As the start of the new academic year approaches, many of us returning students are arriving at school eager to reunite with our friends, return to our student organizations, learn new things, and set new goals for ourselves. The sense of comfort-- belonging, even-- that we feel coming back is, more likely than not, worlds away from how we felt when we arrived as first-year students. Being an RA in a first-year residential college, It's been surreal to experience the madness of a first college move-in and Welcome Week as a spectator rather than a participant. The magnitude of new names, faces, policies, resources, and traditions freshmen and first-year transfers learn can be daunting for even the most excited and prepared of the bunch.
The other day, I met a first-year student who remarked that, after a while, meeting and asking generic questions (major, hometown, dorm) of so many new people begins to feel superficial. In a way, it is; many of the people you meet during Welcome Week might not follow up on your suggestion to hang out, or, by chance, you simply won't run into them again. Because of this, introducing yourself and expecting you'll remain good friends with everyone you meet may seem pointless-- but throughout the superficiality, you could very well make some connections that truly do last and change you for the better. It may not be with the people you expected, and it may not be from the interactions you consciously initiated. Even with the assurance that things will end up as they should, it's okay to feel uncertain.
Whether you're traveling to college from across the country or across a single city, adjusting to a new lifestyle is hard. Even if you've never been the type of person to feel homesick, feelings of homesickness or nostalgia might come through-- and they're not signs of weakness. Whether you're struggling with homesickness, making new friends, getting involved, getting along with a roommate, or adjusting to classes, you're one hundred percent not the only person struggling with it. In the same way, some of our first introductions in college feel superficial, the way we portray ourselves to the world can be too. Positivity is fantastic and necessary, but it's important to remember that most of us show only the best parts of our lives to others in everyday conversation and social media. Things are never completely perfect for anyone. And even if things truly are going great, you still might feel confused or taken back by how your life, personality, and interests change-- though, ultimately, most of these changes will be for the better.
With all this in mind, I think it's important to reassure new students that it's normal to feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable through the excitement and novelty of beginning college and that everyone adjusts at their own pace. No matter how long it might take to adjust, know that you're not alone. Be proud of yourself for getting here and try to be open to the changes being thrown your way. And always, always know that there are people here to support you. Talk to your family, your RA, your advisor, your professors, or your friends-- old and new.
So, first-year students: don't worry if not everything is perfect yet.
Don't put so much pressure on yourself that it's impossible to see all the good things eventually coming your way.
Take a deep breath-- acclimating to college life is not a race.