable reasons. But it still hurts. Try to not take this personally, and make sure to cherish the pals who check in on you and hang with you during break.

You will experience true loneliness & lack of emotional connection for (hopefully) the first time in your life. People in college don’t hug very often. It’s crazy the way you can feel a lack of simple physical affection like your mom hugging you for no reason. When you’re having a bad day, you may not have someone to run to and talk about it. But you will. Seek God, make strong connections with people, and write a letter to a family member if you’re having a rough time – they’ll love to hear from you.

People aren’t begging you to try new things, but it is crucial. I realized one night in the middle of a large lecture, that no one made me go there and sit in that seat. It was a great talk that left me with a solid three pages of notes and a satisfaction that I had gone. If I had missed that night, or the lecture on climate change in East Africa, or writing club, it only would’ve hurt me. It’s important to push yourself to try things, especially things you’re afraid of; you’ll meet people you never would’ve imagined being friends with, and experience things that make you feel alive. Plus, it’ll be nice to look back and be like “Hey, self, you actually did some stuff.”

It’s okay if every new thing doesn’t work out. One thing I was ecstatic about joining on campus was an A Cappella group. I started one with a few girls in high school, and we were pretty good. I know how to arrange/write music, and so I thought auditioning would just be a formality. I got a callback, and decided to sing one of my favorite songs from Lorde’s latest album. One that hasn’t played on the radio before. The sorority girls/Acajudges in front of me picked at their nails and gave me blank stares. Interestingly enough, they clapped and harmonized along to the girl after me doing “Royals”. They knew every word. I was the only girl out of about thirty who didn’t get in. I guess I just didn’t fit into the style of the group. Or maybe my singing was wretched, I can’t really remember it that well because I was so focused afterwards on the enigma that they didn’t want me to be the star of their group. My pride was hurt for quite a while, but it turns out rehearsals for that group are the same time as a club I am now VP of. So, there you go. One door closes, a better one opens. Sorry it took a paragraph.

How you did in high school may have an impact on your success – but you can change that. Sure, I did fairly well in high school and therefore get to be in the honor’s program at my college which gives me free printing. But hey, I know people who used to have a backpack like a vortex of unfinished assignments and a nap in every math class who are now chugging along in some very difficult majors I wouldn’t even dream of attempting. There’s hope for everyone. It’s called maturing as you age, and knowing what you want and working hard for it. Or at least working hard towards something. I still have no idea what I want.

The “Freshman Fifteen” is a myth. BUT THE FRESHMAN THREE TO FIVE IS NOT. DO NOT KID YOURSELF. You will not wake up before your 8am lecture to go to the gym: unless you are some sort of super human with ultra-mega-unscathed motivation, in which case, I raise my glass of envy to you. Just prepare for a couple pounds, okay? Don’t be that person who steals several cookies from the dining hall at pre-dinner (the meal before dinner and after second lunch) because you “have some friends coming to your room later”. Mhmm sure you do.

You’ll see some strange things. Spiderman riding around in a mini-van waving to pedestrians. A muscular guy from down the hall in a spa face mask drinking chamomile tea. Socks strewn across the sidewalk. A professor who prefers to lecture in a British accent while lying under the desk with a fedora over his face. Do not question these things. Just enjoy them, and remember them to tell your kids later.

 If you’re lucky, you’ll meet some of the best friends you’ve ever had. I know I did. And if you’re even luckier like me, one of them will be your roommate. Roomie love is the best kind of love, but I’ll write a whole other post on that later.

You’ll figure it all out somehow. You can seek out all the advice in the world, but in the end, you just have to see for yourself. I had some rough patches (ie. anxiety, a messy breakup, two part-time jobs, five full-time classes, an organ removed…) But I made it, and I look forward to going back. That should give you some hope. And if that doesn’t do it for you, being able to make the choice to stay up until four in the morning baking pie with other slightly unstable teenagers is pretty great too.

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