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Looking back to my freshman year of college, the adjustment that hit me the hardest was the amount of independence that college gave me. More specifically, the amount of time that I would be spending alone.

Granted, I began my college career in the Fall of 2020, at the peak of quarantines, social distancing, and masking during the pandemic. So yes, in a sense, I knew I would be spending a lot of time on my own, but as I near the end of my sophomore year in a semi-normal world, the idea of independence in college nevertheless persists.

I will admit, up until my first day of college I had not spent that much time on my own, ever. I had always had my friends to spend every second of the high school day with, and my parents and brother to keep me company when I was at home. I was always with someone, to the point that going on a Target trip alone jarred me. I could not bring myself to do it.

But freshman year of college was quickly approaching, and I was in for a big surprise. 

I was finally faced with having to walk around campus alone, sit in lectures by myself, go to the gym solo, and (how could I forget) eating alone at the dining hall. Seeing the herds of my freshman peers across campus while I explored on my own intimidated me, sometimes to the point that I would want to hide back to my dorm.

But if there’s one thing I learned from gaining so much independence this past year and a half is that the best way to do it is to throw yourself into these situations headfirst. I once found it so daunting to eat alone at the dining hall. Now, I could not imagine starting my day without my peaceful dining hall breakfast— alone.

This amount of independence throughout my time in college has taught me how to be comfortable with myself and enjoy my own presence. Of course, I love spending time with all of the amazing friends that I have met, but I find so much comfort in doing things on my own. Even to a fault, I now sometimes prefer it that way. After all, who doesn’t love a ~main character~ moment?

Learning to be independent in college and doing things for myself has allowed me to embrace the spontaneity of life. If I have an inkling to grab a coffee all the way across campus, I can simply go. As simple as that may sound, being comfortable doing these things alone allows me to enjoy the little things that make my day that much more enjoyable.

Even though going to the dining hall alone freshman year seemed like it would be the end of the world, I am so glad that I took that first step. Looking back, I am so proud of my past self for taking that leap to finally be comfortable on her own. As cliche as it may be, I am finally starting to learn how to enjoy my own company. And most importantly, I have learned to rely on myself for my own well-being and happiness. 

Emily is a sophomore at the University of Connecticut double majoring in Secondary Mathematics Education and Mathematics. In her free time, she likes to go on runs, spend time with family and friends, watch sunsets, and eat ice cream.
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