About a year ago, I made a list of all the things I worried about with starting college. It included everything from worrying about not finding friends, to what to do if I got sick, to being scared about what would happen if it got too hard. As I went through the last school year, I kept a running list of the things I wish I’d known beforehand. Some of these are probably only applicable to, but hopefully others can serve a more general audience. Also, even though I say I wish I’d known these things beforehand, I’m kind of happy I didn’t. One thing I’m thankful for about the past year is that I didn’t know everything. Leaving room for the surprises has been difficult, but incredibly rewarding.
1. Being sick in college is the absolute worst. It’s worse than you think it’ll be.
But you’ll get through it anyway. I was sick my first week of classes and then again during finals week of Fall Quarter. I also got sick for both tech weeks (oddly enough, the worst day was always the Wednesday, which meant I was sick both times pictures were taken and stressed about getting enough sleep before the Thursday when there would be an audience for the first time. Fun days, those ones). My worst experience being sick at school was definitely the first time it happened. I was stressed about starting school, I felt incredibly lonely, and all I wanted to do was go home to my familiar bed with my familiar people. Still, I got through it and everything was okay. I have good stories out of all the times I’ve had a cold this year, and, fortunately, I have a collection of remedies that I know work so hopefully I’ll have more healthy days for round two.
2. The first few nights are awful.
Sometimes I avoided people, watched Netflix comedy specials, called my mom, and wrote in my journal. Also, on my very first night I left my key in my dorm when I went to take a shower, and sat outside my dorm until an RA from three floors up saw me and went to get my own RA. Sometimes the nights are really hard. There is nothing quite like being alone in a dorm room surrounded by all of your stuff but still feeling like everything is strange. I really think it’s a feeling that’s unique to the beginning of college. The only thing I have to say about it is that the only way to get through it, is to get through it. Remember that no one is perfectly okay at the beginning, no matter how it may seem. And remember that, as awful as the first few nights are, there are worse nights for better reasons. You’ll have nights where you’re stressed about tests and problems with friends and all sorts of things. Looking back, those nights for me were worse. It’s an odd comfort, but it might help.
3. The school/work/social life balance is a lot harder than some people make it seem.
I remember that after the first few weeks were over I was stunned at how well adjusted people seemed. I felt as though I was juggling a billion things and somehow drowning at the same time, and everyone else seemed… fine. First of all, they’re not. No one adjusts to so much change in an instant. But, some people do have an easier time with the school/work/social life (and sleep) balance than others. Now, if you’re wondering how to make the balance a bit easier, I’m still not the person to talk to. I still wonder (almost daily) how to keep everything afloat. But, the thing is, it does get easier as time goes on. After you figure out what you’re new priorities are and you start making plans according to those things, a lot starts to fall into place. College is stressful, yes, but nowadays, I feel more like I’m just juggling, not drowning at the same time.
4. I am not an English major.
As I’ve said before, I was happy as an English major for about two weeks (with one of those weeks being orientation). I went into college knowing I wanted to act after I left, and I figured I might as well spend my time majoring in something I liked since I couldn’t major in drama. After a couple weeks, however, I realized I needed to feel like what I was studying had a personal purpose behind it, and being an English major wasn’t feeling like that. I still love reading, and writing, and talking about the things I read and write. I just don’t want to do those things for a living.
5. I am not a Social Work major.
I actually really loved being a Social Work major, I just don’t want to be a Social Worker. I figured out pretty quickly that I liked learning about how people and groups of people think, but being a Sociology major didn’t feel like it had a real personal purpose, either. I loved being a Social Work major because the classes I took allowed me to learn more about people, while still feeling like I was on the road towards being a drama therapist (which is a career I discovered through asking people about what it was like to major in Social Work). I loved it, but I didn’t love having to constantly explain that I didn’t want to be a Social Worker. So, I changed to Global Communication. Which, honestly, feels a lot like English and Social Work combined.
6. It is okay to change your major.
I went into college with a plan. An eleven year plan, I might add. And then, two weeks later, the plan was shredded. It’s okay to change your major, because you are changing. I am not at all the same person I was when I started my Freshman year. It simply wouldn’t make sense for the person I am now to be an English major. It’s okay to change your major. It’s okay to change your major a bunch of times. We all take different paths to get to the places we’re supposed to end up.
7. Sometimes finding your people takes a bit longer than expected.
I think one of the reasons each quarter of the last year feels so different in my mind is because I was surrounded by different people for each of them. There was a bit of carryover, which I’m thankful for, but for the most part I surrounded myself with very different people in the fall, in the winter, and in the spring. Going into it, I assumed I’d find my people right away, but that really wasn’t the case. If anything, it was a bit of trial and error mixed with finding people who are passionate about the same things I am. Brené Brown calls these people “like-minded spirits,” and I definitely have to agree. It can take awhile to find them, but when you do it’s well worth it.
8. It really will be okay.
Even on days that are the worst of the worst, everything passes. There’s a reason I keep a reminder on my phone every two weeks of the things I’m worried about- it tells me that it’s okay now, so the thing I’m currently worried about will eventually be okay too. College is hard, and figuring it out is harder. But, if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that surrounding yourself with the right people and finding out what you’re good at helps an awful lot.