The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
I knew the transition to college wasn’t going to be an easy one for me. Not that it’s easy for anyone, but my high school (in comparison to the large state school that is UMass Amherst) was relatively small. My graduating class had only 69 kids, and now I’m a part of a freshman class of about 4,800. My school was one small building that we shared with the middle school next door, and now I walk twenty minutes to class each day. Instead of going from school to practice to home, I’ve had to find time to organize my day around school, social life, and clubs in a whole new way. If I’m being honest, my first month was a wild one, and trying to find my place at “The Zoo” seemed impossible. But as we’re approaching Thanksgiving break, I realized how much I’ve learned and changed (for the better) since my time here.
My first few weeks were filled with constant nerves, anxiety, and plenty of tears. In the first week or so I think I called my mom three times a day at least and told her how much I wanted to go home. I called my friends from home every day and told them how much I couldn’t wait to see them.
Meeting people was a struggle. Beyond the first week or so, people already seemed to be settled into their friendships. Seeing groups of 15 go to the dining hall and being “bffs” three days after we moved in was extremely intimidating and made me feel as though I was doing something wrong. Social media was also a menace. My friends at other schools and people I followed on Instagram seemed to be living the dream with their new besties. I really thought that I did something wrong because I wasn’t instantly friends with everyone I met. Why weren’t people coming up to me and introducing themselves? Why didn’t people stop in when I left my door open? Did everyone already have their groups and I was just going to be left behind?
After a while, I realized that a lot of the answers to my questions didn’t have anything to do with me personally. It is just as intimidating for others to come up to me as it was for me to go up to them. I had to put myself out of my comfort zone and introduce myself — something I had never done previously. It was hard for me to understand that every connection I made wasn’t going to be a lifelong friendship. I could get lunch with someone one day and not see them again, and that’s okay. Some people are just going to become acquaintances that you smile and wave to on your way to class, others will become a faint recognition, and some might become genuine friends.
It’s not supposed to happen all at once, either. I tried to meet and talk to so many people my first week, and while a lot of them have faded away, I was able to meet some really great people. My roommate and our friend are already planning to visit each other over winter break, and I’m sure I’ll see some others as well. Though I don’t exactly have a group, I’m at peace with that. I know I have people I can count on when I want to go eat or go to a hockey game.
Taking opportunities has also benefitted my transition for the better. I used to complete the same routine each day of high school. I only had so many things available to do at my disposal. Here, I have learned that saying yes or taking a chance on something can lead to something great. And if it doesn’t, that’s okay too. Joining clubs has allowed me to meet so many more people than I would have otherwise, and it has allowed me to make connections that will not only benefit me at UMass, but beyond. I feel comfortable and welcome in each space.
Another small thing I’ve tried to do is compliment a stranger once a day. Even if it leads to nothing, it gives someone something to smile about, and that’s one of the best exchanges you can give to someone else.
Another crucial thing I’ve learned is to be okay being alone. Sure, being alone on a campus of 25,000 people is not instantly comforting. However, I think college is one of the most important times where you learn about yourself and who you are as a person. And while friends can certainly help you do that, looking inward and being able to do things on your own but not feel lonely is a rewarding thing. I’ve learned that eating or studying alone is not something to be embarrassed about. It is completely normal to want time to yourself no matter who you are surrounded by.
While a lot of times I still get FOMO, it’s not as bad as it was in the beginning. Everyone puts so much pressure on themselves to be doing something fun with people all the time, but in my opinion, that causes way too much anxiety and stress. If you need to take time to complete an assignment or even just want to read a book or watch a show in your room by yourself, you should do so. There will be plenty more opportunities to do fun things, so you should put yourself and your needs first.
My first few months have definitely been a rollercoaster of emotions, and I’m sure that it will continue. No matter how much I’ve learned, there will always be plenty more for me to discover about myself and my experience. I am proud of the changes I’ve made and my ability to overcome the challenges I’ve faced. It gives me the confidence to believe that no matter what is thrown my way, I’ll be able to handle it. I’m excited to see what awaits me for the next semester and the rest of my four years, which is something I couldn’t have said two months ago.