The First Semester Of College Is Always The Hardest

The First Semester Of College Is Always The Hardest

If I can get through my rough patch, so can you.
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Do not let anyone fool you that they had an "amazing first year" at college. All of us experience highs and lows, but as a society, we have a tendency to only focus on the good. We don't want to acknowledge the bad and show weakness, but we all experience low periods of our lives. What really is the deciding factor is how we handle these situations.

Temple University is my home away from home, and it took until the middle of my second semester to realize that. I mean, I literally cried when my mom and I were driving back to Pittsburgh just because I knew how much I would miss college. If you would have asked me how I was feeling at the end of my first semester, I probably wouldn't have had the same reaction.

For me, I struggled the most with being homesick and trying to maintain friendships I thought were meaningful. Moving so far away from home and attending a big school where nobody I knew went, I felt like I made a bad decision.

It also didn't help I had people in life that were telling me I made a bad decision by moving to North Philadelphia. It messed with me so much I really didn't embrace my college at first.

I went to the Tech Center so much just because it was a room filled with other people. My roommate and I didn't get along, so it wasn't like I had someone to vent to about the social challenges I was facing. I had a few friends that I hung out with, but I felt like I was missing out. I didn't really party my first semester just because I didn't want to be the girl who came by herself. It felt kind of pathetic to me.

With today's technology, it should have been easy to keep in contact with old classmates and friends. I could have FaceTimed with my friends, looked on Facebook and Snapchat for updates on their lives, and liked their pictures on Instagram just to stay in the loop. I tried, believe me.

In reality, it didn't work that way. I felt like I was missing out and just missed home. I was somewhere new with no one really to help me adjust. It sucked hearing about all the memories my "friends" were creating with classmates who went to the same school and staying in contact with everyone. I wanted to come home. They were achieving amazing things while I was having problems landing positions.

I had people back home who talked down on my achievements. From the moment I announced I was going to Temple, I was warned left and right about how dangerous North Philly was (spoiler: it's not that bad). I also was advised I would end up moving back home after my first year. I came from a very negative hometown that never has supported anyone or anything that is different. I was letting their doubts fill my mind

Starting in mid October, I felt very depressed. I've always struggled with my mental health, but it felt like I had hit an all time low. I called my mom crying a lot. I tried going to my school's counseling services, but they believed I wasn't adjusting because of my sexuality and referred me to numerous LGBTQ+ groups on campus and therapy programs.

That wasn't the problem. I just felt alone. It wasn't because I was uncomfortable with myself. I just didn't feel like I belonged on campus. I felt like coming to Temple was too big over my head.

All of the emotions I was feeling got so bad that I impulsively submitted a transfer application to the University of Pittsburgh. I filled out all the forms, paid all the fees, and submitted my transcript from Temple. I just wanted to be somewhere I was familiar with and knew I would be okay. My whole childhood, I grew up near the University of Pittsburgh so it felt like it was becoming my best option.

I was so wrong. My mother told me I wasn't allowed to transfer anywhere until the end of my freshman year, if that was what I really wanted. However, she made me promise to continue to pursue every opportunity I can and give Temple my 100%.

Maybe it is a bit overdramatic, but joining a sorority saved my life. After my breakdown and a long conversation with my parents, I decided to go out for formal recruitment. I would at least find something to do on campus and a reason to stay. I mean, I fell in love with Temple the first time I came here, so there had to be something that could make me stay.

Now I have a group of friends that encourage me to be the best version of myself. I have sisters I can turn towards in moments of crisis. I have a big who is literally like the big sister I've never had. I began to feel at home.

So for anyone who is a bit nervous about their first semester of college, it will be rough. You will have moments where you will doubt if you made the right decision. However, you cannot let the days that are bad take over the bigger picture. Everyone has bad days, but it is really all about how we handle these days.

In all honesty, if I had just sat back and relaxed rather than letting my anxiety take over, I probably wouldn't have considered transferring or allowing people's doubts to control my mindset. Temple University is my home away from home, and it took until the middle of my second semester to realize that.

