10 Things I did not expect to feel coming to Brown…

1. Immediate Attachment

The imminent parting of ways with your high school friends as you all leave for college is both daunting and heartbreaking. You fear that you will never meet people you are close enough with to rummage through his/her pantry or tell his/her mom about your newest crush. Well, not to worry. Becoming close with your friends in college moves 100 miles per hour. Because you are spending every minute together with free agency over what you do with your time, you end up spending all day getting to know each other. Unlike in high school when there are restrictions on how long and often you see your friends, college enables you to spend the entire day together. In fact, you will start to feel off if you haven’t heard from or seen your friends by 3pm. You will miss them dearly and have an overwhelming curiosity about what they have been doing for the past six hours since his/her 9am class. High school friends are extremely special in their own right, but college provides the resources and opportunities to build relationships unlike any other. I’m writing this ten days into my freshmen year to give you an idea of how fast it happens…

2. The overwhelming (and irrational) fear of walking alone around campus

It is a huge transition to go from being a care-free senior in high school to an intimidated, eager freshmen in college. In your past life, there was no one on campus that you were trying to impress. Now, every single person you walk by is a prospective friend or mentor; you do not want to give them the impression that you are a friendless loser. However, it turns out (shockingly) that no one cares about you as you stroll up and down Thayer solo! It has been told to me multiple times that there is a recognizable “freshmen walk” that students adopt when they are walking alone through campus. It’s easy to feel insecure in your first weeks of school and feel like everyone is constantly passing judgements about you, but that’s really not the case. While it may seem daunting, walking alone is a power move that exudes confidence.  

3. The difficulty of expanding your horizons

High school students envision college to be this huge melting pot where you become friends with tons of people who grew up in starkly different environments. Though that is true, in the beginning of freshman year it is so easy to get caught up in a friend group with a bunch of kids from your exact demographic. It’s as if the entire freshman class of 1,500 students is divided between the cafeteria lunch tables in the proclaimed high school musical, musical number scene “stick to the status quo.” (If you don’t know what I am referring to, it’s time to get cultured). Anyways, you will have to make a concerted effort to branch out and find people that are not from your hometown or a super similar city that you grew up in. It is a missed opportunity to just stay in your comfort zone and hangout with people that feel most comfortable. The grade is big and it seems stressful to branch out of your natural group; you might be thinking, “where do I even start?” The best thing to do is to get to know your dorm floor and the friends the people on your floor make. Also, socialize with people in your classes, as it is likely you have common interests. In the simplest of terms, do not be afraid to approach a new face and introduce yourself. In the same way that you probably appreciate gregarious, welcoming freshmen, everyone else does, too!

4. It's hard to find a space to be alone

Unless you are the few chosen ones who have a single, living in a dorm with one or two roommates means you are practically never alone. While you adapt to finding solitude even when you are in the presence of your roommate/s, it still does not compare to being in your own room at home. In addition, the pure size of your room is extremely small. It is difficult to keep your things organized and uncluttered. I did not realize how much I was going to miss privacy and alone time in a comfortable and open space. So, it’s important to find time to yourself because your living situation won’t give you a private homebase. Wherever or whatever that may be, you should go out of your way to find this quiet space. Whether it’s the gym, a private place in the library, or even somewhere on the main green, find a place where you know you can have some time to yourself. College is a busy and hectic time, and it’s important you give yourself these moments to recharge. 

5. No one knows, no one cares

Like me, I am sure a lot of readers came from a smaller high school where information circulated like wildfire. In college, you are not under the same microscope as you were back in high school. So, with that, don’t sweat the small things. Your “reputation” is not nearly as fragile as it used to be, and it’s just not something worth worrying about. You are in a much bigger community with older and more mature students who are less concerned with you and your behavior. As long as you are being nice and welcoming, there are very few things you do that are going to tarnish impact your “reputation” or the way that people perceive you here. (No one really cares what you do, as long as it’s nothing mean or egregious). Because of the pure number of students, it is almost impossible that information about you could travel to every single student. Said differently, there are too many people for you and your life to be so relevant to all the students around you. Use this to your own advantage and don’t be overly self-conscious.

