Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Surviving the First Semester of College

I seriously don't know where summer went.  Doesn't it seem as though it was just beginning? Now I can feel the tendrils of fall creeping in on the wind.  Around this time four years ago the cool temperatures sent nervous jitters through my stomach and I felt like I was either going to throw up or pass out. I was heading to a little liberal arts school in upstate New York where I knew no one.  Today I'm getting excited butterflies.  I'm looking forward to returning to my beloved school for the last year.  Any nerves I have are related to the fear that this year will go by way too fast and soon I will be wearing a cap and gown taking some pivotal steps into adulthood.

But I don't want to think about the future for the moment.  I want to talk about the past and my transformation from a lonely scared freshman to a confident senior.  I've met so many new people and had amazing opportunities and experiences that I would have never imagined three years ago.  As the oldest child in the family, (and I mean truly the first born.  I have one younger sibling and two very young cousins), I've always been the first to do things.  Let me tell you, being the guinea pig can be pretty nauseating. So I thought I would help those other first borns (and worried younger siblings) feel a little better about their new adventure with some tips I learned over the years.

1.  Meet as many new people as possible.

In my opinion, college is the best time to meet people.  If you're like me, and are planning on heading off somewhere far away you may not know many people.  In this case, it will be easier to find new people to hang out with.  Chances are other people will be in the same boat and everyone will be looking for a whole new group of friends.  No one will have any previous friend groups, so you will all be free to meet and hang out with whomever you want.  If you do know the people heading to your school try to make friends with others outside of your group.  Meeting new people will give you so many new connections and perspectives.  You will make lifelong friendships at college.

2.  You're going to feel a little uncomfortable for a while.

Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.  College is a new place and change can always be difficult.  If you don't know anyone upon entering the first semester, or even first year, can seem a little strange. Everyone is trying to find their niche of friends and sometimes it takes a little while to settle. At some point, you will miss your best friend from home. For me it happened during orientation. My family had just taken off to head back home and I was surrounded by new people and experiences. I missed the familiarity of my best friend. It didn't take long for those feelings to subside.  While I will always miss my best friend, I've made so many new friends that I feel comfortable and happy around.  Remember to never give up. By sophomore year you will have a solid friend group to count on no matter what.

3.  Find friends that compliment your lifestyle and have similar interests.

The beauty of making new friends and starting at a new school is finding people that care about the same things you care about.  As a kid, you were friends with other kids because you went to school together (and you probably liked the same Barbie or something).  At college you can find people who share your interests.  You can find that person who shares your love for obscure indie music.  One important part of making friends in college is finding people who share your lifestyle.  If you're not into partying find other people who don't party.  Choosing friends that compliment you will help you be happier throughout college.

4. Call your mom (but don't rely on her for everything).

 Up until this point, you have probably relied on your parents for almost everything.  They feed you and cloth you and give you most of your love.  No matter how much you think otherwise they love you and are on your side.  If you have a problem or are just feeling down about something give them a call and they will undoubtably talk you through the tough time.  This being said, college is also a time to get off your feet and do things for yourself.  Relying too much on your parents won't allow you to grow into an adult.  Think of college as the beta version for adulthood. You have to work out some of the bugs but you can only do this if you do it on your own.  I try to call my parents once or twice a week. This works for me. My best friend at least texts her mom every day.  Find a schedule that works for you and makes you and your parents feel happy.

5. Have fun and be safe!

College should be fun.  Sure you have to do a lot of classwork but you gain a whole new social life. There will be no other time in your life when you can meet tons of new people while studying anything you want.  However, there can be such a thing as too much fun.  This is your first time being out in the real world on your own.  Remember to be responsible with you time and yourself.  There is no need to ruin an amazing experience!

Also, as one last thing.  If you think you are having a problem fitting in to the college environment make sure you take full advantage of the resources on your campus.  Every campus has a counseling center filled with people who are ready to help you make the transition between home and school.

I hope you all have a great year at school.  I know I'm looking forward to seeing my campus in a couple weeks.  Good luck!

ox Caitlin

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