Once upon a time, just over a month ago, I packed my life into my step-dad's truck and moved a whopping 45 minutes away from home to begin college. In the time since, there has been no shortage of learning; I've had a few triumphs, but I've definitely made plenty of mistakes already. The nice thing is that both triumphs and mistakes prompt thinking. Enjoy this compilation of my main musings from my first month on campus.
1. Having a cold at college is so much worse than having a cold at home.
Given how much we interact with people at college, it makes sense that any type of sickness spreads super quickly. It seems like even if you remotely know someone who’s sick, you’ll end up with whatever they had within a few days. It’s just a price of communal living. But being sick at college is SO much worse than being sick at home. Not having your own bed is rough, comfortable as your twin XL mattress pad might be.
Plus, you know your classes cost hundreds of dollars, so it's not as easy to just stay home for a day. Also, soup. Do you know how badly I wanted my mother’s Matzoh Ball soup and how upsetting it was to have to resort to dining hall soup? Granted, it was good for a cafeteria, but it's not the same. Sickness spreads so much quicker here and you don’t have as many comforts as you would at home.
2. How many fans does it take to cool down a tiny dorm room?
Ever-changing weather plus a dorm without air conditioning meant that my roommate and I ended up bringing five or six fans to our room. They’re strategically placed and have occasionally been the only things that help during extreme heat waves, when even just sitting down to do homework was enough to make us break a sweat.
3. Listen hard enough, and you’ll find music blasting from somewhere.
The bathroom at midnight? Check. A room down the hall at 9 a.m.? Check. Dining hall? Actually, check. The shared kitchen while the maintenance man is doing his daily sweep? Check. Seriously, there is always music blaring from somewhere.
4. The laundry room brings out the worst in people, self-included.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll go into college with the idea that you won’t be that mean person who moves someone’s clothing after their machine’s time is up. If you're anything like me, you’ll be wrong. Everyone moves everyone’s clothes. Everyone passive aggressively puts their hamper or ID card on top of a free dryer as a way to claim it for their own wash load that’s about to finish. It’s a competitive place where only the strong survive.
5. Wow! I live here!
A new room is like a whole new world. How to decorate? Where to put your lamp? Beyond that, you now have a totally new area to explore. Look at all the restaurants there are to try! Explore the possibilities for study spaces! There is suddenly so much out there, and you’ll want to see it all.
6. Wow. I live...here...
On the flip side, you might have cinder block walls, no AC and often find spiders in your room. You probably have a communal bathroom that, if it's anything like mine, often has toothpaste splattered across the faucets and someone’s uneaten ramen bits in the sink drains. All that glitters is definitely NOT gold, but 'tis up to you to make the best of it.
7. Instant oatmeal is pretty great.
Add in a banana and some pumpkin granola, and you’re seriously in for a treat. Best of all, it can be made from the comfort of your dorm microwave.
8. How many bananas can I take from the dining hall before I get caught?
See number 7 for why I commit such thievery.
9. I think I would die without my planner.
Want to know how to avoid being the kid who has no idea there’s an exam in two days? Get a planner. Between class, work, rehearsal and other various meetings, I have absolutely no idea how I would function if it weren’t for that thing. I swear, it knows me better than I know myself.
10. Have I ever spent this much time using a laptop?
Similar to the planner, my laptop feels like an extension of my body at this point.
11. Always check the date on your milk before pouring it into your coffee.
Self-explanatory. Don’t be like me. Check the darn date.
12. People you hardly know will see you in your most grub-like state.
Here we are again, talking about communal living. Personally, I’m someone who needs to feel very close to you in order to have you see me in my pajamas/lounge clothing and/or without makeup on, but that mentality had to change here real fast. Every night I shuffle out of the communal bathrooms with my hair in a towel, wearing a robe and my flamingo shower shoes and carrying my shower-caddy. I look like a crazy person.
And people I hardly know see me in that state every single night. To take it further, perfect strangers have seen me that way. Picture this: three girls walk into a bathroom, followed from the blasting music from down the hall. They’re ready to go out to a party, and all stand in the mirror, checking their hair and makeup one more time. Then picture me, my gray pajama pants and light blue high school National Honors Society t-shirt stand out against their darker, dressier outfits; I have no makeup on, and I am brushing my teeth in the middle of them. This is college.
