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It sounds cliché, but it really does feel like yesterday that I was setting up my dorm, meeting my roommate, and tweaking over what I was going to wear to the Snakehips concert at Welcomefest. Move-in week was such a whirlwind of activities and new faces, I remember thinking that I would never get used to college. Now I’m here, nearly halfway through my freshman year, wondering how the first week of classes turned into midterms and the first wave of parties turned into Halloweekend. While these first few magical months have been filled with friends, laughter, and lots of late-night Cosmos, I’m honestly feeling a little disappointed to discover that maybe college really does fly by as fast as they say it does. I’ve made it a long way from Welcome Week, and now that I’m here on the other side of Thanksgiving Break, I can’t help but reflect on what this time away from my “Boulder Bubble” has taught me.

college friends are a whole new breed 

No matter who you are, your first semester is going to be an intense transition, and there are going to be situations in which you feel discouraged. There are so many things to be nervous about, whether it’s sorority rush, classes, exams, creating friendships, or the dreaded laundry room. The hard truth is that there are a lot of temporary people in this point of your life. Everybody is in the thick of it as well, and they are all on their own personal agendas. It’s not a good or bad thing, it’s just the truth. This is why the friends that you keep during these months are so important because they have made it through the same transition, and they are there for the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s a very special thing to find yourself in an environment where everyone is uplifting one another, and I feel fortunate to have found those people in my short college experience.

In high school, your set of options are naturally much smaller, so it’s much more common to find the likes of drama, rumors, and overall toxic relationships. However, in college, nobody HAS to be friends with you. This means that these friendships feel so much more genuine and everyone in the group seems to have a heightened appreciation for each other.

What I learned over break is not to take these people for granted. Nothing is stranger than the swift transition where your best friends who live to the left of you and across the hall from you are suddenly thousands of miles away from you. It was during this time away from my friend group where I realized that it’s important that we all acknowledge the exceptional things about our friends. We should really appreciate them when they’re around as much as we appreciate them when we go home.

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soak up the view, no matter where you are

It’s safe to say that the Flatties are the backbone of the CU experience. They are the most defining thing about Boulder and we are constantly standing in the shadow of them. What draws a lot of people to consider CU as a college choice in the first place is the scenic views that Colorado so generously offers. However, while living in Boulder for 4 short months, I had already developed the popular bias that there was no place that was as beautiful as this.

That’s why I was surprised when I returned to Georgia because I had forgotten that my city had so many different yet striking views that I had never appreciated before I lived in Boulder. While there are certainly no mountains or wide-open skies in suburban Atlanta, I found that there was something about home that made me realize that, while the views Boulder are definitely killer, there was still a surprisingly comparable allure in somewhere so different. I think that everyone else who came from a very different part of the country can agree that while Boulder is hard to beat, you have to avoid comparison in order to truly take in everything around you.

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going home is weird, embrace it

After all of these weeks in my shoebox of a dorm room, nothing was more warped than actually stepping foot in my living room at home. My life as I knew it did a full 180° when I moved into Cheyenne Arapaho Hall, so it was disturbing for me to go home and realize that nothing there had really changed. I was still sleeping in my childhood bedroom, driving the same streets, and getting the same tough love from my parents. How could it be that nothing was different when everything was so different now? It took me a few days to get out of my head about this and realize that even though home was so alarmingly the same, I was simply a brand-new version of myself that it had never seen before. My high school friends seemed to have gone through this same phenomenon, as they were the same people I had always known yet they had grown into new variants of themselves.

Once I got past the initial strangeness of the situation, I could really embrace the comfort of all of the familiarity. I soon settled into the convenience of home-cooked meals, a full-sized bed, and actually showering without shoes on. As much as I have learned to love the dorm life, I couldn’t help but soak up all of the luxuries of being in my home again. I had my dogs, my family, and Willy’s Mexicana Grill (Atlanta kids know) all within my reach once again.

Even though going home was truly a shock to my lifestyle, there were so many marvelous things that came of it. Although I longed for my “Boulder Bubble” and my best friends who were in far-away cities like Boston, Chicago, and Santa Cruz, it wouldn’t have been right to waste away my peaceful time at home wishing I was somewhere else. We spend all of this time trying to make the best of college, why not make the best of home as well?

we’ve come so far, but we still have a ways to go 

No matter what phase of college you may be in, you can probably remember who you were in high school before college swept you up. When introduced to the unknown and fiercely independent lifestyle of college, everyone is bound to change in some kind of way. This is not a bad thing at all, it’s mostly personal growth and it is meant to be embraced. We are all stumbling around in the dark trying to discover who we are and what we will be doing for the rest of our lives. It’s definitely a transitional chapter in everyone’s life.

While nobody knows at the moment that they’re developing, it’s easy to see once I reflect that positive change has occurred in not only myself but my friends as well. This is why it’s so important to realize that even if it feels like you’re totally blowing this whole college thing, you’re really not. It doesn’t matter if you failed that one exam, if you’ve gained a few pounds, or if you totally screwed it up with that cute guy. These are all life experiences that you are going through, so you are growing as a person nonetheless.

It’s not surprising that I didn’t have this epiphany until Thanksgiving break because suddenly being 1,218 miles from your college world is the ultimate step back. Once I had this shift in perspective, I was able to see for the first time how much my friends and I had flourished through these months. Everything has a large impact on you, from the sororities and clubs you join to the way your heart swells when you see Lost Gulch Lookout for the first time. This break definitely made me realize that if college is going to keep moving at this pace, I have to take everything with a grain of salt and live it all for what it is. Call me cheesy, but we really are works in progress and this is our time to transform unapologetically.

Needless to say, my first Thanksgiving Break meant way more to me than I would have ever thought. It was so nice to slow down from the go-go-go of college life and reflect on these last few monumental months. I came back to campus with fresh eyes and a whole new appreciation for my friends, family, Boulder as a whole. Now it’s time to look forward to and enjoy the rest of the year (well, maybe not finals week). 

Grace McAllister

CU Boulder '22

I'm Grace McAllister and I'm from Atlanta, Georgia. I'm so excited to be a Freshman at CU Boulder this year! I'm planning on studying Marketing in the School of Business and I'm considering a minor in advertising or journalism. I'm really passionate about all things CU, makeup, netflix, dogs, fitness, and of course food. I'm so excited to spend this chapter of my life at CU Boulder and in the Her Campus Community!
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