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     Venturing off on one’s own to start their first year of college can be intimidating, to say the very least. Although the newfound freedom is exciting, you may feel as though you’re starting from scratch, with a new environment to get used to, new people to befriend, new… everything. With one year of college under my belt, I’ve already learned my fair share of lessons in my time at Baylor. I’m far from knowing everything, but I hope that no matter how old you are, reader, this resonates with you in some way. If I could write a letter to my freshman self, here’s what it would be. 


     Dear Rach,

     It’s me. Well, you. I’m sophomore you, that is, from the future. Right, glad that’s cleared up. We’ve grown quite a lot in a year, and I’d like to share some of what I’ve discovered with you. Due to your knack of remembering dates and your love of documenting days, I’m able to give you a little glimpse of your first semester of college. A highlight reel, if you will. Don’t be misled – these aren’t all “highlights” in the sense that they’re happy, Instagrammable moments. But these days were all essential in your formative first year. Well, here goes nothing. 

     On August 22nd, 2019, you move into your residence hall, meet your roommate in person for the first time, and kiss your parents goodbye. Welcome to college. You are stressed and exhausted beyond belief. At the sappy Baylor family picnic send-off, you end up chilling on a bench with your dad while scarfing down a burger. How sweet. You ignore the sentimental goodbyes that are going on around you because you’re really kind of over it. You love your parents more than anything, but you’d really love a shower. Your mind is running a mile a minute, so you effectively shut down and ignore what’s going on in an attempt to calm down. “What if my roommate and I don’t get along? What if I don’t make any friends? What if I fail all of my classes?” (You do, you will, and you won’t). The icebreakers on Fountain Mall that follow are actually excruciating. How are we supposed to create meaningful relationships when our conversation topic is ice cream? Well, Rachel, lesson number one: you’ve got to start somewhere. Small talk, and lots of it, is inevitable. I love you, but you’ve gotta get over yourself. I know it’s not your favorite, but that’s how friendships begin. It can be tiring to only engage in small talk with people when you first arrive at college, but it’s simply a muscle you have to exercise. The more you do it, the easier it gets, and the more cool people you’ll have the opportunity to talk to. Another thing: they’re not always going to come to you first, so don’t expect them to. You’re literally a communcation major. The irony. You got this. 

     On September 1st, 2019, your roommate, who you’ve grown super close with, leaves for home for the first time. You’re going to have the room to yourself for the whole weekend, and that doesn’t sound too bad. After she’s gone for about an hour, reality sets in and you realize that she is your rock. You’re very sad that she’s gone, more than you’d like to admit. So, to distract yourself, you decide to go to Club Kool-Aid that night at Cameron Park Zoo with a friend from high school and his new friends. That’ll be fun! Dancing to “Mr. Brightside”! Meeting new people! Yes! After you get home, you write, through tears, “I enjoy being alone. But ‘alone’ and ‘lonely’ are two different things entirely. I’ve never felt quite so alone in a room full of people.” When your roommate gets back, you lie through your teeth and tell her your weekend was great. And you certainly don’t tell your parents. Lesson number two: don’t constantly suppress your “negative” emotions. Please don’t feel the need to always act like everything is peachy. You’re meeting a lot of new people and you don’t want to scare them away, I get that. But if you had been honest with your roommate, she would’ve confessed that was the very same reason she went home: loneliness. You can bond with others over this rather than shy away from it. You love deep conversations more than anything. Stay true to that. The first semester of freshman year isn’t a cakewalk, and so many people are feeling exactly how you are. You’re not alone. I promise. 

     On October 4th, 2019, you and your newly formed “squad” go to Chipotle. Afterwards, you head to the roof of the 8th Street parking garage and proceed to have an Instagram photo shoot – something you’ve never been a huge fan of. You’ve never enjoyed the idea of hanging out with people for the sake of a social media post. You’d rather hang out, possibly snap one photo, and maybe post it somewhere. But you like these girls, you want to get closer to them, and you want to lighten up, so you go along with it. And you know what? That’s lesson number three: lighten up a little. Sure, you’re not super close with all of them yet, but you don’t need to stress about that so much. Have patience. Meaningful relationships take time to form. Instead of worrying that you’re not “seizing the day”, just… do it. Try to enjoy yourself and trust that you’ll find your people, as difficult as that may sound. If it’s any consolation, those three girls are now some of the best friends you’ve ever had. 

     On December 5th, 2019, you celebrate your 19th birthday. You dress up in a bomb outfit, you get Chick-fil-A for lunch, your friends decorate your dorm room and give you sweet cards and gifts, and you get to do what you love by performing in A Baylor Christmas with Baylor Women’s Choir. Christmas on 5th is also that day, and you watch the sunset with your friends on Fountain Mall by the petting zoo. You haven’t felt this genuinely happy or content in a long, long time. What touches you most of all are the birthday messages you receive from people you’ve met at Baylor this semester. As much as you hate to admit it, you’ve run yourself ragged thinking about whether certain people actually want to be your friend here at college. It turns out, there was no need for that. Lesson number four: people care for you more than you know. One of the reasons you chose Baylor was for its caring community, and that rings true. You don’t have to keep worrying. You’ve found your people. It takes you a literal semester to fully realize that, but it’s gonna be alright. It’s gonna be alright. 


Love, Rach

Rachel Harsley is a junior at Baylor University double majoring in communication and journalism on the public relations track. She is from Houston, Texas and has a Bichon Frise named Benny (after "Bennie and the Jets" by Elton John). When she isn't creating a plethora of Spotify playlists (124 and counting), she enjoys spending time with friends and family, playing the piano, being in nature, reading, dancing, singing and taking photos. Other things that bring her joy include theatre, traveling and chai tea lattes.