When I made the decision to move over five hours away from home for college, I was beyond excited. I knew, even from freshman year of high school, that I was never meant to just stay local. There was something about life outside of my small town in Western Pennsylvania that always excited me. Just ask anyone who I graduated with. I was the girl just aching to get away and already had school pride for her college. That summer, I spent a majority of my time envisioning what my college experience was going to be, and spending endless hours at Target getting decorations and other essentials for my dorm. However, when it came to actually settling in to my new environment, it was a lot harder than I realized. Within just the short weeks of being a college freshman, living on my own for the first time, here is everything I've come to realize.
1. Loneliness is real
College is meant to be a time to start over, gain new experiences, and discover who you are. Coming to a large university in Philadelphia, there were a few kids from surrounding schools that knew each other, which was expected. However, moving away while a majority of your friends stay closer to home is tough. Through high school, there was familiarity while as college is just a new place full of confusion as we try to navigate our way and figure out life. I noticed some people were already making friends easily or just having this cliche. When I was little, I had always envisioned college would be the time I would have a friend group similar to Friends. I feel like Rachel Green trying to figure life as I'm really independent for the first time. It's scary, and I have found myself just lonely because I do miss my old friends. However, I do know that I'm meant to be here.
2. Homesickness is the worst
I guess loneliness and homesickness go hand in hand. I know it was a price to pay to go so far away from home and that homesickness is inevitable. However, it does get hard to see all your friends and classmates from high school being able to go home frequently. For me, personally, it just doesn't make sense to get on a 6 - 8 hour bus/train ride for just a weekend. I would be spending more time traveling across state than getting to spend that time with my family. This is the furthest I've been away from home, but each day has been getting a little bit better. I miss my mom's home cooked meals. I really miss my dogs. I just miss being home where my parents and so many things I love are. Philadelphia is a great city, but Pittsburgh will always be home.
3. You have to be financially aware
You have probably heard it before - "money doesn't grow on trees." Being in college, you quickly become aware that life is expensive. As much as you want to walk down the street and get a burrito from Chipotle or head to a fun event downtown, it all costs something. Sometimes, it's okay to say no to going out if you want to save money for emergencies or that cup of coffee you desperately need for your 8am seminar. Also, some advice for those who are struggling like I am, do some research on student discounts either offered through your university or at different places where you live! Normally, you can either get a discounted price or even free admission.
4. Nobody has their life together
It's easy to believe everyone has their life figured out when you look on social media. In all reality, people are changing their majors, stressing out over projects and exams, and trying to figure out this whole adult thing. Life in itself is just one big stressful mess, but you have to embrace it. Take every challenge you may face and learn from it. It's freshman year after all. You're not suppose to know how everything works or where everything is right away. This first semester is a whole learning process.
5. It is too easy to get overwhelmed, so sometimes you need to step back
During orientation and welcome week, you are advised to seize every opportunity and get involved in clubs. I had the chance to walk around and see various tables for different student organizations and signed up for so many emailing lists, which is great. You're suppose to test new things and find out what you life. But then you get into your classes and the work aspect of college comes in (the main reason why you are at university), so you get assigned multiple readings, projects, presentations, and have to prepare for exams. Then the football games come rolling in and other on campus activities. But wait, have you hung out with your friends? Did you remember to call your parents? It seems like there is so much to do sometimes with so little time, and you easily become overwhelmed to the point of having a break down. It is okay to step back from commitments to prioritize. Remember, your mental health comes first.
If you're in the same boat as me, you probably have been away from home for 12 weeks now and are just waiting in anxiety to go home due to homesickness like mentioned before. Sure, my mom made the drive to come see me a few weeks ago, but three days with her just was not enough. Ask anyone who knows me. My mom is my best friend. However, next week, is finally Thanksgiving break, which means going home. Everyone is excited to get away from school work for a couple of days, but for those of us who haven't got the pleasure of just going home to escape campus life for a little. No more dining in the dining halls or spending nights in a dorm room. Thanksgiving Break is the light at the end of the tunnel. Besides, after Thanksgiving Break is three weeks until the end of the semester and Christmas, which means that we do not have to wait as long to go home this time!
7. We're all in the same boat
We're all freshman here. Some of us may be struggling differently than others, but we're all trying to be independent and gain some sort of control. That is the best part of college - there are other people who are there to support you. Sure, you might not be surrounded around the friends you've had for the past four years. However, now, you are gaining new friends, who might last a lifetime. With new friends by your side, you can become unstoppable with people to show their support and give advice. There will be late night heart to hearts, tons of Insomnia Cookie, and other memories that will be created over the next four years as we all try to navigate this new chapter together.
Your first couple of weeks of college is just a new chapter that takes time to adjust. It's like freshman year of high school, in reality. We are all a little awkward and nervous, and have to adjust to the new surroundings and how things are done. Just trust the process.