My name is Lila Singley, I am from Orange County, California and I am about to finish my first year of college at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri. I am one of the few of my hometown friends who was actually able to go to college more or less in person this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, I didn’t exactly get a normal freshman year. There were no events. Most of my classes were online. Most of the city that I was so excited to explore was shut down. I’m not exactly sure what advice I can give, or if any of it will be helpful. Honestly, writing all of this down is more for me than anyone. But sometimes you just need a reminder of how far you’ve come.
There will be sad moments.
You will cry. Maybe a lot. That’s okay; crying will almost always make you feel a little better. I sobbed in my parents' hotel room begging them not to leave me. The first week of school I cried over a Subway sandwich. After taking my first quiz I called my Dad in the staircase crying because I thought that I had failed it. I had actually gotten an A. I cannot count the number of times I called my mom crying. I heard the first two chords of my Dad’s favorite song and immediately burst into tears. I cried while watching “Hannah Montana: The Movie.” I cried on my best friend’s birthday because it was the first time I wasn’t with her since we were five. I cried listening to “Worldwide” by Big Time Rush. Twice.
There will be happy moments.
You will laugh. Hard. Sometimes you won’t be able to help the massive smile on your face. I remember the first time I went to dinner with friends. It was the first time I had actually felt happy since my parents had left. Laughing while playing Just Dance on a random tuesday night. Smiling while a professor makes a dumb joke in class. Sorority Bid Day. Game nights. Movie nights. Coffee dates. Coming back to my dorm room at 4 a.m. My first college Halloween. Eating an entire cheesecake in one sitting. The first time I met my sorority family. Meeting random people by running around the dorms with friends in the middle of the night. It’s the little moments.
There will be lonely moments.
You will remember how far from home you are. You will have a countdown happening in your head constantly. I missed my family. I missed my friends. I missed my boyfriend. It is very hard to make friends during a global pandemic. You will feel unwanted. Sometimes I would stare outside my window and just watch this big city that I had lived in for months and barely knew. I didn’t have a roommate for most of the year. Some days I wouldn’t talk to another person. Some days I would question the decision that I made and look up how to transfer to the school I almost went to 20 minutes from my house. I hated the beach, but found myself listening to wave sounds to calm down. A lot of times I questioned if I really could do this.
There will be proud moments.
You’ll look at photos of yourself from your first month at college and barely recognize yourself. So much happens in a year. I dyed my hair pink after wanting to for years. I cut people out of my life who didn’t deserve to be there in the first place. I learned to be confident. I learned to not care what other people think (most of the time). I got the best score on a paper for my International Politics class. First semester, I made the Dean's List. Little by little, I started to look in the mirror and smile. I ran two 5Ks. I started to publish the weird things that I was writing. This year changed me for the better.
If I were to summarize my best pieces of advice I could probably come up with two things. One, take risks. Put yourself out there. If you would have asked my senior year self if I would join a sorority, I would have laughed in your face. In reality, joining a sorority has been the best decision I have made in college. In the hardest moments, knowing that I had those friends to fall back on made all the difference. Two, there is no bad day that a good shower can’t fix. No matter how bad it gets, you will always feel a little better after a shower. Just blast some of your favorite music and wash the bad day away. Always remember that you are here for a reason. If I can do this, so can you.