It’s been about four weeks since I’ve been home, and when people ask me how my college experience was, I usually start by exclaiming that it “just flew by”— which is true! But there are so many details I can’t really hash out in a five-minute conversation, so it’s easier to make a generalized statement.
Still, I’d like to offer some insight to anyone worried about the adjustment, no matter how far away it seems. Because the truth is that college was a mixture of all sorts of emotions and experiences.
The most important piece of advice I can give you is to make time for the things that matter the most to you personally. There is a LOT in those first few weeks. My orientation… it was not fun, as many of my peers can attest to. I was homesick, dealing with an overwhelming amount of socialization, and struggling to find my place among fellow writers. I was also trying to balance new classes and professors on top of keeping in touch with people from back home– and while I love them dearly– I was in over my head. I wanted to do everything to keep myself busy, to keep myself from thinking that I was alone on this unique campus, and I felt very burnt out by the time Thanksgiving break rolled around. But, still, I had to put on a smiling face for my family back home. I wish somebody had told me to take it easy during that first month of college, because it really is an enormous change, especially if you are moving hours away from your home. So yes, after getting to university, just remember that you don’t have to do it all. Pick the clubs, sports, classes that you’re most interested in, not what your peers are doing around you.
Ask for help if you need it. More than likely, your professors will be happy to guide you in the right direction! Also, counselors are a wonderful resource on campuses, often free to students. Check to see if you can make regular appointments because mental health should be prioritized. Being productive is great, but not if it causes you to feal failure and chase perfection.
This next point will be the subject of another blog post, and it follows the previous tip. You don’t owe anyone an explanation if you need to step back and do things for you. As an introvert and highly sensitive person, it can be really hard for me to keep up with texting, phone calls, or constant social interaction. In other words, I need my down time to go on walks, to listen to music, to write bad poems on a park bench. Unfortunately, we’ve been conditioned to live in an “instant gratification” era where people want responses immediately. Turning off your phone is taboo. Going a whole day without sending a text is unheard of. And I’m always pressured (perhaps I put this pressure on myself) to apologize and explain why I’ve been distant lately. However, there was a study I read that talked about the negative influence of constant connection. So, as you’re off to your chosen university, or perhaps as you go back to campus, just remember that taking a breather is essential. Be intentional with the moments you have by yourself. They are precious, and they have so much potential to increase your joy and happiness.
Be kind. Continue to be kind. Never stop being kind. There are so many different people that will be on campus, from all walks of life. Judgement is never needed, and although it can be hard to curb, keep in mind that you only see the surface level of a person; you see what they choose to show. Being kind is always the cool thing to do, plus it will help you create stronger and lasting relationships!
This goes without saying, but: go to the campus library! There are SO many resources, study spots, and opportunities to get involved. I was at the library pretty much every day, working on my assignments, buying smoothies from the coffeeshop, finding interesting books to read. It is a great place if you need a safe space, away from (perhaps) incompatible roommates, the other noisy buildings, or the uncomfortable chairs in your dorm room.
But that’s it! Five simple tricks for surviving the first year of college. By the end of the fall semester, you’ll totally have a handle on how to manage your routine. And if you don’t, never fear! The spring semester is another opportunity to try again. Wherever you may go to school, whether it’s across the country or ten minutes away, whether you live on campus or commute, you’ve got this. I never thought I’d survive my freshman year, to be honest. I kept thinking that I was never going to be able to handle the workload or relate to my professors. But with a little time, faith, and hard work, it all paid off!
(Maybe this is a bit of a rose-tinted perspective on my experience, since I left out a couple of major things that happened which really disheartened me. But for this post, I wanted to focus on the positive aspects of college, and pieces of advice applicable to anyone who reads it. So, bon voyage!)