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The Freshman Experience: Learning to Live in a Liminal Space

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at TCU chapter.

After weeks and weeks of anxiously waiting, the day that I had long been anticipating finally arrived: the day my parents were traveling to bring me home for Thanksgiving break. For days, my roommate and I plotted all of the activities we wanted to engage in, friends we wanted to see, and food we wanted to eat over the break. We daydreamed of shopping at our favorite stores, reading books of our own volition, and of a glorious respite from dining hall food and dimly lit bathrooms. I was overjoyed when my parents arrived; I was only a three-hour drive away from my beloved home. After spending hours on the road, I finally felt the familiar outward pull of the centrifugal force acting on my body as my dad turned a tight left into our cul-de-sac. As we pulled into our driveway, I gazed once more upon the red-brick house I had lived in since birth, and my heart swelled with anticipation and glee. I jumped out of the car as quickly as I could, only waiting for my dad to put the car in park, and rushed towards the door. After haphazardly flinging it open, I was inside my house once more, just as I was for almost every day of my life until this past August. I was overwhelmed by a strange sensation: I felt as though no time had passed, yet, at the same time, that everything had changed. I looked upon every object as though I were seeing it for the first time; everything seemed both familiar and completely different, like I was in some strange dream where I was in my house, but the house I was imagining wasn’t really my house.

I was hesitant to enter my room, as I knew it would only remind me of the life I once had, the life where I was close to family and friends, a life I had no more. However, since I would, of course, be staying in my room, I had to confront my dread eventually. When I finally entered my room, I felt uneasy; it didn’t feel like my room. I felt as though I were intruding on my past self’s territory, as though I didn’t belong in the room that I grew up in, that it belonged in my past, in my memory, not in my current life. In that moment, my body and mind separated, and I became a third-person observer: I watched myself stand frozen at the entrance of my room, recalling memories that didn’t feel like my own. I watched a girl begrudgingly get up for school each morning, exhausted after studying late into the night; I saw her return from school in the afternoon and drop her heavy backpack with a loud sigh, and I observed her finally climb into bed after finishing her homework. I saw her but did not recognize her — that girl wasn’t me. I didn’t know how to reconcile my past self with my current self; they seemed entirely different people.

For that entire week, I lived out of my duffle bag. I did not unpack my clothes or my toiletries, restraining myself from re-inhabiting what I was told was my room. Similar to my possessions, I kept myself contained; I knew I would be returning to school soon, so I did not permit myself to become completely re-accustomed to my old ways of life, knowing that if I did, it would be infinitely more difficult to leave. 

After one week elapsed, I returned to my dorm room. Upon arriving, I felt unsettled. Where I live now doesn’t feel like home, either. So where is home?

Perhaps the confusing, tumultuous feelings of freshman year cannot be summed up in a better image than that of the unpacked duffle bag I lived out of over Thanksgiving break. During this first year of college, you feel like a nomad. You are constantly moving back and forth, you never have all your possessions with you, and you are never in one place long enough to entirely regain your bearings and let your guard down. Even the dorm you live in is only a temporary abode, a place to return to at the end of the day and crash, not a permanent home. At the same time, you realize that you will, most likely, never live again in your former home; instead, you will go off and create a new one. 

As a freshman, you exist in an odd, disorienting liminal space, a space that exists between your past life and your future life, a barren no-man’s-land that you must explore and chart yourself. You alone can fill in the blank spaces, you alone can map out your journey, you alone can decide what constitutes home. 

I know I am not the only one that feels this way. I have spoken with multiple people, some who attend university inside their home state and others who attend schools outside of their home state, and they have expressed similar feelings. Freshman year is difficult; it is a year of intense growing pains and confusion. But I know from those around me who have completed college that these feelings become more manageable and that, with time, you build confidence. So, if you’re reading this as a freshman, hang in there, and good luck.

Katherine Stevenson is the Senior Editor of the Her Campus at TCU chapter. She is an avid reader and, as such, enjoys writing about books—more specifically, classics—as well as movies and TV shows. Katherine is currently a freshman at Texas Christian University studying business and English. Katherine was the co-editor of her high-school’s World Languages Magazine, Alebrije, for two years. Katherine loves to read, make art, travel, bake, and try new restaurants and cafes. She is very passionate about classic literature (particularly Russian literature), and one of her favorite activities is going to bookstores with a good cup of coffee in hand.