I had always heard the quarter system was different. It was a sprint, a dash or anything in between. We had a long summer, people would say, and we get out later than some middle schools do. But no one seemed to warn me that all of this involved always playing catch up.
I left my hometown one month after my friends on the semester system. That’s a whole 30 days of moving in, getting used to classes and meeting new people. I, on the other hand, was still in the house I had always known and with people I had spent most of my school years with. So, by the time I actually got to college, my friends from home were already complaining about classes, sprinting around a campus they had already memorized and texting in group chats with people they saw every day. Basically, they were settled.
Yet my experience had just begun.
On the bright side, I got to ask for advice and they told me all about keeping my social battery high and what my dorm definitely does not need. But, to be honest, I just wanted to get to where they were. Although I did force myself to slow down and enjoy the process of adapting to a new environment once I did finally come to campus, on the inside I felt like I was always comparing myself to them.
I wasn’t jealous; I just wished time would move a bit faster, so I could feel as comfortable as they did. When I talked to them about the homesickness I felt after being here for a bit, they told me of their time feeling the same way, as if it was lightyears ago. When I told them about the new friend group that was slowly forming around me, they told me about the people they were getting apartments with next year. I didn’t realize how much difference a month could make—I just always felt behind.
But what I was more frustrated about was that no one else, even my friends on the quarter system, seemed to talk about it. So, here I am starting the conversation.
It is okay to feel “unsettled.” What I have learned is that, as hard as it is to accept, time is the ultimate healer. Making memories that bond you to others in a new environment takes time, and unfortunately, no matter how hard you try, they cannot be forced. As hard as it is to admit, you cannot be playing the social media game of comparison in football game posts and Snapchat stories and you can’t blame the quarter system for your want to press fast forward.
So, I tried to go with the flow. I made sure to join clubs that gave me a community, ones where I could grow and feel comfortable being myself. I made an effort to grab lunches and dinners with people I was getting closer to. But, I also made sure to keep in contact with people from back home who that I didn’t have to explain myself around. Sometimes having just that little bit of continuity makes all the difference. Just like all things in life, my new feelings of settlement come and go in waves, but now it’s just a little easier to ride through them.
Funnily enough, just yesterday, I was having a conversation with a friend at UC Riverside, describing how I felt when my life wasn’t moving at the same perceived pace as everyone else and she said she felt the same exact way at the same exact time. Life is amusingly coincidental sometimes, but it just showed me how important it is to talk about feelings of isolation and unworthiness. You never know who else will be feeling the same exact way.