5 Harsh AF Truths I Learned From My First Semester of College

1. Moving away from college is a HUGE (and sometimes rough) adjustment.

Like most of my high school peers senior year, I was constantly envisioning myself living in a dorm, meeting new people and basking in the newfound independence and freedom of trying new things. I was so excited to move in that my mom, younger sister and I got up before sunrise on move-in day just so we could be one of the first people there. I was so happy and incredibly appreciative to have my family help me move in, but I quickly came to the harsh and unsettling realization that after all my belongings were unpacked and unloaded, they would be leaving to go back to Houston without me. The second I closed my dorm door after saying final goodbyes, my emotional wall of happiness and elation that I was trying to keep up during the move-in process crumbled and I burst into tears. That moment, as painful as it was, was the first time I was truly on my own. No more going digging through my sister’s clothes in a rush to get to school on time, no more consistent home cooked meals, no more being able to hear my sisters laugh as we shared memes to blow off steam on a busy school night. I remember it being so bad in the beginning that I even had trouble sleeping and eating (which sounds pretty dramatic, I know). Despite the rough adjustment, I learned (and still am learning) to see my being away from home as an opportunity to get out there and build close connections with people beyond my family. Life, especially after high school, is fast-paced and fleeting. Your family will always be there, but a missed opportunity to go meet potential life-long friends or career opportunities at a social event is something you can never get back.

2. My to-do list often turned from 0 to 100 real quick.

When the fall semester began in full swing, I was relieved at how refreshingly different college was from high school. Instead of spending nearly 8 hours a day in a building going to the same seven classes every single day, you had the same set of classes every other day for a relatively short amount of time ranging from 50 to an hour and 15 minutes. While my college schedule seemingly provided for a lot of free time, it turned out to be both a blessing and a curse. While the freetime was nice, I learned the hard way that I can be very easy to spend the day chilling and social media surfing, ultimately forgetting the un-checked bullet points on my mounting to-do list. In order to avoid becoming suddenly overwhelmed with 100 things to do, I learned to get a planner on hand and constantly keep track of the things I needed to get done, even if they seemed small and minuscule. I highly recommend Google Calendar, it's convenient and super aesthetically-pleasing (perfect for the busy girl-on-the-go).3. It’s okay to cry.

Just as I noted in my previous point, college can be incredibly overwhelming. From complicated homework assignments to dealing with complex financial issues on my own, there were times where it seemed that just when something good happens, that feeling of accomplishment or satisfaction is knocked down by a setback, problem or issue. Wanting to make my family proud that I am handling college like a champ, I kept trying to suppress my feelings of sadness and frustration, reassuring myself that next day would be a better, cleaner slate. It wasn’t until I finally ended up having a mental breakdown in the middle of a club meeting when I finally realized that it’s okay and completely normal to not only feel upset about college, but also let my family know about it. Being in touch with your emotions and communicating how you’re really feeling can truly make all the difference than trying to stay strong and save face.

4. Making friends became almost an olympic-level task.

The movies about college that I grew up watching always seemed to portray it like it was some big slumber party—moving in, instantly bonding with your roommates and staying up into the wee hours of the morning painting our nails and binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy. After having experienced one semester of college, I think it’s safe to say that whoever made all those movies about college probably never went to one. Making friends in college turned out to be much, much harder than I thought. Even with attending club meetings and participating in school events, hitting it off with people is easier said than done. Considering that it is a natural (and very common) struggle in adulthood, college is no better time to start making connections and building lasting relationships. Because once college is over, you won’t have those club meetings every Monday evening to rely on to meet people and that is FACTS.  

5. Sometimes, bad days, unfortunate events and missteps are a necessity.

During rough times, I found it easy to doubt myself, even to the point of questioning why I was in college in the first place. Especially because I was away from my family, I found it easy to isolate myself during times I felt most stressed and overwhelming, which only helped to culminate feelings of loneliness and sadness. Bad days are never going to go away, but it’s important to recognize that in each bad day, failure, misstep or misfortunate lies an important life lesson. Even though they suck, bad days are CRITICAL in shaping you to not only bounce back quicker and better, but also to learn an important thing about yourself that you probably didn’t know—ultimately driving you to be a better version of yourself. More importantly, realizing that you’re not alone and that there are an abundance of resources (friends, family, counseling services, professors, etc.) that you can access is important in managing your mental health and wellness. Even though college is about getting that degree, don’t forget to put you first. You got this!