I have said it once, I'll say it again. The transition to college is the most underrated transition of a young adult's lifetime thus far. I mean, nobody says it's ~easy~, but everybody seems to assume that it's the best time of any teenager's life. And while this may seem to be true for most of your Instagram feed, I promise that it is not true for everyone.
The media, whether it be movies, songs, or just the pictures and videos you scroll through online, portrays freshman year as a never-ending party. It is just good times rolling with picture perfect campus shots fit in whenever necessary. But for those freshmen who didn't acclimate just so to their college campus, all of these images can be exhausting, stressful, and downright depressing. Whether you are just not into the party scene, you struggled to make friends, or you weren't ready to jump right into this scene at school if you didn't live the classic freshman lifestyle it is so easy to feel nothing but guilt.
Looking back I realize that I would have never admitted it to myself at the time, but freshman year was a battle for me. Beyond the classes that I loved, nothing was coming as easy as it did in high school when everything seemed picture perfect. College is often described as a chance to remake yourself, but that was the last thing I wanted to do after high school. I was content with the life I had built at home. Why'd I have to restart? So instead of branching out at school, for the first time in my life, I turned inward.
But what made it harder was that I didn't hate my college, I didn't dislike anyone I was meeting, and I didn't really want to be doing much else than what I was doing. In fact, I was falling in love with my campus, I was building my strongest friendships yet, and I was doing exactly what I wanted to (albeit a bit slower than everybody else).
But why did I still think that I was failing at this whole college thing?
Everywhere I looked, it seemed like everybody made their best friends who they were creating unforgettable memories with, while I was just trying to get my work done and plan my next trip home. While it doesn't sound like I was experiencing the "right" freshman year, I was only really upset with myself when I compared myself to what I thought I should have been.
So, once freshman year ended and I spent my summer recharging and soaking up home in a way I never had before, it became time to head back to campus. Half of me was dreading it. Now I had to return to the place where it seemed like everybody else just had the year of a lifetime, while I felt like I was returning back to move in day. Great.
The other half of me was beyond ready to get back and restart. Although it was a small one, I had set myself a foundation freshman year. And if one thing's for sure I grew a hell of a lot that year, so I was returning the strong, independent woman that freshman year made me. If nothing else, I was ready to give college one more go.
And that's what I did. I stopped letting myself feel inadequate compared to the people who had the textbook freshman year experience. Instead, I let my frustration fuel me to create a year that I had always wanted. Guess what? I made myself a home on my campus. No, not everybody finds their "home" freshman year. If you didn't find your place on your college campus your first year, this surely doesn't mean you still can't.
If you are looking back on freshman year feeling unfulfilled, embarrassed, or stressed, stop. Look forward to this year. Pledge to make it better. That may be one year gone, but you have three left. If you start this year with the determination to make your campus your home, I promise there will be a place for you.
If you are that sophomore who doesn't know how to feel as you return to campus, feel lucky. Feel blessed. Feel excited. Feel ready. I was in your shoes not too long ago. Then I had my best year yet... That I am ready to top this upcoming year. Your return is your chance to hit the re-do button and make college what YOU want it. Go get after it. Don't forget, it's never too late to make your campus your home.