13. Oh my goodness, there's a dog in my class.
This isn’t available everywhere, but my school offers two puppy raising clubs – one for training seeing-eye dogs and one for training other types of service dogs. These dogs are raised by students and so they live with them, and THAT means that some days you’ll walk into your morning lecture and find a new friend is going to be sitting next to you.
14. The professors are so cool!
Some have written books. Some of them are from other countries. Some of them curse. Some of them tell stories about their lives to teach a lesson… these people, from my experience anyway, are not the scary, strict, elderly faces you see in movies. They’re real (smart) people!
15. Yikes, I still have to take math.
I was lucky enough this semester to have a schedule full of classes I enjoy. It felt like a dream…until I realized it wasn’t going to last forever. I have some math and science gen eds that need fulfilling as soon as possible. What makes it even better? Many of these classes are given early in the morning.
16. Sitting close to the front and introducing yourself to professors in your lectures is so worth it.
I hope to become an official Theatre Studies minor soon, so I signed up for a theatre history class for first semester. Somehow I had absolutely no clue that the class was a 300+ lecture that most of the students in there would be taking for either their history or cultural requirements; it didn’t look like it was going to be the smaller, more discussion based class that I had hoped for. So, I chose a seat in the front row, introduced myself to the professors on the first day, went to office hours before the first exam with questions and took advantage of a limited-space extra credit opportunity.
Now, only a month into this class, I feel like the professors know me. They know I care about the coursework and they know I’m there to do more than just check a box. Occasionally, one will make a side comment to just those in the front and because I’m up there and involved, I catch it! I now still have the interaction I wanted, despite being in a huge room.
17. School creameries are dangerous.
Because where else can you find lists upon lists of unique flavors in MULTIPLE accessible places? It's sold in the bookstore, given out in the main dining hall and travels in its own food truck all in addition to having a permanent location. Gah.
8. People will FaceTime each other ANYWHERE.
Here, it seems no place is off limits for a good old FaceTime call, including the bathroom AND shower stalls. I’ve witnessed both and it was equally awkward both times. Maybe this is a normal thing some places, but I had never seen it before. It’s like texting while going number two, but taken to a WHOLE new level.
19. You’re going to do some things alone and that is okay.
You might actually enjoy it! I used to get really down on myself when I would have the occasional day without anyone to eat lunch with, but I’ve learned to take it in stride. You can use it as me time (which you don’t get very much of in college) or you can do homework and not worry about being sidetracked.
Basically, I’ve learned to take advantage of any alone time I come across; there's nothing embarrassing about eating alone every so often! Additionally, for my theatre class we are required to see three plays at a nearby professional theatre and, for one of them, I couldn’t find anyone to go with me, as I bought the tickets before I had really met anyone else. So I went to the show alone… and I loved it. I chatted and cried with the older couples beside me, I bought myself a hot tea from concessions as a little treat and I had the chance to internalize the show by myself. It was certainly a different experience, not necessarily better or worse than seeing a show with friends, but I appreciated it, as I do with alone time in general now, for what it was.
20. Some days are better than others.
I’ve had days full of exploration and laughter where I could truly see how my future life as a college student could look, but I’ve also had days where I’ve had to leave and I was to go cry (multiple times, actually). It's normal. There are going to be ups and downs. I made the mistake of glorifying the situation I was about to walk into; I shouldn’t have. This is still real life, despite it being a largely new life, so it’s going to function just as that – with ebbs and flows, just as it always has.
Most importantly, it will all be okay. Even if you're not convinced of that, and sometimes I'll admit, I'm really not, tell yourself that its true. Amy Cuddy says to "fake it 'til you become it" in regards to confidence and things like public speaking; I think it works with feeling okay about life too.
The first few months of college are a big transition for everyone, no matter if you moved five minutes or five hours away. So many things are going to be weird and those things differ depending on what your life before college has been like; that's okay! Make light of it and laugh it off just as I did here with these gifs.
In all seriousness, though, its important to know during this time of newness that you are not alone; everyone is struggling with something and no one knows what they are doing. Its important to relish in your little victories, like finding out that you love oatmeal or making conversation with the people next to you at a play.
There are going to be times where everything seems so foreign and weird and you'll want to give up, but you shouldn't. At the end of the day there is a light at the end of the tunnel and even in my own personal darker moments, I see it. You've just got to keep pushing through and become a part of the things you love (or think you might love) and, when you least expect it, some wonderful warm sense of belonging, even a little bit, will come your way.
Lead Image Credit: Unsplash