After watching films and TV shows about college life, reality can be jarring. Upon arrival on campus, most students are pretty surprised to find that what they saw onscreen hardly resembles everyday life as a college freshman. So, if your freshmen year of college is not like the movies, then what is it?
When you first pull away from your familiar driveway, you may feel suddenly unburdened. But soon after, you may develop a sense of homesickness that doesn’t indeed begin to dissipate until you’ve found your niche and the core group college friends. Maybe it’s the loss of mom’s cooking, playing soccer in the backyard with your siblings, or your dad’s sit-down chats on the back porch. Everything combined can be overwhelming. Some refer to this part of freshman year as “umbilical whiplash.” As you long for what’s familiar (home, nurturing, warmth, family), you have a whole new desire to discover, explore, and learn.
You’ll be seeing some things for the first time in your life. New experiences will pique your curiosity. Think about these things and how they make you feel, what they make you think, and what they are adding to your life. During your freshman year, the classroom won’t be the only place you learn new things. The question is, what do you want to learn outside of lecture halls and laboratories? Answering that is critical to determining what you stand for and what you want for yourself and those you love.
College starts off as a new experience, but within a couple of months or so, the madness of the world around you begins to wane. In its place comes a realization, often in the form of a question: “Do I know who I am? What do I stand for?”
How do you find out who you are in college before freshman year is over and you’re just a bungled heap of confused nerves? Go easy. College is not a race, despite what you’ve seen. Not to suggest that you take a decade to finish your degree, but there is a person within you. Explore who that is, what s/he cares about, and spend time making sense of those discoveries.
Steps you can take:
Whatever you do, remember to stay safe, always have someone you know and trust with you, and never go home with a stranger. Getting to know who you are as a freshman in college doesn’t have to be dangerous.
If despite your best efforts you feel sad, depressed, or lonely, do not despair. According to “The Huffington Post,” about 1100 students commit suicide each year. If you feel suicidal or are experiencing a sense of social disconnection, seek help right away from your college therapist (this is usually free of charge). If you feel like you have tried everything and still feel lonely, call your parents or an old friend from home and tell them what you’re feeling. After all, they’ve known you longest and know what makes you tick. It’s entirely possible that they help you turn things around.
Resources are all around you, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Most campuses have upperclassmen or masters students you can utilize. No matter how alone you feel, remember that so many people across the world feel just how you feel right now.
Freshman year is tough but rewarding. If you work hard to get to know yourself and others and communicate effectively, you’ll get through it — and you’ll love what you find on the other side!