Moving into college is like walking from an open, sunny valley into a dense, dark forest. Everything feels dark and constricted, and your path can be treacherous or unclear. Then, on top of it all, you realize you can’t tell the difference between the shadow of a squirrel or a bear…
Maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but that’s a bit how last month was for me. The transition to being hours out of my comfort zone was terrifying, and obviously in the current conditions — well, I think we all know that story. So, how did I survive? By finding new out-of-the-norm habits to keep my morale high (at least, I’ve never heard anyone talk about these before)! Listen: the worst thing to do is keep yourself locked inside a box, so here are a few uncommon and even borderline weird ways to get through that daunting first month.
- Count Almost Every First…
First time you enter your dorm? Check! First time you meet your roommate? Check! First time you touch the door handle on your way to your lecture? Well, check! You don’t have to count everything if you don’t want to, but mentally acknowledging or even marking down some “firsts” that are important to you can really be a nice pat on the back. Even if something went horribly, whether it be getting completely lost on your way to your first class, missing part of your first club meeting, or flunking one of your first assignments, just doing it for the first time should be cause for celebration. Hey, you got through it, right? You’ve got that first experience under your belt, and now you can use it to take your next steps forward, no matter how big or small. Even if it’s touching a doorknob — really, whatever small achievement makes you happy. It’s the little things.
- …And Second!
There you are, arriving back at your dorm hall for the second time ever after another beautiful day of getting lost on campus. You’ve already done it once, so it doesn’t matter anymore, right? Well, maybe… but there’s something different about this time. Maybe it didn’t take you as long to find your way, or maybe you didn’t get as winded. Maybe you actually enjoyed the walk instead of panicking about anything and everything along the way. The point is, there was probably some improvement the second time around! Again, nothing major needs to have happened. Honestly, just the fact that you went out there and did it again is amazing. Noticing the small changes as you get better at doing any mundane task is a nice way to keep your head up high.
- Make Your Own Map
So yeah, you’re in college, and you’re supposed to be… an adult. Scary, right? But honestly, you don’t need to act like one all the time. That’s why, if you have any free time and need to better acquaint yourself with the campus (you probably should), I suggest this: in your head, pretend you’re an explorer and explore campus, making a little map along the way. I know, it is a little strange for an adult (but what were you expecting?), especially when everyone can just use an app on their phone. But sometimes it helps your memory to write things down and if you compare what you have down to the map on your phone, it can give you an idea of what you know or don’t know. If this wasn’t obvious, you don’t really need the pretend part, either. That’s just to keep your brain occupied by something silly, a small way to relieve a little tension before you lose your mind while working on an essay later. Just walk around campus and draw or mark down some locations — whatever your artistic (or not so artistic) heart desires.
- Try a “Participation Counter”
I’d shiver during the hottest days of summer if I knew I’d have to speak in front of one stranger, so imagine a whole classroom of them! If you’re one of many people who have a hard time speaking up in class, then this one might help you out. Every time you contribute — a speech, a phrase, or just a word — make a tally in the corner of your page. Try setting a goal to reach, and after that, you are no longer obligated to speak unless you want to. Why? Some people just need some kind of push to force them to do something, even if it is as insignificant as a tally in the corner of a notebook for something as insignificant as a word from from the corner of a classroom. It acts as a visual reminder that you said that one word with all of the strength you could muster, even if your voice had no strength at all. Even better if you actually write the words “participation counter” in the corner, to remind you that there’s something you have to fill (but remember not to make your goal too outrageous!).