2017 has already been a year marked with milestones. I graduated high school in May, college scholarships in hand, looking forward to a future as a university-educated woman. Now, I’ve been attending Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, for one full week. It’s only been a short time, but I can already observe the effects this experience has and will continue to have on my personal development.
Despite that potential to be transformative and fulfilling, the beginning of one’s college career can also be particularly daunting. Here, then, are ten thoughts a new arrival will likely have during their first week at college – and, for the more intimidating ones, some advice.
Finding your way around campus is one of the first things you should do – not only for practical reasons but also to provide yourself with more peace of mind. If you’re confident that you know how to get to the most important offices, the dining hall, your dorm, and all of your classes, you’ll feel much better about all the other uncertainties beginning to accumulate. If you can’t find something, don’t be afraid to ask someone! It’s actually a great way to meet people who may become friends.
Photo: Emily Rose Thorne
“What if I don’t make friends? "
I have personally struggled with anxiety most of my life and typically maintain a reserved, introverted presence. Despite my normal deference to solitude and shyness, my first week of college helped me open a door to a more open, engaging side of myself; with hardly any effort, I discovered that I can be an outgoing, excited person who socializes easily without being prompted. For example, on my third night at college, I heard loud music from the lounge in my res hall and saw a group of freshmen dancing and laughing. I walked in uninvited, introduced myself, and joined them, and left hours later with a solid friend group and the realization that most people in college will be just as open to new people as my friends were that night. (I’ve also learned that people love it if you reveal to them that you’re generally shy – they feel special because you’ve elected to open up to them.)
“I miss my mom/dad/friends/dog."
This was the hardest part of my transition into college. I’m an only child, have never lived without both of my parents in my house, and have resided in the same general area my whole life (aside from a brief stint in New York at the age of four). I graduated from a private high school with around 75 other seniors this past May. Then, I suddenly had to leave it all behind. Breaking off from the small, tight-knit community I’d created in a town that’s never been anything but familiar and comforting has been challenging. I’ve started to combat the lingering loneliness and discomfort by treating my university campus as my home and working to reestablish the community I had. I’m forming friend groups, learning my way around, and keeping in contact with my loved ones back home (but not too much; you can’t drown yourself in what you’ve left behind if you want to feel at peace someplace new). Your college, too, will likely have an orientation that spans a few days where they’ll help you acclimate to the new world. Make campus your home and make your new friends a family; just don’t forget those who loved you from the beginning.
Photo: Emily Rose Thorne
“I don’t think I can handle this/I don’t belong here."
Chances are that you’re exactly where you need to be right now. These thoughts, though, find a way of intruding at any moment during your transition to college, turning what should be an exciting time into one plagued by doubt. Socially, attending campus events, joining clubs, introducing yourself to those around you, and putting yourself out there will help you create a strong support network that you can rely on throughout your transition to college and beyond. It’s especially comforting to know that everyone else is likely feeling the same way you are. Academically, once your classes start and you begin to get your footing, you’ll prove to yourself that you are capable of managing college course loads. (If you’re in high school, consider taking AP classes to help you establish your capabilities early on.) Many colleges also offer academic and emotional support offices such as mental health counseling or tutoring in various subjects to help you if you feel you’re starting to slip later in the semester. Of course, if you never get used to your college or you feel unsupported after giving it your best effort, you may need to transfer schools.
Photo: Emily Rose Thorne
Within just a week, I feel I’ve made my campus my home, and I’m thrilled to spend the next four years here. Moving out and accepting your new status as a responsible, independent adult is difficult, but ultimately gratifying, necessary, and simply fun.