OMG - One Student's College Experience
- Ok, so I'm a pretty independent person. I'm the type that challenges the fashion demographic with something homemade, I go off on local adventures with friends on a whim and I will most definitely try any new kind of food you put in front of me. But the day I moved away to college - well, that sort of independence was something I was not prepared for. Picture me, if you will - a young adult on a street corner officially equipped for college with my messenger bag, my trunk on wheels, my luggage stacked containing all the belongings I thought I would need - and then you can picture my face - a blubbering mess streaming with tears and a gaping hole of a mouth screaming "Mommm! Come baaaaaaack!"
Dramatic? This image was short-lived as I unpacked and adjusted to my surroundings, but I wasn't alone in feeling lost. Homesickness was one of the things that I didn't expect to haunt me day and night, yet there were some people who were feeling this to a higher degree than I was. Though I would have to drive eight hours to get home, there were some people in my dorm who were from foreign countries and would have to fly home for breaks just to see their families. Then there were others with families who lived an hour away who still felt the need to go home every weekend because the need for familiar friends and family was just too great. My advice? Don't rush home the second you feel lonely. College is a life-changing experience, but only if you let it be. Of course, call your parents often. I wrote constantly to my little sisters and to my friends back at home. Email, text, and Facebook them all frequently - but don't let it get in the way of meeting new people at college. The friends you make in college are important additions to your life because they are the people who all share the same struggle to learn, to adjust and to become an adult.
So how did I transform from a blubbering tearjerker to a blooming socialite? I forced myself to get involved with on-campus activities. Look around your campus for bulletin boards, flyers, etc. Have you always wanted to...be in a band? Act in the theater? Pursue your life-long dream of playing ultimate Frisbee? Plant trees? Bake a German Chocolate Vegan-friendly cake? Play in an Xbox tournament? Learn how to...ah never mind, you get where I'm going. Even if you might think you're all alone with your interests, you're never alone in college. Your niche can be found somewhere on that bulletin board or through word-of-mouth and it is easier to join these groups than you think. From their perspective, they are always looking for new people who share a common interest. If they weren't interested in expanding or receiving help, their club/team/whatever probably wouldn't exist. Plain and simple.
This being said, you also need to remember that your college education comes first. You don't want to be stuck painting sets for the next Shakespearian tragedy at 1 am when you have a final the next day - believe me, I know from experience. It's at times like this that I realized I need to use a personal planner. No, I wasn't a saint when it came to using it - but I did make sure to write down every major paper due date and exam date in my planner. So when the guys in the band would ask me if I could play a show on Sunday, I knew that I couldn't possibly have enough time to write my five-page paper on new criticism for that Monday. Prioritize and organize in whatever way suits you best - whether electronically or manually. Taking a little time to do this will lead to promising things.
Is college hard? Of course it's hard! And it's a far cry from high school. Don't expect to get away with the same shenanigans that you pulled on your teachers in high school. Professors will not care that you're the star goalie for the soccer team and have to play games in other states - deadlines apply to everyone equally and firmly in college. Also, expect that some classes will feel too boring and difficult to bear. I know I'm going to sound like your mother here, but remember to get your sleep, stay hydrated and eat your breakfast. You'll need all that energy to keep up with the extensive notes you have to take. And if you get sick, don't force yourself to go to class. Believe, me, the people who sit around you in that class will not be happy to get the flu for finals. Be responsible, get notes from others and make up tests quickly if the professor allows it. Seriously - take care of yourself because you're the only person fully aware of your own needs while away at college.
How will you pull through it all? Here's a quick story with a happy ending:
My very first assignment was to read an essay that Plato had written and then write three to five pages on how it prefaced democracy (due next class, mind you). I'm not lying when I say that I could not get past the first paragraph - I couldn't understand a word this man was saying and I was an English major at that. I threw the essay down and forgot about it until I overheard some guy from class talking about Plato's essay in the cafeteria. He was a philosophy major and understood the essay perfectly. I went over, sat down and asked him to explain it to me. This became a reoccurring theme among my difficult, boring and unfamiliar classes - holding impromptu study sessions with people in my classes. After we would discuss everything, I would go back and research until I found evidence in books or online periodicals to strengthen my understanding. Hey, it's not cheating if you're simply talking with others to gain understanding. Having conversations about the material will actually help you memorize and understand it completely. Lastly, take full advantage of study groups that are offered by TA's. Teacher's assistants work closer with the professor, have taken this course before and know these freshman tests forwards and backwards. Just remember - you're all in this together and everyone is looking for help just like you are.
Although I've left you with tidbits of universal information, there are obviously things I can not prepare you for. Think about it - all the complicated relationship issues, the difficult learning issues and the unspeakable living issues can make college seem pretty hectic. C'est la vie, mes copains! - no matter how much advice anyone gives you, this is one adventure that you have to live yourself. So get out there, get involved and don't look back. Keep making choices that you think are going to bring you closer to your professional goal and don't freak if you mess up. So what if you decide to change your major from physics to art at the end of your freshman year? It's your choice and college is the perfect place to make such choices.
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