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After Virtual High: Five Things I’ve Learned Freshman Year

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Three days ago, I was sixteen years old, preparing for my spring concert and SATs when everything began to shut down. Just yesterday was my first day of college, and an hour later, I was home for Christmas break. As I write this now, the clock is ticking toward two weeks left of my first year. Finals are looming over my head like an impending tsunami, and I’ve already taken home the majority of my books. 

My first Her Campus article described the advice I found useful during my first few weeks of school. I’ve grown a lot since then, and I believe it would only be fitting to update that advice with my new experiences behind it. 

STEP OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE BUT STAND YOUR GROUND 

I’ve done a lot of things I wouldn’t have before coming to school. I made day trips to New York and Philadelphia for book festivals. I’ve discussed Philly slang with visiting authors. I’ve embarrassed myself, taken classes in unfamiliar subjects, and read in the dark corners of the library basement. And yet, I was being myself. I was, and still am, happy.

Never be afraid to be yourself, as cliché and platitudinous it sounds. If something piques your interest, but you find yourself on the fence about it, it’s almost always worth giving it a try. Try the newest café. Take that astronomy class. Apply for that job you’re not qualified for. Tell that person their shirt looks amazing. You’ll almost always be glad you did. 

Conversely, if you do something and decide it’s not for you, respect your own boundaries. People love to say that life begins at the end of your comfort zone, but how much can you really enjoy yourself if you’re constantly uncomfortable? Try new things at the rate of your own comfort, and always remember to…

TRUST YOUR GUT 

This advice is imperative for all college students, regardless of age. If you’re unsure of something, always go with your gut.  

Here’s an anecdote. I overlooked red flags and befriended a person who ended up refusing to leave me alone by the end of my first semester. This person made jokes that made me feel uncomfortable in my body. I felt judged for the food I ate, my writing, and my positive outlook. Thankfully, they’ve since left me alone with no confrontation, but I’ve become a lot more cautious with who I decide to trust.  

I ultimately believe in the goodness of people; growing paranoid about the intentions of people will make me nothing but miserable. But I now know how important it is to trust your gut and pay attention to red flags. This is super important for folks, especially collegiate women, to take in. You shouldn’t have to be on guard 24/7, or even most of the time, but never be afraid to remove yourself from an uncomfortable situation.  

And even though the situation was a learning experience, I’ve come from it much stronger than I was before. I am proud of myself and the things that I write. My positive outlook is a blessing; no one can ever take that from me. 

ASK FOR HELP! 

I’m currently enrolled in a logic course, a subject more math-heavy than I could’ve ever anticipated. If you get to know me for even a little bit, one of the first things you’ll recognize is that I suck at math. I mean absolutely awful. Imagine the least mathematically-minded person you know and multiply that by a hundred. I wouldn’t be able to tell you the product. Now imagine math, but replace the numbers with symbols that read like Martian calculus. I’m sure you can see where my troubles arose.  

I couldn’t make up my mind whether I wanted to go to tutoring for math. On one hand, it would be extremely helpful, but on the other was the risk of being perceived as unintelligent. I was the honor student in high school; I was the tutor myself, and I didn’t need any help!  

Ignoring the fact that high school me most definitely needed math tutoring, there is absolutely no shame in asking for help. Going to office hours and tutoring is what saved my logic grade, and I’m absolutely grateful for all the additional help I was given.  

A helpful mindset is to frame what tutoring, office hours, and extra credit really represent. Struggling in a subject doesn’t make a person stupid or unintelligent by any means. The bravery exercised in reaching for help only illustrates the dedication and perseverance a person has academically. Those who ask for help want to succeed by any means possible. That takes guts, and I’m certainly glad that I was able to muster them. 

HAVE FUN WITH IT! 

Yesterday, I went to a local rescue zoo with my friends. We fed deer, and they told me that a swan was about five seconds away from biting me hard. These are the memories you’ll remember most from college: spending late nights binge-watching shows with your roommates and impromptu trips to Target. Yes, there will be stressful moments. There will be times when classwork seems to swallow you whole and nothing seems appetizing and it won’t stop raining in Central Pennsylvania. But there will also be times for rest, for fun, for memories to be made. Make the most of them. My first year was full of small moments like that, and I already treasure those memories greatly.  

REMEMBER: YOU’RE GONNA BE FINE 

On my first night at Susquehanna University, students were called into an assembly about the mental health services on campus. I was scared out of my mind, as I’m sure everyone else was. The Director of the Counseling Center stepped on stage and told us that we would be fine. And we were.

Moving away to college can be scary. I’ve been there before, as have many other people you’ll come across. But I promise you will be okay. You are here for a reason, and you deserve to prosper. Stay true to yourself, have fun, and remember to study. There are only four years, and folks say they’re the best for a reason. 

"No woman was ever ruined by a book." – Jimmy Walker
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