6. The difficulty of navigating yourself around campus

Adding to the intimidation of walking around campus solo, it is equally daunting to navigate yourself around a campus you are completely unfamiliar with during the first few days, if not weeks, of school. This sense of disorientation is inevitable when placed in a new environment, but that doesn’t mitigate the frustration that follows. Whether it’s showing up late to class, not knowing the best spots on campus to do work, or going to the wrong Baja’s and waiting twenty minutes only to find out you were supposed to meet your friend at the other location, finding your way around a new place can be overwhelming. Google maps is always a useful tool when going from point A to point B, however, it doesn’t always show you the fastest or most efficient routes. As I’ve gotten more comfortable with the campus, I’ve discovered more and more paths through buildings that quicken my traveling time. Additionally, there are many different means of transportation that can help facilitate your traveling experience including bikes, and electric scooters like Lime (which are also just fun to use). 

7. Being homesick

For so long, I had been desperately awaiting to commence the “best four years of my life” a.k.a. college, but much to my dismay, I never realized how much I would actually miss home. In the first few days of school, I think I called my mom more than I called her the entire summer. We sometimes take for granted the permanence of our families, and when you suddenly don’t have them around anymore, it’s scary and sad. Despite being constantly surrounded by new people and zealous students ready to make friends, college can also be lonely. And that’s okay. My homesickness always hits the worst in the morning because I have always been used to my siblings making noise in the house and waking me up. Most people enter college not knowing anyone and consequently don’t have a safety net to fall back on. You don’t want to appear as a burden or unstable to anyone, so you conceal your struggles and insecurities, which sometimes exacerbates them. Homesickness also stems from missing the ability to be your authentic self, rather than constantly trying to be the “best version” of yourself. Although I’ve only been at school for two weeks, these struggles are quickly minimizing, alleviating much of my initial homesickness. 

8. College hook-up culture

As you’re meeting new people and trying to make new friends, it can be difficult determining whether certain people you meet could be more than just a friend. Don’t overthink it, but most importantly, don’t rush into anything. Although you may be surrounded by friends casually creating “things” with people, and you may think “why can’t that be me too,” everyone socializes at their own pace. If you’re in a situation where you’re no longer interested in the other person, don’t make it awkward, just honestly express how you feel. We have four years (maybe one depending on the person) together and if you feel like it’s not working out in a romantic way, take advantage of creating platonic relationships with them because college friends can last a lifetime.

9. Not enough time for self-care and time management 

When you hear about college, you’re usually told that you will have an abundance of free time, so much in fact, that you won’t know what to do with yourself. At first, however, you are so overwhelmed with shopping classes, finding clubs and groups on campus to join, and making friends that you feel like you have no time at all. Whether you’re exhausted from going out and not sleeping enough or constantly trying to keep up with the work in the eight classes you’re shopping, managing your time when living alone for the first time in your life is extremely overwhelming. It’s harder to dedicate time to exercise and self-care, and no one is telling you to do your work instead of hanging out with your friends. Creating a new routine isn’t easy, but once it sets in, life will become a lot more manageable!

10. The stress of shopping period

We are so lucky to go to a school with a plethora of unique and amazing options for classes. That being said, having so many opportunities makes it difficult and stressful to choose which classes are the best for you, especially if you don’t even know what you want to study (which is completely normal). Even if you have chosen the four or five classes you would like to take, that doesn’t guarantee that you will get into them. It’s really intimidating having to email professors or patiently wait after class to plead your case as to why you should be enrolled. The most stressful part is waiting to find out whether or not your professors will grant an override code, and having to keep showing up to class just to make sure you don’t miss your chance of getting in. On top of that, you don’t know how much work you need to do for each class and eventually have to make up all the work you missed, especially if you get into a class after a week or two of shopping period. Additionally, no one teaches you how to use Canvas to access your homework, so figuring out how to find all of your readings and assignments can be frustrating. Although you have resources like an academic advisor, nothing compares to the nurturing environment of high school; in college you have more autonomy, meaning you’re just expected to figure it out and roll with the punches. This period of potential anxiety diminishes day by day and before you know it, you’ll be a seasoned, more confident college student. Remember that you’re not alone and that everyone, even seniors, has difficulty transitioning to the college lifestyle.