Surviving freshman year: Things I wish I knew

To the freshman class of 2019, I say welcome and congratulations on getting this far. You have achieved much in your lives to get to this point, and the success will only keep coming if you work hard enough.

While everyone has an image in their head of what college is and what they will experience in the best four years of your life, there are things that you don’t or won’t expect to happen that’ll sneak up on you and impact your college experience.

In an effort to help you prepare for the unexpected, here are five things that I experienced my freshman year that I didn’t expect to have such a strong influence on me but have made me into the college senior that I am today.

1. Homesickness is inevitable

Whether your family is only an hour away or in a different state, living on your own for the first time in a college dorm room can be a daunting experience. You are new to your surroundings, new to your new roommates and new to campus life in general.

Sometimes, these realities can get to us – we are alone for the first time without the ties of home that make us feel secure and safe. I felt the absence of these ties many times and sometimes still do! There are many occasions that I’ve cried and wanted to be with my family and friends back home, and felt like their absence was a giant hole in my being.

The best solution in this scenario is to know that your parents, friends and family will always be there. You can always message them on Facebook or pick up the phone. One thing that people always told me was that my parents are “only one phone call away,” and it could not be more true.

Do not be afraid to take the step to call home when you need to; they’re going through a transition too, with you leaving the nest. Hearing your voice will help make the transition easier for them, and hearing their voices will make your transition into college easier for you.

2. Roommate relationships can be rocky

When I first came to college, I pictured that I would become best friends with my roommates, that we would have a strong relationship and that we would be bridesmaids at each other’s weddings. I quickly came to realize that my idea of roommates was completely off.

Sometimes, roommates do not get along. One might be super clean, while the other does not care much for cleanliness. One might love loud music, while the other prefers a more quiet atmosphere. One might need to sleep with the TV on, while the other needs complete and utter silence to sleep comfortably. For one reason or another, roommate relationships can end up rocky, and can worsen throughout the semester.

One of the things that can help if things do get tense is constant communication. Make sure you voice your concerns about what you like and what you don’t to your roommate. Make compromises that you can both live with so that your relationships do not suffer. Your roommate can become a great friend throughout the semesters, or even become a lifetime friend, if you both communicate well enough and try to aid each other in making the cohabitating easier.

Of course, there will be times where roommates will be complete opposites and will have difficult times connecting and making a relationship, but the best thing in these cases is to try to make things as comfortable as they can be for the both of you. Through communication, you can make living with each other as enjoyable as it can be.

3. Peer pressure is real

Many people have a stereotypical idea of what college is like – study, extracurriculars, drink, party, sex and repeat. Many incoming students feel the need to conform and do these things to be considered cool and popular within their group of friends (Sounds a bit like high school, doesn’t it?).

There were many times where I felt pressured to drink alcohol or to go to parties just to fit in with the group I was hanging out with at the time. My advice here is to not give in to pressure. Do not do anything that you are not prepared to do – whether it be having sex, drinking alcohol or partying into the wee hours of the morning.

I still remember the days when I sat cross legged in my dorm, playing a drinking game with my roommates because I thought it would make me cool in their eyes. I ended up with alcohol staining my shirt and a headache the next morning, and it is not something I wish on anyone to experience who is not ready.

Be sure you’re ready to drink, make sure you’re ready to have sex, make sure you’re ready to party. You do not have to do these things to make your college life any more special. The fact that you’re here in college making your life better by aspiring to get a degree is special enough, and it is something you should be proud enough of to make it be your main priority.

4. You’re going to feel swamped and stressed.

While you were in high school, teachers and parents alike probably reminded you of how college hard would be, how strict college would be and what going to college and becoming an adult would entail.

Inevitably, you will run into stress. You will run into feeling swamped, tired, stressed and sometimes anxious because of grades, class performance and even social pressure. I remember when I spent nights  alone in my dorm room, on the verge of a breakdown because I felt like I was going to fail a test, or because I thought I made a mistake which I could not go back and fix. I felt stressed, depressed and extremely anxious.

One way that I learned to get away from it was to spend some time taking care of myself, and it’s something that you should do as well. Do something that you like every once in a while, whether it be taking a long, hot shower, sleeping or watching a favorite movie (maybe all three).

Remember that while your grades are important and will matter down the line if you want to continue education beyond your undergraduate years, your health is even more important. Make sure you take care of yourself first, and everything else will fall into place.

5. College is going to make you grow as a person

With my last bit of advice to you, I want you to look in the mirror at the person you are now. Remember what you were like in high school, what you like now, what you believe now. Odds are, four years from now, on your graduation day, you won’t remember the person you used to be. You will have grown so much as a person and grown so much in your personal beliefs that high school will seem like a distant memory.

When I was a freshman, I had no idea that I would grow as much as I did. I did not know that I would grow into my faith as much as I did. I did not know I would make as many friends as I did. I did not know that my life would have so many events that would help change it for the better.

You will go through many things in college, both positive and negative that will change you as a person. You will make new friends, invest in new opportunities, make new relationships and graduate with a new perspective on life. Enjoy your time here – it is part of the best time of your lives. But also remember that this is one of the biggest transitions you will make. Take it easy, work hard, and welcome to college.