After a year adjusting to this new, crazy place called college, you’ve finally done it. You’ve completed one full year (or maybe a second or third), and now you’re a pro: you know how to maneuver the dining hall, how to approach professors during office hours and the dos and don’ts of frat parties. Now you’re about to head home until August rolls back around, and maybe that’s the scariest change. What do people expect you to do in your boring hometown? How do you deal with your parents who just don’t get that you grew up a little in college? What if your friends have completely changed while they were away living their new lives? Or worse—what if you’ve changed beyond recognition, and your friends can’t relate to you?
Whether you’re worried about handling your parents, having things to do in your hometown, keeping in touch with new college friends or reconnecting with old ones, we’ve got some tips for you. Here’s how to deal:
Discuss rules and boundaries with your parents
So you’ve been away for months doing this whole “college independence” thing, and you survived! However, the next step is to deal with your parents, who might not believe it.
It might sound pretty lame, and sure, it might not land you out partying until 4 a.m. with your friends, but the best way to show your parents you’re now an independent adult is to act like an independent adult. This means that throwing a tantrum when they give you a curfew is something to avoid. Instead, Marta Carlson, personal counselor and the associate director of the Student Development & Counseling Center at Assumption College, suggests having an open and honest conversation with your parents about what you expect out of one another.
It’s important to look at what makes sense. “You need an openness and understanding of where each person is coming from,” Carlson says. You are now one year older with one year’s worth of new experiences under your belt; rationally explaining to your parents those kinds of experiences is the best way to get them to listen and understand.
But some things have got to give, too! Expecting your parents (who presumably are working each weekday) to allow you to stay out into the wee hours of the morning might not be realistic. Carlson says, “Young women need to hear the parent’s side of the story because now they’re in another living community (their family) and they have rights, too!” Be respectful of what your parents need from you and be ready to compromise.
Simply complying with your high-school-era 11 p.m. curfew might not be fair to you, especially if you’re used to being out until one or two in the morning while at school. Try negotiating a middle-ground curfew that works for both you and your parents, or figure out certain circumstances under which you’re allowed to stay out late.
“As long as my mom knows where I am and knows how I am getting home, I am able to stay out a little later, but sometimes it’s like, ‘Okay, be home at one, no questions asked,’” says Nicole Breen, a senior at Assumption College.
Remember, you’re living at home for a reason: presumably because you have the luxury of living there rent-free. Even though you’re a legal adult, you still need to be respectful of your parents’ household rules. If you do that, they’ll probably be respectful of your wishes, too.
“I don’t pay rent, therefore, I don’t make the rules,” says Ericka Consolmagno, a senior at Assumption College. “I have to let my mom know where I’m going, who I’ll be with, call if I leave, and, no matter how late I get back, I have to wake her up and let her know I’m home safe.”
Some other ways to check in with your parents when you get home are sending a text message for them to wake up to in the morning or leaving a note on the fridge.
Know that your parents aren’t being protective to kill your good time; they simply are doing it because they love you and want to make sure you’re safe. Sending them texts and filling them in on your night is a great way to compromise, allowing you to stay out a little later than in high school while giving your parents the comfort of knowing you’re okay.
Explore your hometown
When driving through your hometown for the first time during the summer, you’ll probably find that not much has changed since you left. Sure, your neighbors might have painted their house and the town just paved that pothole-infested section on Main Street, but generally speaking, all the places will look and feel the same. That may pose a challenge to having a fun and exciting summer with your friends. Instead of fretting over the impending boredom you fear your hometown might bring, think of some creative ways to have a good time.
The worst thing to do is to get caught in the trap of sitting on a couch with your friends every night. Instead, make a summer bucket list as soon as you and all your pals return home from your spring semesters. Whenever you all find yourselves sitting around bored, pull it out and choose a random activity from the list to do! You can make it as tame or wild as you want; anything from a picnic on the beach to a Walmart scavenger hunt can make for a good change of pace.
Try looking for things around town that you were never able to do because you were in high school. All those newly 21-year-old collegiettes can take this opportunity to try out the local bars they’d only heard rumors about throughout their high school careers, while younger collegiettes can try out that restaurant downtown that always looked just a bit too sophisticated for them.
Know that every night is not going to be a crazy night out on the town like you might be used to during the school year. There might be some nights dedicated to R&R, having a family game night or a Netflix binge, and that’s okay; sometimes those turn out to be the most memorable nights of all. One thing is for certain: if you and your friends simply sit around and complain about how boring your hometown is, you definitely won’t be having much fun this summer.
Keep in touch with your college friends
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of reuniting with old friends and family, but make sure that those new ones you’ve met over the past year(s) at school don’t fall by the wayside. Keep in touch with them!
Try planning special reunion nights with your school pals who live nearby. Find a date when everyone is available to hang out, grab dinner or lunch and dish about everyone’s summers thus far. This is a great way to do something special with your college friends and to get a reprieve from your hometown.
If you don’t live close to your campus friends, utilize group text messages! Group texts are a fast and easy way to update your friends on your life, organize a get-together for the upcoming semester or simply chew the fat for a few hours.
Don’t be afraid to let your college friends know you’re thinking about them and you miss them—they’re thinking about you, too. When you come across an old picture, think of a funny moment from a great night out or hear the song your crew always jams to, let them know. If nothing else, it is sure to put a smile on their face when they see they have a Snapchat or tweet from you.
Know that you and your high school friends may have changed
Sure, you’ve seen your high school friends fleetingly on school vacations and weekend visits, but now seeing them for months on end after going through some fundamental changes can be kind of scary—and that’s okay! This is what college is all about; it’s an adventure designed to push you and change you in the best way possible, and it’s important to share that with your old friends.
Understand that your friends have probably changed, too. Before this school year, you and your friends fit together like a carefully completed puzzle. You guys may have changed shape a little over the past semesters, but that doesn’t mean you don’t still fit together; you just fit differently. Instead of resenting that they might not be the same exact people they were in high school, be ready and open to learn about their new experiences and adventures.
“Take an interest in what [your friends] have been doing,” Carlson says. “Some loss of connection is okay, but that doesn’t have to mean a breach in the relationship.”
Take this time at home with your old friends to continue to learn and grow by hearing about their experiences. If you’re excited about the adventures your friends went on, they’ll be excited about yours.
Ask your friends specific questions about their semester at school: what’s their favorite thing they’ve done so far? Did they participate in a new activity? What was their favorite (or maybe least favorite) class? They’ll appreciate your interest in all of their new adventures. And who’s to say you can’t go on some new summer adventures with your old high school pals, too?
Change isn’t the only thing to expect when reuniting with your friends from home; there’s so much comfort in returning to someone who has known you and seen you through the most formative parts of your life.
“Change with regards to friends was a huge source of my anxiety, but I think the best advice to give anyone for [that] anxiety is just to see the opportunity in it—the opportunity to get back in touch with the person that carried you through the first 18 years of your life,” says Melissa Ragonese, a senior from Columbia University.
These people may have gone through some pretty cool and intense experiences at school, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t know them anymore. Take solace in knowing that you’re going home to people who have been there for you throughout the years, and that they (and your family) are going to be there to see you through many more to come.
So, collegiettes, be open to this opportunity to see all of these people in your life who love you so much. Be ready for conversation, compromise and accepting that being home may not be the constant party college is. Most importantly, be ready for the comfort of being with your loved ones!