By Stacey K.
I remember very clearly walking down the hill on my graduation. It was exciting and scary all at the same time. I glanced at my friend next to me and smiled nervously, feeling as if the moment I left the school grounds for the last time, I would be stepping out of a security zone. College was the next chapter of my life, and all summer this surreal concept never actually registered for me.
Until I got there.
After the farewell dinners and tearful goodbye to my friends from home, I was in the car on the way to my designated school. The drive made me anxious, as I wondered what to expect when I got there and as I tried to grasp the fact that my parents were leaving me there for 2 months. I had no idea what was to come until the experience started becoming my own.
The beginning of college introduces the idea of orientation to the anxious student. Basically, you are assigned to a group where you get to know each other and play a bunch of ridiculous games in the process. You sing songs and go to informational as well as entertaining events. During this three to seven day period, you will probably think “Wow, college is amazing. I lay out on the grass all day, hang out with new people from all over, and have absolutely no work to do.” It will feel like you’re in summer camp, until classes start.
While I was in high school, I remember thinking that college work would consist of 48 page theses and impossible research papers on obscure topics. As it was, none of this was part of my academic curriculum. I had homework and papers just as I did in high school, although truth be told, I wound up reading a lot more material than I had to previously. The best thing about being in this new academic environment was that I was in this liberating atmosphere where I was allowed to call the shots. If I wanted to meet up with someone after class instead of returning to my dorm to do my homework, I could. If I wanted to do my homework outside under a tree, it was no problem. Personally, this was extremely helpful for me, as I was a lot more focused and a lot happier as opposed to sitting in a classroom for six and a half hours. The professors would come in with jeans on, and most of them talk to you as if you are their equal. A lot of them are really interesting too. My philosophy professor from last semester was probably in his late twenties, and was a drummer in a band. He frequently invited the class to come see his performances, and quite honestly, none of my high school teachers were that cool.
The theme of independence did not stop at the academic front. Every weekend I had the ability to do whatever I wanted. I did not have to come home at a specific time or report to some authority figure where I was going. The school held plenty of events for us to attend, whether it was a concert, a dance, or a stand-up comic, but there are several other things to do off-campus, if you want to shop or get a good meal (if there’s one thing you might pick up from school, it is that the dining hall does not serve delicacies and you will appreciate home-cooking more than you ever did in your life). If none of this appeals to you, you will have no trouble finding a party on campus.
One thing I learned was that it is most definitely a good idea to join clubs. This way you can meet people who have similar interests, and it will make the process of finding new friends a little easier. Most probably though, you will bond with your dorm mates and find that there a fair share of cool people in your building. But just because you make friends with people in your building, does not mean you will be friendly with your roommate.
In the beginning of the year, my roommate and I were not very compatible. She would turn on the heat in 80 degree weather and talk to herself constantly. Not to mention that she was a self-proclaimed nudist, and there was more than one occasion that her underwear fell from the top bunk during the night into my bed. Despite the fact that we had our differences in the beginning, my roommate and I wound up being good friends. There are plenty of stories where roommates love each other, hate each other, or tolerate each other. In the end, you only have be in the room with them when you are going to sleep, and next year you can choose whoever you want to room with.
To be honest, college can be an overwhelming transition. It is much different than high school, but it is not the end of the world. Inevitably, you will adjust, and you’ll probably love it in the end. As a friend of mine once described it, it is like a “four year fantasy camp.” Ultimately, though, college is what you make of it.
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