Dear Freshman Year

Dear Freshmen Year of College,

You were not what I expected. From the first days on campus and moving into the dorm I would call my home at school, to having to finish my final assignments from the comfort of my childhood bedroom. 

After deciding to attend the University of Washington this time last year, already I was spending countless nights thinking about the future. Would my freshmen year be like all the movies said? Would it be a dream where I made some of my closest friends? Or would it be a nightmare filled with sleepless nights and riddled with homesickness? Turns out, it was a little bit of both. 

I always thought I would be the independent girl, the out-of-stater moving to a new city, who could handle the stress of college. I wanted to be the small fish in the sea, but in the beginning, you terrified me. You would seem to creep out of nowhere and make me feel indescribably lonely; after going to school with the same people for almost twelve years, starting in a new place with almost no friends was something I had never done before. Those first few months, well, they were honestly some of the hardest I had to face, and there were several times I doubted the decision I made. In a school this large, how was a girl like me going even make a ripple in that ocean? 

Well, I decided to take a step back from the ocean I was at first so desperate to jump into, so I started swimming in a smaller stream for a bit. I put myself out there, tried finding a community of people with similar interests to me, joined clubs, went to the gym, made study group plans. Freshmen year, somehow you began to grow on me, and the phone calls to home weren’t filled with as much longing, but rather stories of all the new memories I was gaining. You let me find friends that I know will always have my back. I found passions that I love to explore. You are letting me blossom into the independent girl I believed I once was, but also taught me how important my family truly is to me. I was making that large school feel a little smaller, and I was slowly starting to move from the stream to the lake, ready to take the next step. 

Still, the last nine months were really a rollercoaster. I laughed a lot, cried a lot, and surprisingly was okay with waking up early in the morning to get some cafeteria food. But 2020 cut you short when the virus decided to become a pandemic. I went home for spring break, only to be told not to return till fall. And of course, I understand it was for our safety, but there was still a longing to create more freshmen year memories. I was suddenly missing living in a dorm with so many neighbors, rolling out of bed to get to class on time, and the conversations that went late in the night with my roommates. I didn’t get to come back from spring break, walk down the stairs to the mess hall in my flip flops, messy bun, and an oversized sweatshirt, only to run into the cute guy from another floor. 

Instead of missing my parents, I was missing my friends, my home away from home. Keeping in contact with everyone has been difficult, doing classes over a zoom screen hasn’t been the most exciting, and not being able to see Seattle in the spring was disappointing. But I still wouldn’t change my freshmen year for the world. 

So thank you, freshmen year. You taught me to start being an adult, my own person really, but still remembering to call mom and dad on a regular basis. Whether to say hi, ask a silly question about my laundry, or just be an eighteen/nineteen-year-old who gets homesick. But you also taught me that I am capable of handling myself despite the circumstances. Even if I’m not on campus, I’m still growing into my own person, taking chances, and trying to put myself out there. It may not be the typical “freshmen year experience” filled with parties and dorm-room shenanigans right now, but they are still memories I will cherish and use to guide me for the rest of my life. Thanks, freshmen year, I can’t wait for fall and to finally step back into that ocean.

Love, Tara