To my brother who is a month into his first year of college,
One month in and how do you feel?
256 miles away from each other, you have just finished your first month of college ever, and I have just finished my last first month. Going to drastically different universities, I am sure that this past month has been a whirlwind. While I have the comfort of Kline's ice cream shop, and I am surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, you are enclosed by skyscrapers and the hustle of the city life. The University of Pittsburgh is a very different world compared to James Madison University, but I hope the city life is treating you well.
While we are earning different degrees, we have different passions and goals and have separate interests and varying qualities that make us unique to our own, that doesn't mean that you won't go through the good, the bad, and the ugly just like I did. I hope that your first month has been full of good experiences; that you are finding your way, and that you are beginning to figure out who you are and who you want to be. So while the last thing you probably want is advice from your big sister, here are a few thoughts, from a senior to a freshman, as you are well on your way to four of the best years of your life.
You will make some of the same mistakes that I did.
You probably don't think so, or you might've already. Maybe you think you are completely accountable and you aren't going to go a little too hard one night and end up with your head in the bowl. Trust me, you will. This is your first time on your own! No parents, no curfew, new friends, and new experiences to have and places to explore. So will you have a few bad nights? Absolutely. Will it take puking your guts out at 3 a.m. for the 4th time this year to really figure out how to be responsible? Most likely. But as a freshman, we all go through it, and all you can do is learn for next time. Just please, don't get arrested. That's a game you do not want to play.
Find your friends before you find the girl.
So I've heard you have already found a girl, which is great. But also, guess who's going to be scraping you off of the bathroom floor and making sure you make it to your bed after one of the nights mentioned above? Your friends. Do you want to know why I know this? Because my core friend group formed when I was a freshman and we all lived on the same floor in the same hall together. 3 years later, we are all still best friends, and we have all saved each other at least once. So while I am happy for you to have found an individual who makes you happy and you can build a relationship with, don't forget about your boys. Don't forget about the people that you will grow and learn with. The people that will grow to be your best friends. The people who you will spend the next four years and beyond with. Find them too, they are important.
GO TO CLASS.
Even if it is a gen-ed course with no attendance policy and the last thing you want to be doing is going. You will always do better in the course if you go. Even if you think it has nothing to do with your degree, I guarantee that you will learn something from it. General education courses are designed to make you more intelligent about society and to become a more well-rounded individual. They are created to change how you see the world, and to bring you out the bubble that is your degree. So don't totally dismiss them, they are there to make you a better human being.
Be a good roommate.
You have never shared a room before and now you have to share close quarters with three other people. Whether you grow to be great friends or they will always just be your freshman year roommates, still treat them well. Don't steal their food, clean up after yourself, and share the space. These individuals are the people you spend your first year with, so if you make it a worthwhile experience for them, they will do the same for you.
You will get sick.
Living in a dorm is like living in a petri dish. Sickness is in the air, always. You may be in denial, but it is going to happen. The best advice I can give you is the same advice that I was given during my first college orientation: WASH. YOUR. SHEETS. (Also wash your hands, your door handles, and for goodness' sake cover your mouth when you cough.)
Coming home for the summer is going to be different.
You might not think so, but when you come home from college and you leave the individuals you have spent an entire year living with, you begin to miss your college friends when you're at home more than you miss your home friends while you're at school. This is an awkward transition that was a weird adjustment for me. Even when you see your home friends over holiday breaks, you find that you all spend a lot of the time telling stories about your friends from college. So while you go through this change, remember that you truly do meet your best friends in college. This isn't something I realized until it happened, and while I am grateful and appreciative of the friends I do still have at home, your college friends are really the friends you will have forever. Just wait, you'll see.
You can call me, any time.
I know, I know, why would you call your big sister? But I really am only a phone call away. And I've been through it all. The good, the bad, and the ugly. You might think that I haven't, but I have learned a lot about myself in my soon to be four years at JMU. So much so that it is hard to think about ever leaving this place. So if you ever have a question, a concern, or just need some advice, you know where to reach me.
It's okay to be a little lost; you will be all right.
Through it all, hang in there. You will have moments where you want to quit. You will have days where you question every decision that you have made in your college career thus far. You will have moments where you feel that you aren't embracing all that your university has to offer or that you don't quite fit in. Especially after you are no longer a freshman, switching from that exciting first year to more of a routine lifestyle can be tough. Just don't lose hope. Talk to people, don't ignore your friends, don't seclude yourself. Whether you choose to try something new, or you decide to become more involved in the organizations you are already a part of, you won't be in this funk forever. Soon enough, college will start to make sense, and you will realize that you are where you were meant to be.
If you realize that you aren't where you are meant to be? That's okay too. Sometimes it takes trying out a new experience to realize that you need to try again.
Your time in college is going to fly by, and before you know it, you'll be walking across that stage to get your diploma.
It's hard to believe that we are a month in already! People always say college will fly by, but you don't actually know it until you experience it. It is crazy how much you can love a place that you spend such a small portion of your life at. They say your college years are some of the best years of your life, and through it all, they are. The people you meet, the memories you make, the experiences you have; I wouldn't want mine to go any other way. This is only the beginning for you, and I can't wait to see what you accomplish in the next four years.
Your Big Sis Who Is Going To Graduate In May Whether She Wants To Believe It Or Not
P.S. - Go Panthers! And as always, GO DUKES!