I have been back home for a while now and over these past few weeks I've been getting asked the same question over and over again: "So, how was college?" My first instinct to this questions is to sit the person down and have an hour long conversation all about my thoughts and emotions on my first year but I usually just settle with "good" as a response. As a first generation student there were A LOT of things that I needed to adjust to in college that I never really thought about before hand. To be truthful it was very overwhelming. My anxiety was bad, my daily schedule was always full and I was completely on my own for the first time in 18 years. Not to mention I was in another state 4 hours away from home. Here are some of the things I dealt with and learned from in my first year at college.
Throughout my first year I experienced a lot of homesickness. Before college I had never been away from home for more than a few weeks. I had always considered myself to be very resillient but college is a bigger adjustment than I had anticipated. To be honest the first couple of weeks of college I was in denial of being homesick. I thought that if I dwelled on being away from home that I would miss out on all the fun. But something I wish I could've told myself was that it was ok to feel homesick; it's totally normal to want to be back in a familiar place.
Typically during your first year of college you will have one roommate but unlike most people I had two roommates. My first roommate and I met online through my school's website. We were both random strangers that had a lot of things in common with each other and thought it would be great to room together. Turns out that we didn't sync up very well in person as we did online. Mid-fall semester she moved out but we kept in touch (we has the same friend group, it was inevitable).
My second semester roommate, I coincidentally also met online. I met her on my class Facebook page. We originally had plans to become roommates but at the time I wasn't sure if I was going to attend my college. Throughout the first semester we became close friends, so when we became roommates it was a smooth transition.
My advice when going into the dorming process is that you make sure you know exactly what you need in a living situation. Make sure that you and your roommate have a clear understanding of whatever agreement that you guys have.
Depending on whether or not you are going to a college with other people you know, or whether you are introverted or extroverted, making friends can be quick & simple or slow & difficult. For me I am an introverted extrovert. This means that at heart I enjoy my alone time and quiet spaces but when the enviornment is inviting and the time is right, I can be expressive and outgoing.
A pivotal moment of making friends, for me, was orientation. This typically happens at some point in the summer where you visit your school, become familiar with the campus, get a feel of how campus life is and have an introduction to what you'll be doing. During my orientation I was able to sign up for my first semester classes and meet a bunch of people in my graduating class and major.
I kept in touch with people from orientation through GroupMe, a messaging app. Also the Facebook page for my class. Through these different social media outlets I was able to keep in contact with some people, which helped during the first week of school.
I also made friends with people in my classes by asking them out to the dining hall after lunch or introducing myself to someone after a meeting. Although introductions and spontaneous invitations to the dining hall may be awkward, everyone is awkward the first few weeks so it won't be that bad if you just put yourself out there.
Not to sound like a pompous prick (which I am not) but the academics weren't really that difficult. In high school I took a bunch of college-level courses and even took a class at my community college during my senior year of high school. Needless to say, I had some practice in being dealt a lot of work. Although it was a lot of reading and many, many, many papers. The actual work itself wasn't so hard.
What I really didn't have a good grasp on was the amount of work mixed in with the adjustment to a new enviornment. Being able to juggle a new life, new friends, new job (if you get one) and everrything else under the sun - is a lot.
But being able to create a healthy balance in your life is one of the hardest and most rewarding things you can do. Especially when in college when FOMO (fear of missing out) hits. Over the past year I've learned that it's ok to say no to things, but that it's also ok to say yes. Passing up on a good time may mean that you mis sout on some things but there is always something happening and I gurantee that you'll have plenty of time to make memories.
Throughout my first year of college my mental health was put through the wringer. I was challenged in so many ways; mental, emotional, spiritual and even physical. When struggling to find time to hang out with friends, go to the gym, eat a full meal, and do homework I forgot that I needed to take time for me. I needed to relax and breathe.
Something that really helped me was seeking help. I stated going to the on-campus counselors. Although I was reluctant at first I figured "Why not?" There were times that I didn't leave my room because I was too stressed to face seeing people. There were also times where I felt that I was being consumed with work and my only solution was to watch tv and neglect all responsibility.
These things were not helpful to me as a person and student. Going to the counselor allowed me to have a space to think clearly and filter my thoughts out and relax. Most of the times my feelings were validated. Often times with my anxiety, I drove myself into a whole. Comparing myself to others saying "Well, they can get all their assignments done so why can't I?" This type of attitude did more harm than good. And talking out my thoughts with someone helped me to realize that I am not like other people. I work at a different pace than they do, and that's ok.
I won't go too deep into this subject in this post but I will briefly talk about my experience as a person of color at a predominatly white school. Where I am from, there is a good mix of different backgrounds and where I go to school - there is not. This I knew going into my first year of college. What I didn't expect was this feeling of a void inside me, because I wasn't enveloped in an enviornment of people like me. I stuck out like a chocolate chip in a sugar cookie. Not just because I was brown, but my experiences and point of view in life were very different from the rest of my peers.
It was truly a unique experience, something that takes some getting used to. And quite frankly, after a year. I'm still not used to it....
But overall my time away at college was a year that taught me a lot about myself as a person and the world around me. I appreciate all the lessons I learned and the people I've met.
Let me know about your college experiences and if they were anything similar or different to mine.