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You’d think a rush of excitement would’ve entered my body as I walked the campus halls for the first time, but it didn’t. Instead, I was met with confusion, fear, and a measure of distance from myself. It’s as if I’ve walked into the doors of a place I never expected to be in, yet I’ve been anticipating this day for over a year. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not ungrateful to feel perplexed by finally being on campus, but rather a raw emotion. I may be American but for the first time in my life, I felt like the biggest outsider. I’m Asian-American, but grew up in the Philippines and never actually lived in the U.S. Yet it’s hard to imagine being shocked by a culture that seems so natural and well-known, like what is there truly to be shocked about? You see American college life in movies all the time, so why was I so dismayed? 

It’s tough enough to show up after a year of facing screens to suddenly facing hundreds of people. Some may have lost their social batteries to their computers and have forgotten how to actually communicate in person. Some are threatened by the what-ifs, feeling like they could embarrass themselves by asking for someone’s company during lunchtime. I feel that many of us did overthink our actions- at least I did. Although I’m not looking for pity, but rather a sense of relatability, maybe for someone who could be reading this on a random Tuesday night, while they watch everyone magically hang out with new groups of friends. You could be sitting there thinking “Seriously, how did anyone make this many friends this quick?!?”. 

So maybe you’re sitting alone in the crowded campus dining area and thinking “oh man I do look lonely”. Although if you really think about it, now that I’m writing this, you really aren’t alone. I mean for one, there’s me, then everyone else reading this. We’re all going through a common transition in life from high school to moving out for college where being alone may feel lonely. Despite the seemingly negative tone I’ve set for this article- you really aren’t alone. As the days went by I got to meet people who laughed at my jokes of “haha yeah how do I make friends??” in the same way they questioned it. A lot of us are afraid to go out of our comfort zone, while there’s another part of us that could be burned out. The effort of balancing school, friends, a new city, a new lifestyle just seems to topple over sometimes. 

As the week has gone by I’ve learned a lot about myself from the comfort of my dorm. I’ve learned that it’s okay to be overwhelmed because it is a lot to take in. It’s okay to not deal with everything at the first hit, to take it step by step, you have time. I’ve learned it’s okay to question what you’re doing – you’ve hit a milestone in your life where you’re entering the seriousness of it all while still crossing over the youth you hold. There’s heaps of uncertainty but there’s a whole future to figure out. We’re all figuring things out, I think to me that’s what keeps me sane sometimes. I feel that relatability brings comfort to us, knowing someone else is going down a similar path makes us feel less alone. 

So can I say I’m fearless and have everything together? Absolutely not. But I have found a way to go through things without feeling so alone.

Toni Ann Hoffman

New School '24

Currently a sophomore studying Product Design at Parsons School of Design in New York City! I write on a variation of topics but mainly focus on self-help (mental health) and design!
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