This weekend, I went home for the first time since coming back to school in August. I took a bus home - the same bus I always take when I go home. Yet even though the journey was no different than the one I took last year, I could tell there was a striking difference between my mindset going home last year and my mindset going home this year.
Last year, the first trip home couldn't have come fast enough. When I went home for the first time last year, I couldn't wait to leave campus. In all honesty, I was pretty miserable at school. I hadn't found my place socially; I had a few friends but not a set friend group, so I didn't really have a sense of belonging at school. I wasn't struggling academically - in terms of grades, I was doing exceptionally well - but I was feeling overwhelmed with the sheer amount of work I had to do. I didn't know how to manage my time effectively, and I hadn't gotten into the groove of handling a college workload. I was overworked, sleep-deprived and lonely. I wasn't having fun because I didn't really know anyone to go out and have fun with. Going home to be with my parents felt like a safe haven, a welcome break from the let-down that my first semester was shaping up to be.
This year, I am happy to say that things are completely different. Going home for the first break this time, I was excited to see my parents, but I wasn't desperate to go home. In fact, I was sad to have to leave school and my friends. Whereas I was essentially counting down the days until the first break last year, this year I cherished every single day at school. I thoroughly and wholeheartedly enjoy each and every day at school. I love it there and I am so incredibly happy. I laugh all the time and have so much fun even in the everyday things like going to class and going to the library to do work - really. I feel like I have a place on campus, in my friend groups, my a cappella group and my sorority.
Whereas last year, I was relieved to finally "go home," this year I can safely say that besides my parents, there is nothing at home that I am missing at school. I have love, support, friendship, fun, enjoyment, belonging and happiness. School has become another home for me.
When I think back to where I was at this time last year, it is practically unbelievable. It almost feels like I was at a completely different school! While my school hasn't changed, my experience of it has. I harnessed my unhappiness during my first semester and vowed to actively search for happiness. The happiness I found completely changed my college experience for the better, and I am so happy to say that I love my school and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
I suppose my purpose in writing this is for all the freshmen out there who are feeling like I was during my first semester; for the freshmen who are struggling, whether it's academically or socially; for the freshmen who can't wait to go home and for the freshmen who are questioning their happiness. I promise you that it gets better. It takes time to make lasting friendships; it takes time to figure out how to balance a college workload; and it takes time to find your place at school. Give it time, and hang in there. Reach out to your parents, your friends from home, your school's counseling center, your academic advisor. They can help you even if it's just to provide a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. They say that if you want the rainbow, you have to put up with the rain; trust me when I say that I am so glad I stuck it out. I might have stepped in some unexpectedly deep puddles and broken a few umbrellas along the way, but now I'm basking in the sunshine. Hang in there - if I could do it, you can too.