I recently found myself looking back at pictures from this past year; my freshman year of college. In these pictures, I see a little bit of exhaustion, a little bit of confusion, a whole lot of chaos, but absolute genuine happiness. The kind of happiness that comes when you set off on your own, with the hope that it will all fall into place, but no idea how to navigate through this new chapter of life. It is scary but nonetheless rewarding and whether it is the greatest year of your life, the worst year of your life, or a little bit of both, you'll pack up your freshman dorm with a set of lessons that you sure as hell did not unpack with.

1. Being gentle with yourself is a must.

I grew up being pushed and I am forever thankful for that. We need to be hard on ourselves, we need to do things we don't want to do and that is what college is all about. But college is also new, college is scary, college is hard, and it's important to remind ourselves that we don't have all the answers and that this new stage of life is going to take time to get the hang of.

2. As cliche as it sounds, you have to be yourself, and there is no better place to do that than in college.

College is essentially the beginning of the rest of your life. This is where we're put to figure out what we want to do and who we want to become and you cannot expect to get to the bottom of this if you're not aligning with your true self. Once we let go of all we were told to be in high school, all we have been pretending to be, things fall into place. We find the friends were supposed to have, we get involved in things we genuinely enjoy, and the opportunities we need arise.

3. You need a plan but that plan needs to be flexible.

I came into college sure that I wanted to major in journalism and go to law school. After taking a few journalism classes and learning more about the field, I knew it wasn't for me. But I was so sure that this was what I wanted for so long that I held onto it just because I felt an obligation to myself and the plan I had already laid out. My friends knew my plan, mom and dad knew my plan, grandma knew the plan. As a person who has always been a firm believer in going with the flow, I knew this wasn't a great idea. I changed my major to writing intensive English and although I haven't started it quite yet, I chose my classes with excitement and feel a great sense of relief that I am one step closer to doing what I want to do. I've learned it is important not to let others limit you but even more important not to limit yourself. Have a plan but go where the wind takes you, as long as your intentions are pure, the wind is probably right.

4. Home is everything and the people at home are even more.

This one almost seems like a given. You don't know what you have until its gone... or at least a couple hundred miles away. Spending everyday in the same city with the same people can get repetitive and it is almost inevitable as you go through the motions of everyday life to lose sight of just how special your hometown is and the people that it's made up of. The people you meet in college, at least in my case, are some of the greatest, closest to the heart people you will ever meet, but no one, absolutely no one is your mom or your dad or your sister or your best friend of 12 years. These are the people you start with and being away from them makes you realize they are the people you need to keep with you till the end.

5. Going outside your comfort zone is the greatest thing you could ever do for yourself.

If you are looking to be uncomfortable, then be a freshman in college. Nothing says discomfort quite like moving away from home, living in a small box with a potential stranger and learning to live almost entirely your own. As scary as this sounds, I've learned that it is simply the greatest thing that has happened to me thus far in life. Going outside your comfort zone means something different for everyone. But whatever it may be, do it, it is the only way to get from point A to point B.