I have been home for a few days now, and yet the boxes of miscellaneous papers, folders, and random clothing I’ve acquired are still sprinkled around the house. It’s great to be home and with my family and dogs and eat healthy food and see old friends, but I already find myself missing the Kansas weather and the predictability of my life in college. To reminisce, I’m going to share the last fifteen lessons I learned in my first year, and can’t wait to continue into next.
- Don’t try to follow the trends.
It’s nearly impossible to keep up with the trends of college, so don’t let it bother you when you don’t own the same shoes as every other girl in your class- your uniqueness is what others will remember you by.
- There will not be a trigger warning.
One of the most important things I learned this year. There won’t be a trigger warning. The shelter that has hung over your head for eighteen years will be ripped from it’s foundation, leaving you soaking cold and wet in the rain of life. Life is evil, life is gory, life is violent. These are three traits I was unaware of because of my carefully-protected childhood. There isn’t any protection in college, and you will see/hear things you will want to forget. I am so sorry about this one, because the first time you witness something that should have come with a warning, you won’t forget it.
- Outsmart the parking system.
I’ll keep this one short, because I got three parking tickets of $25 each this year. Needless to say, do whatever you can to outsmart the parking system, or you will pay the price.
- Establish who takes out the trash:
I lived in a suite dorm, which had two bathrooms, two bedrooms, and one big main room. There were four of us living here, which meant that things could get gross pretty quickly- mostly the trash. I don’t want to elaborate. Halfway through the first semester, I made a trash chart to help fix the problem, but life gets in the way and the trash continues to overflow. Stick to a plan, and clean your dorm at least once a week people.
- Guys will cat call you.
Girls, please be aware, that it will happen. College boys (not men, boys) will do it, and middle-aged boys (again, no man would stoop this low) will do it. It will happen on campus, at the gas station, and when you’re walking downtown. Ignore their idiocy, and please buy pepper spray, just in case. It gives me confidence and assurance so that I can keep walking with my head held high.
- Study a map and figure out the transportation system.
I go to a rather large and spread-out University, with my farthest class building being a little over a mile walk away. This was never an initial concern of mine (until it rained or snowed), but my roommate was very concerned with how we would get around campus. One of my first memories was of her studying the campus map for a solid thirty minutes, and tracing out every route. She memorized the buildings and every bus route, and was way more prepared than me when it came to getting around campus. Even though I laugh at her tedious map-scrutinizing, it’s way better to be prepared than stuck/lost in the rain (without an umbrella!).
- Make at least one friend per class.
As tempting as it might be to just sit quietly in the back and leave the second class is dismissed, try to talk to someone around you. If you miss a lecture, you’ll always have notes, and if someone makes an obnoxious/ignorant comment, you can exchange *the look*.
- Don’t let fear change your plans.College is scary. Even more so if you have social anxiety or unease. There will be many, many events on campus and parties off campus. You should go to both. There will be times when your head discovers every excuse possible as to why you should put on sweatpants and climb into bed. This is a fear- based mindset and you don’t need it.
- FaceTime even if you don’t have makeup on.
Leaving my family/childhood home was one of the hardest aspects of college for me, but we established a routine of regular FaceTiming for family dinner on Sunday night. Even though I would talk to my mom 2+ times a day, I missed the boys in my family (and dogs!) and FaceTime was the perfect way to stay in touch, even though most Sunday nights I looked like a tired grease ball. Don’t be vain in college, answer the call despite your appearance.
- The food at the dining hall sucks.
You will be deceived by the faked joy when you tour your college, because when it actually comes down to arriving at the salad bar with the most expensive meal plan, the only thing you’ll taste is instant regret. Don’t buy the full meal plan, invest in a mini-fridge, microwave, and your own silverware/dish ware- get creative with what you can in the dorm.
- Walk everywhere.
Like I mentioned, my campus is very large and spread-out. For some, this is annoying and tedious, but for me, it’s paradise. Walking two miles to and from class is one of the best parts of my day, especially with the normally beautiful weather. My roommate has said that one of her favorite parts of college has been enjoying the beauty of the campus/nature. In on instance, she actually touched the bark of a tree and felt the leaves, a transcendent experience. I found humor in imagining this scene, but also understood the calming feeling of the world under your feet.
- You will get into fights with significant other because of long distance.
One of the sad truths of living far away from the one you love, is that while distance makes the heart grow fonder, agitation from separation makes it irritated. Communication is already one of the biggest problems between couples, and when the communication is mainly done over text message, the problem intensifies. The fights grow in number, but are usually insignificant in the long run, and although my boyfriend and I found ourselves in arguments nearly every week, I can’t recall nearly 3/4th’s of them.
- Being on your own can be good.
Establishing your own independence is one of the single best things I’ve taken away from college. You are in control of your life, and for the first time it feels like the reigns are in your hands. Being on your own will teach you about what the world is like outside of the shelter of high school, but this can have its own downfalls which leads me to..
- Being on your own can be bad.
Oh my gosh being on your own can be scary. Going to the doctors, buying groceries, getting parking tickets, getting stuck in the rain, getting lost in an unfamiliar area, getting cat-called alone downtown, and paying bills are just a few items on the long list of terror. And yet. It gets easier, it becomes more natural to welcome these challenges into your everyday life. C’est la vie, you’re living it now.
- There is so much pressure.College thrives on pressure, it goes hand in hand with keeping up with the endless tasks of adulthood. In college you will experience the pressure to get a job and make money to pay off your debt and go on spring break trips. You will feel pressure to follow a budget, and maintain a savings account despite every tuition bill in your inbox. There will be pressure to maintain weight, and fit into tiny skirts and short dresses at parties. There will be pressure to fit in with everyone else, and wearing these tiny skirts and short dresses is one way to do so. There will be pressure to get good grades, because certain things (scholarships and future careers) depend on them. College is all about pressure, so learn to live with it and conquer it head on before it overcomes your mindset.
With all of these things in mind, I will continue to move into the summer and my sophomore year with more experience, and a sense of preparedness. However, this is always when the best lessons are taught, usually the hard way. I’ll be ready.