Three measly years ago, I came to Charlottesville knowing no one and being more than slightly terrified. I now know people, and I can find my way around grounds and a good portion of the city.
However, the beginning of the new school year has still brought about some anxieties. Some of these anxieties are fourth-year specific while others can affect anyone and everyone.
Firstly, coming back to Charlottesville and being met by the plethora of people between the ages of 18 and 22 is always a startling adjustment. Especially evident at larger schools, this is the only time in our lives where we are almost constantly surrounded by people the same age as us. While that can be cool in a lot of ways, it's also overwhelming. Being in the center of a college town, the monotony of stress and hormones that comes with being college-aged isn't dampened by any other age range, leaving us to run rampant and suffocate other valuable life perspectives.
The competitive environment is also something that takes some time to get used to. Particularly evident fourth year, people are always taking charge of their lives and propelling their careers forward even before earning their degrees. The mixture of drive and anxiety is palpable and I easily find myself stressed out over things that are far in the future. Learning that each of us is on our own paths to success is something that is crucial to accept, and the sooner you do it, the better.
By now I have my friend group here at school; however, even those dynamics take time to reform and adjust to the new school year. Between different schedules and new living arrangements, it takes time to figure out when people can hang out and which friends you'll inevitably be around more than others. This can be stressful both in scheduling and also emotionally as you want to hang out with everyone, but sometimes your schedule just doesn't allow it as much as you'd like.
A new semester comes with a new schedule. Adjusting to odd time gaps and finding the best walking routes takes a week or two to settle, and locking down set times for studying and extracurriculars can take even longer.
While there's something refreshing about starting new classes, it can also be a source of anxiety. Between the inevitable major classes that have horrid reviews on Course Forum and the non-major classes that make you step out of your comfort zone, you'll be starting 4-5 new courses that will require you to use your brain in a way that you probably didn't over the summer.
On top of all that, seniors get the added anxieties of life after the school year ends. Some students know what lies ahead, but a lot still don't. No matter if you know or you don't, there will be the constant question of "What are you doing after graduation?" that you'll have to get used to. Whether literal or sarcastic, it's time to prepare our answers.
At the end of the day, no matter if it's your first year of college or your last, the beginning of the year is never 100% smooth. Schedules are off-kilter, emotions are running high, and life is simply changing. Eventually, this will become the new normal... but, for now, allow yourself the few weeks it takes to become settled. A new school year worth of memories is awaiting you.