It seems that college is the one thing that we look forward to for most of our adolescent years.
On top of that, it is common to hear "college is the best time of your life," however, what is rarely versed is how many students in fact struggle in the transition and duration of college. Due to the stigma and expectations holding those who are attending a university to be having the time of their lives, it reinforces the loneliness and hardships that a student may be experiencing.
I am here to voice that it is completely normal to be feeling this way because I have been through it.
When I moved in at college for my freshman year, everything was new and exciting—football games, parties, meeting new people, being in a big city. It is normal to get caught up in all of these new events, but when reality hits, it can hit hard.
Everyone has their own experiences at school that can make it great or quite the opposite. For me, I was diagnosed with bronchopneumonia for three months in the first semester.
I was taking 16 credits and working 15 hour weeks, in the middle of switching majors and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, and my grades were dropping. Eventually, I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder.
Now don't get me wrong, I've had plenty of fun memories at the school I've wanted to go to my entire life. However, it is easy to glorify the future and what we haven't encountered yet.
The experience that was once "new and exciting" for me had begun to fade, and I was left questioning if this place was right for me, if school, in general, was right for me, and whether it was normal to feel this way.
At the same time, plastered all over social media were people in college having the time of their lives.
Although I want to reinforce that it is commonplace to experience these types of feelings, my goal is to try and take my experience and help those who are having a difficult time, because looking back at a year ago, I wish I had someone to tell me what to do.
Taking the hardships that I've encountered and shaping them into lessons I've learned, here are 10 things to make your college experience better.
Step out of your comfort zone
In order to adjust, being open to making new friends and putting in that extra effort to, per se, offer going out together or grabbing coffee, makes a difference. When you step out of your bubble, you're growing, that should be a driving and encouraging factor to keep growing despite the difficulty of being uncomfortable.
Join a club or sport, make friends at your new job or class, get out and do something, because you won't meet anyone sitting alone in your room. Challenge yourself, because life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
Put your studies first, but don't forget to have fun
When you go to a big university, it is common to get caught up in one or another—partying or studying. Remember that you are paying for a degree, but sometimes you need a study break and a reminder to live a little.
Figure out what you want to do
College students are complicated. Some are super determined and know exactly what they want to do. For others, it is a big TBD, but when we are left taking classes and unsure where we are going with our lives, it can get really stressful.
Really sitting down and researching what you want to do and not keep running away from the question "what do you want to do with your degree" is a way to stay a little more relaxed.
Keep in touch with your BFF's from home
Don't forget about the people who have supported you and been by your side for years--no one will be more encouraging and supportive than your best friends who may be going through the same thing.
Get rid of toxic energy
As much as there are nice people at a university, many are not worth having in your life if they keep causing you pain and drama. Stand up for yourself, and get rid of those who attract negative energy.
Go to class
Although it may feel like you need to be dragged sometimes, going to class is, in most circumstances, essential to doing well. Additionally, you'll feel better knowing you're making an effort to improve your grades.
Get off campus
Sometimes we just need a breather. Getting off campus--whether it is going home, going shopping, hammocking, or grabbing coffee--can be a huge stress reliever and a reminder that there is a world outside of school.
Exercising is scientifically proven to lighten your mood by producing endorphins and reducing immune system chemicals that can make depression worse. Plus, you're getting fit at the same time.
If it doesn't get better, consider other options
Try to really get to the root of why you are unhappy. Maybe it's your major, the classes you are taking, or the school you attend. Furthermore, the problem could be deeper than that. For me, it was depression.
If things aren't getting better, consider getting help--whether it is speaking to a school advisor, a doctor or licensed therapist, or anyone in general, talking through things that are really bothersome can really lift a weight off of your shoulders, and they can help you figure out what to do next.
Know that it will get better, and everything will work out in the end
It's as simple as this: if college were easy, everyone would do it. It is OK to be homesick and to be stressed and not having a good time, it is irrational to have a good day every day.
Know that you are not alone--most people choose not to show their vulnerable side which perpetuates the unrealistic cycle of everyone having "the time of their life."
You choosing to show your vulnerable side will allow you to meet people like you. However, no matter what happens, everything will end up being just fine. Keep your chin up!