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Two weeks into college and I am having an absolutely amazing time. I have met people that make me laugh so hard I think I might burst, people who inspire and motivate me, people who are beautiful, quirky, loving, intelligent, and thoughtful, people who I already find myself having wonderful connections with.
My classes make me giddy. I feel inspired and rejuvenated. I come to class everyday excited to learn. I am already feeling intellectually enlightened, and most exciting of all, I can see my future unfolding before my eyes. It’s exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time.
College really is a whole new world. But it’s not a world without its challenges. I’m not just talking about laundry room fiascos (cockroaches!!), accidentally flinging scoops of ice cream into the faces of unassuming dining hall patrons, sweating profusely always, getting stuck in a hot rainstorm, the list goes on.
I am talking about adjusting to a new normal. A normal that is filled with varying degrees of hardship: meeting new people, trying to stay connected to those new people, sometimes having no one to connect to, new workloads, total freedom, pressure to exude some sort of “right” image, going to the best parties, again, the list goes on.
Sometimes it seems like everyone is effortlessly gliding through orientation and the first weeks of classes. Sometimes it feels like people don’t feel the same occasional onslaughts of hopelessness, loneliness, isolation, and inadequacy that I have experienced.
I can’t speak for every college student, but I can speak for myself: college is wonderful, AND college is also terrifying and challenging. Anyone who tells you that college is a cakewalk is either in denial or isn’t pushing him or herself far enough outside of his or her comfort zone. If you’re doing college right, you won’t always feel at ease.
You will push yourself to say hi first to someone because you aren’t afraid of putting yourself out there. You will sit with a stranger eating alone in the dining hall or on the quad because you would hope someone would do the same for you. You will raise your hand in a class of 10 students or in a lecture of 150 of your peers because you aren’t afraid of having the wrong answer (even in front of a bunch of upperclassman or the entire men’s D1 lacrosse team #gohop). You will take the time to introduce yourself to your professors because you want to develop connections with your educators. You won’t be afraid to ask someone to walk with you late at night because you prioritize your safety. You will look out for the safety of your new friends even if the result isn’t something that makes them particularly pleased with you for a few minutes (trust me, they will thank you later). You won’t say no to going out for dinner with someone new just because you wouldn’t have hung out with him or her in high school.
You will lean into discomfort and be so happy you did.
In college, you are your own keeper. You are solely responsible for your health, happiness, and well-being. You won’t make (the right) friends if you don’t put yourself out there. You won’t be a part of some amazing organizations or events if you don’t sign up (yay, African Dance here I come). You won’t have an authentic college experience if you don’t honor your own idea of fun whether that is going to frat parties or staying in for a movie night with your dorm.
I have been at college for two weeks. At first, I felt like I was at summer camp or some sort of a surreal dreamland. Now, my campus is starting to feel like a perfectly imperfect, stimulating, and extraordinary new home.
Hang in there, friends, and know that you aren’t alone in experiencing the ups and downs of a new chapter.