If I was asked a month ago what the whole college experience was going to be like, I would’ve immediately shrugged my shoulders in absolute cluelessness. Looking back, all summer I thought that college was a mysterious entity that loomed over my head. Now that I just finished week one of classes, it finally feels much more real. To be completely honest, the first few days of moving in were extremely hard. There were nights when I cried myself to sleep, pinning for the comfort of home two hours away. But soon, I realized that these tears were a small price to pay for the lessons I’ve learned and the perspectives I’ve adopted as a result of living in a new environment.
1. I’m more appreciative for my family.
This seems like a no-brainer, but I truly took my parents and my little sister for granted. My dad’s home cooked meals, my mom’s helpful advice, and my sister’s annoying antics were once considered everyday, mundane aspects of my life; now I miss them more than ever. Today, all the petty arguments and childish silent treatments I’ve had with various members of my family seem like acts of ungratefulness. It’s quite a phenomenon how living away from home makes me so happy to receive a simple text or phone call when these forms of communication were nuisances only two weeks ago.
2. I learned to discipline myself in regards to food choices, sleep schedules, spending money and social events.
College is all about independence, but freedom to do whatever I want is just as much as a blessing as it’s a curse. Without my parents to help me make informed decisions about my habits, I had to learn to parent myself. Making sure I don’t pile too much food on my plate, stay up into the wee hours of the morning, spend all of my money downtown and prioritize late nights at a friend’s room over homework didn’t just happen overnight. Through trial and error – lots of error, I have made compromises to allow myself to revel in my newfound independence without taking advantage of it.
3. I got out of my comfort zone in order to form friendships.
Considering that I’m the only student from my high school who is represented in the first year student body, I arrived not knowing a single soul. While putting myself out there to seek out new friends is self explanatory, as an introvert, it was difficult to reach out to others. Since having a close group of friends would be the only other emotional and social support I can lean on besides my family, I pushed aside my fears and just went for it – and I’m so glad that I did. The mistake that most first year college students, myself included, make is to assume that they are the only ones that are nervous when the reality is that everyone else is just as scared. Knowing that I wasn’t alone really helped me connect with my peers.
4. I learned to compromise and communicate effectively with my roommate.
The only other experience I had with a roommate was when I shared a room with my little sister when we were very young. With that being said, I knew that going into college I would have to adjust to sharing a room after having my own for almost ten years. Although the idea of having a complete stranger for a roommate was scary at first, after spending some time with her, she became a good friend. In terms of the nitty gritty stuff, such as bedtime routines, cleaning schedules and rules for overnight guests, having a face to face discussion about our preferences and making mutual agreements right from the beginning really helped reduce any awkwardness and miscommunication. Sharing a room has gotten me off my high horse and has forced me to not just think about myself but another person.
5. I adopted an optimistic outlook on life.
As soon as my family left me to my own devices after move-in day, I felt like the world was about to end. I thought I would never feel comfortable in this unfamiliar environment. Throughout my bouts of homesickness I wanted to go back home so badly; it was a safe haven for me to fall back on. But as I made friends and discovered what the college and the surrounding community had to offer, I realized that I’m here already so why don’t I make the most of it? Letting go of my worries has been so liberating and has allowed me to see college as an exciting and exhilarating chapter of my life rather than a cruel punishment set forth by my parents to get me out of the house.
Although I have changed a great deal since moving in, that doesn’t mean that the journey stops here. In a few years when I graduate, I might not even recognize the person I was as a first year. The future may be unknownst to me but I know that things happen for a reason, for the better.
Lead Image Credit: Aleks Dorohovich via Unsplash