"Please don't make me get out" I begged to my mother sitting in the driver's seat next to me. The only thing protecting me from the outside world was the car door. A brand new life was on the other side filled with grueling professors, intimating classes and complete strangers from all over. What seemed like your average Honda Accord, was actually like a sanctum. I knew that once I stepped out, I would be entering an entire new life. It was only summer orientation for the university I would be attending in the fall, but these next two days would be a test run- a little glimpse of what my new life would be like. After building up the courage to get out of the car, I slowly walked towards the doors of the recreation center. The sound of the tires on the pavement got more distant as my mom’s car and I traveled in different directions. The next few hours were spent playing ice-breaker games and small-talking new people about our majors and where we grew up. It truly was overwhelming. Later that night, I separated from my orientation group and called my mom in a panic. “I can’t do this this is all too much for me”
It was only summer orientation for the university I would be attending in the fall, and I was already crying.
I was back at school just a month later for the most highly-anticipated day yet, move-in day. The next 12 hours would be spent unloading cars, moving boxes, organizing, and getting adjusted to sharing a space with someone else. The room I was moving into looked so empty, dark and all the negative feelings and doubts I felt a month ago were coming back. I held back my tears as I carried another box up a flight of stairs.
There's something about the first hour of college that makes it unforgettable. In recalling it, there is a certain and indescribable, yet specific feeling that you experience after crying and hugging your mom and dad goodbye. Your parents are driving away and you stand there and think “Now what?”
Here I am in the middle of Rhode Island surrounded by strangers and my parents just left me. I felt myself trying to repress those original feelings once more.
Thinking about it now, this was the last longest day of my life. Ever since my parents dropped me off, the speed of time tripled and the days came and went quicker than I allow myself to believe. How was I able to make some of the best memories of my life in such a short amount of time?
Meeting up with your professor and talking in their office for hours, sitting at the Starbucks on campus before class, studying in the library until 2 a.m, spontaneous road trips, facetiming classmates to complain about an assignment together, late night adventures, laughing so hard your stomach hurts, driving in the car with your best friends all screaming songs, and crying on each-others shoulders when you need them most.
All of these instances went on for hours, but in reminiscing, it seems as if they occurred for just a mere second in time.
The worries and the doubts I initially felt at orientation all played themselves out. The strangers I once were afraid of became some of the closest and most important people in my life. The professors I use to sweat just thinking about are the ones who got me through my tough classes and the ones I would email for advice. The new life I once was so hesitant to step into is the same one I’d give anything to stay in now.
I often think back to that 18 year-old girl who cried to her mom on the phone the first night of orientation. I sit here now with a few of my things in labeled boxes and my cap and gown staring at me from across the room as I hold back the tears. In just a week, the tassel will be turned, college will be in the past, and my status will go from “college student” to “alumni”.
Younger me did not want to step out of the car for orientation, and current me doesn’t want to get back in it to go home. The past four years have been exceptional and I owe it all to my parents motivating me to take the next step, my professors that helped push me forward, and my friends who got me through.
Thank you to all those who have spent time reading and congratulations to all those graduating. I hope the next few years are as good as the last ones have been.