Like any milestone, the entrance to college is one which is heavily romanticized and celebrated by the eager 18 year-olds embarking upon a new chapter in life. Movies, books and tv shows dramatize this experience and through the rose-tinted glasses, we are unable to see past the actors' fake smiles and lavish description of what would otherwise be best described as "some dude's basement." Red solo cup in hand, freshman await that moment of clarity when they finally experience what was promised them in some crappy John Green novel.
I entered college with a bucket list in hand of every college experience and memory I could cram into my first semester. I was determined to make best friends with my roommate, attend at least one social event (a record-breaker for me) and join any and every club which sparked my interest.
Several passive-aggressive post-it notes later, one of the experiences was swiftly crossed off the bucket list. On to the next one.
My school had a reputation for its intense party atmosphere and for someone who rarely wears pants after 7 p.m., I was not accustomed to the idea of going out. I mostly sat at home, cried at "Parks and Rec" and ate nutella with a shovel.office
There's nothing wrong with wanting to go out and have fun, it honestly was just not my thing. However, at a school which boasted nearly 35,000 students, I had hope that there would be others who shared my love of the indoors. Unfortunately, it was harder than one would think. In a school that large, it's actually very difficult to get to know people. Everyday you meet someone new and the person you met yesterday disappears into the crowd.
My school was also predominately Greek. Once again, I do not resent those who participate in sororities/fraternities, but it wasn't for me-I doubt I would charm anyone at recruitment with the story of that one time in high school when I was by myself and ate an entire pack of Toaster Strudel.
It was hard to not become the stick in the mud in my friend groups. At the time, I was not ready to start drinking, which warranted the unfavorable brand of "prude"-because let's face it, everyone at college drinks, regardless of age. At the risk of being uncomfortable and awkward, my best choice was to stay at home and offer a ride to any friend who needed it.
In between homework and my job, I blazed through my Netflix account leaving behind a trail of empty nutella jars-yes I know this is the second nutella joke, but damn that stuff is amazing.
My last-ditch effort was the club fair. There seemed to be an organization devoted to just about everything-even that one group with the fedoras and My Little Pony that you avoid at all costs.
In the midst of my naivete and excitement, I signed up for way too many clubs-I seemed to have forgotten that I had classes. And so, within the week, my e-mail was flooded with meeting dates and fundraising opportunities for clubs I had no intention in joining.
I tried to participate as much as I could given my course load, but still struggled to work in important things, like sleeping or eating. In between rowing practice, hall council, homework and a job, I had very little time to fret about maintaining the perfect college experience.
Ultimately, I ended up quitting almost everything after my first semester. I kept the job because it was the only thing earning me money. Back to square one.
At my high school graduation, a couple students had given speeches about defining the whole experience and how excited they were to move on with their lives. It was all very cheesy and my teacher caught me making gagging faces at my mom in the audience.
There is no stock college experience. Frankly, college really is just about schoolwork; it's a method of getting from one place to another. No matter what some young adult novel told you about turning 18 and moving out, you're still a dumb kid who makes dumb mistakes. It's natural to want to fit in, but too much pressure resides in achieving something that is completely made up.
If you want to go out drinking with friends, just have fun and be safe. If you want to stay home with 33 cats, enjoy those cuddly little bastards. Ultimately, what matters most is that you are comfortable with who you are.
I was horribly out of place at my first school. If someone can't find refuge in their home, whether it's a college or a city or whatever, it leads to a very painful situation. College is incredibly stressful and a strong support system is the basis for success.
Don't focus on achieving some dream made up by someone else; focus on fostering independence and becoming someone you're proud of.