Coming to college, I had a general idea of what it might look like. I knew that I'd have time between my classes and that I could use it myself without it being structured by an outside party. I think we all know, or at least assume, that much going in. I also knew how I had felt on campus when I had been there before. That feeling of not quite belonging also wasn't exclusive to Skidmore; I think most people felt it on any campus they visited during the college search.
Tuesday was the first day I really thought "wow, I'm a college student". Before that, my preorientation program had felt like a really fun summer camp and new student and freshman orientation was so tightly scheduled each day, with lots of mandatory events, that it felt more like high school. On Tuesday, however, a few things changed. I got to wake up at a time I decided upon based partly on preference rather than solely on necessity--in high school you wake up just early enough to eat and catch the bus, for instance. I chose how much time I wanted for breakfast and how leisurely a morning I wanted to have. That was, I think, the first change that I noticed. The second I noticed when I was leaving my first unofficial meeting of my freshman seminar and was wondering whether or not I had time to grab lunch before my oboe lesson. (I didn't.) This, again, was new because in high school, lunch and other times like that are assigned and students don't have a choice as to when they want to eat. You eat at the set time regardless of whether or not you're actually hungry. The third time I noticed a change--and really when I thought that I'm becoming a college student and adult--was when I was leaving my oboe lesson. I was walking back to my dorm pondering what I should do with my time because suddenly I had it free. Unlike Sunday and Monday, I had free time to do with what I wanted rather than what was assigned to that time slot. For some reason, that realization that I had time to use freely according to my interests and desires was really striking. I ended up getting a leisurely lunch in the dining hall before going to meet my seminar professor in his office for an advising meeting. I mentioned my feeling of being a real college student and he laughed before agreeing that having this time that we can use as we wish is something unique to college and life after it, that it isn't something students are exposed to prior to this time in their lives.
Something else I felt more so than noticed as I was walking around campus that afternoon was that it felt very different from when I had visited as a prospective student, and even from when I was here on accepted students' day. It felt...right. As a prospective student, I almost felt that I was intruding on someone else's lawn, like I was overstaying my welcome in someone else's home. I lost that feeling. Now, this campus feels like home. I can walk around freely and see people that I know or even just find my way to my destination feeling that "this is where I belong now". I can now feel like I've grown into this place of developing adults without feeling like a child anymore, as I had when I had visited as a high school senior.