If I can get through my rough patch, so can you. Go ahead and embrace all that your freshman year has to offer, even the bad times. It's all worth it in the end, I promise.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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Working With People Who Are Dying Teaches You So Much About How To Live

Spending time with hospice patients taught me about the art of dying.

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Death is a difficult subject.

It is addressed differently across cultures, lifestyles, and religions, and it can be difficult to find the right words to say when in the company of someone who is dying. I have spent a lot of time working with hospice patients, and I bore witness to the varying degrees of memory loss and cognitive decline that accompany aging and disease.

The patients I worked with had diverse stories and interests, and although we might have had some trouble understanding each other, we found ways to communicate that transcended any typical conversation.

I especially learned a lot from patients severely affected by dementia.

They spoke in riddles, but their emotions were clearly communicated through their facial expressions and general demeanor, which told a story all on their own.

We would connect through smiles and short phrases, yes or no questions, but more often than not, their minds were in another place. Some patients would repeat the details of the same event, over and over, with varying levels of detail each time.

Others would revert to a child-like state, wondering about their parents, about school, and about family and friends they hadn't seen in a long time.

I often wondered why their minds chose to wander to a certain event or time period and leave them stranded there before the end of their life. Was an emotionally salient event reinforcing itself in their memories?

Was their subconscious trying to reconnect with people from their past? All I could do was agree and follow their lead because the last thing I wanted to do was break their pleasant memory.

I felt honored to be able to spend time with them, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was intruding on their final moments, moments that might be better spent with family and loved ones. I didn't know them in their life, so I wondered how they benefited from my presence in their death.

However, after learning that several of the patients I visited didn't have anyone to come to see them, I began to cherish every moment spent, whether it was in laughter or in tears. Several of the patients never remembered me. Each week, I was a new person, and each week they had a different variation of the same story that they needed to tell me.

In a way, it might have made it easier to start fresh every week rather than to grow attached to a person they would soon leave.

Usually, the stories were light-hearted.

They were reliving a memory or experiencing life again as if it were the first time, but as the end draws nearer, a drastic shift in mood and demeanor is evident.

A patient who was once friendly and jolly can quickly become quiet, reflective, and despondent. I've seen patients break down and cry, not because of their current situation, but because they were mourning old ones. These times taught me a lot about how to be just what that person needs towards the end of their life.

I didn't need to understand why they were upset or what they wanted to say.

The somber tone and tired eyes let me know that what they had to say was important and worth hearing. What mattered most is that someone who cared was there to hear it.

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My First College Gal Pal Road Trip Was Amazing

Every girl should have one good girls trip.

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In some way or another, everybody has a list of things they want to do in their lives before it's all over. After all, we're human. There's adventure to be had in every life. One thing I have always wanted to do before I grew too old and grey was go on a road trip with my gal pals to the beach. A couple weeks ago, I achieved this memorable milestone, and it allowed me to open up to new surroundings and experiences.

On this trip, I went with two of my friends from college, Kait and Lindsey, to visit my roommate Elizabeth in Virginia Beach. This was pretty big for Lindsey and I because neither of us had been to Virginia Beach before. Thankfully Elizabeth and Kait knew their way around the city, so we never got lost on our way to and fro.

Like most vacations, my favorite parts probably took place at the beach. I'm always at utter peace stomping through mushy sand or leaning down to splash the salty water that tries to knock my short self over. We took pictures and did something us college girls rarely have time to do especially in school: Relax.

The four of us did not live up to the crazed stereotype of girl trips in movies. Although I finally got a chance to sing along to Taylor Swift in a car ride with my friends, so that's always a plus. We played "Top Golf" one day, and by some miracle, I actually won the second game by a fair amount after much humiliation in the first one. We visited some of Elizabeth's family, and I finally got to meet her giant dog Apollo (I call him 'Wolf Dog'). Everyday was another chance to ask with enthusiasm: "So what are we doing today?"

Our trip wasn't like the movies where we all cried or confessed our deepest darkest secrets. Everything the four of us shared was laughter and this calm feeling of being at home, in the chaotic peace of each other's company. We understand each other a little better due to finally seeing what we're like outside of Longwood University. After this, all I can say is that we're most definitely planning the next one!

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