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I Wish I Listened to My Big Sister: Freshman Fall and its Misfortunes

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

I can feel that July evening in my earlobes.

This night in particular, I sat on the couch in my living room. College was so close I could taste it. The phone rang and as usual, it was a call from my older sister (six years older). I can’t seem to remember how the conversation began. Most likely, me babbling on about my excitement to embark on this journey and leave our town behind. She stated it matter of factly, “First semester freshman year honestly sucks.” I can still feel the heat rising in my cheeks and bubbling up behind my eyes. How dare she?

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This may come across as an overreaction, so allow me to explain. That June I had left a three-year relationship, my friend group was cracking more and more every day, and I felt the most lost I ever had in my life. I knew once I left nothing would ever be the same, yet everything was already so different. Going to college was about more to me than leaving and growing up — it was my life raft. You go to college and make friends, that’s just how it goes. I was going to love my classes and meeting new people. So why now is this witch trying to scare me and put me down about the only thing I had to look forward to? I rolled my eyes and let it go. The weeks slipped into a month and then the day came. We packed the car and drove away into the next chapter of my life. I made it. I would feel the sun on my cheeks again.

There I was, in my sweaty dorm room. I didn’t even cry when I hugged my mom goodbye. There was this surreal moment of “I’m really here.” The first week was nothing but fun. Going out with my roommate and introducing her to my friends from home was enough to distract me from the September scaries. October came, and with it came the dismemberment of everything I once knew. My friend group from home imploded, my ex-boyfriend finally stopped speaking to me, and I realized I hated my major. Around this time was the first round of midterms. I will never forget my twenty-minute, teary-eyed walk back to my dorm room clutching my paper sealed with a big red 61%. The rest of my midterms went similarly. I had never felt so alone. It seemed like everybody around me was making these meaningful connections and I was getting pummeled into oblivion by the universe. Did I deserve this? Was I incompatible with college life? I had never been so low. The sun I once yearned for had seemingly set on me.

Thanksgiving brought restless nights in my hometown. I was too scared to leave the house for fear of seeing my old friends. My family started to worry. Nonetheless, I came back to campus. I wouldn’t let those people win. Finals were within view and I could not give up now. Despite it all, I walked into my exam after three days of studying and left it all on the page. I made it.

I survived freshman fall. The only thing that kept pushing me was the mirror. I was still there: the part of me who walked into kindergarten and didn’t cry when I said goodbye to my mother. The part of me that couldn’t believe how old I was on the first day of middle school. The part of me that jumped up and down in front of the whole store at my cashier job because I got in! When you lose everybody else you are presented with the undeniable truth that you are the only one you will never lose. I learned to make choices for myself, changed that horrific major for one that absolutely ignites me, and found an organization on campus that makes me proud to be here. Continuously, I push myself to become the person I want to be. College is exciting and new and awakening. You are growing up, leaving your home behind, and finally on your own. This transition is hard, the hardest thing I have ever done.

If you so happen to be a first-semester freshman I offer you this: keep going. Think about everything that you have done in this life to get here. You are so worthy of pursuing a college career. Leaving the routine you have always known means leaving some people in it behind. This is natural. You are not alone. I believe in you with my whole being. Believe in yourself and make it happen. For you. 

And yes, it sucked just as much as you can imagine telling my sister that she was right. 

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Gianna Maddalena

U Mass Amherst '26

Gianna is a freshman Communication major at Umass Amherst! She has always loved writing, especially poetry. This is her first semester writing for Her Campus. In her free time she enjoys exercising, reading, and scouting new coffee shops. Gianna is passionate about finding community through writing.