Dorm room with collage

What I Wish I knew While Seeking Happiness Living on Campus

Whoop!!! Whoop!!! I’m finally a senior which means graduation is right around the corner and the new school year has just begun with a bit of a twist featuring the coronavirus pandemic. Being that I've lived on campus year-round for the duration of my university experience I should be able to represent that of a credible source when discussing a topic such as this one.  

One thing that has always predetermined if I was going to have a good year was my attitude. Unfortunately, situations perpetuated by others would often get in the way of my prolonging desire to stay in a positive uplifting mood - which I’m sure some of you may be able to relate with at times. However, from my experiences, I am hoping to provide you with two major insights as to what you should expect or may experience socially. Along with two major tips that should help you during your dorm years in regards to interacting with others and dealing with a whirlwind of emotions.

The first year of living on campus for most can be an exhilarating introduction to college life. The thoughts of freedom linger amongst freshmen as they plan on how to make their first year of living on their own a memorable experience. Many believe a huge part of the college experiences involve belonging to a clique, and while that can be true, it’s not odd to come across individuals not belonging to a social circle. Socializing and attracting new friends may come naturally for others while for some it may be more of a challenge. With a pandemic at hand, it poses as a new and negative factor towards social engagement which presents a new obstacle to overcome as a collective whole. This leads me to introduce the first insight into the college experience.

 

First Insight: Friends Come & Go

Generally speaking, I’m sure you may already know this as it relates to your personal experience prior to your transition from high school. However, I believe it’s important to mention there’s a preconceived notion of college that makes incoming freshmen believe the moment they start college that everything socially will fall in place.

These notions may involve meeting some amazing people including life long best friends and a college sweetheart who may have the potential to be your lifelong spouse, etc. Unless you’re one of those super lucky people, it's actually rare to leave college with the same people you came in with or met during your first year. It’s even rarer to sustain a healthy romantic relationship that will thrive through your duration of attending your university. 

Although I don’t intend to rain on your parade, the truth of the matter is that as you grow you’ll notice for whatever reasons certain types of people will no longer interest you. You’ll either branch off and do your own thing or the dynamic of your clique may shift throughout the years due to variation of social factors.

 

Tip

With that being said it’s important to note when seeking the right clique to be apart of, take keen notice on whether a particular group provides you with peace. With this newfound freedom, It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of partying and trying to live your best life. However, if/when the time does present itself where you’re questioning if you fit in with a particular group, reevaluate and be honest with yourself. Your social life has the power to interfere with your duties as a scholar and affect your mental health to a great extent. If you do intend on being a part of a clique, I advise you to not lose your authenticity trying to fit in. For the sake of your mental health always seek to recognize if your clique produces a healthy environment of solace and belonging. For whatever reasons you feel its best to be a one-man team affiliating with only associates to maintain a social life that is totally fine. Do it gracefully and be easy on yourself, cliques can be overrated anyway.

 

Second Insight: There’s a Honeymoon Period

With nearly everyone you’ve come across who experienced college life before you. There’s an exalted statement they likely introduced you to which may have piqued your curiosity and birthed your excitement towards living on campus. 

And that’s the “best four years of your life” speech and let me be the first to tell you, that will not be the case for everyone. Although it’s always best to be optimistic and go in with a positive attitude to promote a healthy fun experience, you should know that the statement within itself is problematic.

It leaves room for misinterpretation that has many first-timers believing that they are really in for “the best four years of their lives” and to experience anything else is absurd and unheard of. However, what no one tells you is that there’s a honeymoon period, and depending on the type of person you are and the circumstances you face - it fades quickly. Yes, that enthusiastic novelty attitude you possess may be in big-time risk of becoming yesterday’s faded memory.

For me, it began to fade within my first year halfway through the semester, and by the end of my freshman year, I was officially dead on the inside. I was “that girl” who was experiencing her first ultimate heartbreak. I foolishly allowed it to have the power to define my outlook towards most of my college experience and it made me emotionally unstable.

Alongside additional stress factors, I suffered the consequences of internalizing hurt and it negatively affected my behavior and relationships with close friends and associates. Throughout a vulnerable period during my dormitory years, all I kept thinking was, “How this was supposed to be ‘“The best four years of my life”’ former alumni always preached about.” Although I ultimately got over those whirlwinds of emotions. It didn’t help that I was fooled into believing that an environment filled with meaningful interactions and day after day fun and excitement awaited me.

 

Tip

Always prioritize yourself before anyone or anything else. A way you can do this is by getting educated on mental health at your university’s Advocacy Center for Mental Health. In order to be proactive towards self-prioritization, you must be able to recognize and be honest with yourself if your emotions have a negative effect on your behavior and the way you view yourself or the world. It’s important to pay attention to your mood especially if you’re experiencing long periods of negative moods. It can manipulate how you interpret and translate the world around you, and can also direct your behavior to self-sabotage. In other words, it may be a sign that you are dealing with an underlying issue such as depression. Always remember your self-respect has to be stronger than your feelings in order to obtain internal peace and happiness.

All in all, These are just a few of the many things I wish I knew prior to attending and living at a university. For some, “the best four-year” statement will not apply and for those lucky upcoming students, this statement will be their signature declaration when referring back to their university dormitory experience. However, one thing we can all attest to, whether you had a good or bad experience is that those four years will be some of the most transformative years of your life.