“You are going to have the time of your life!”
“Freshman year was the best!”
“College will be great!”
No doubt these remarks sound familiar. From receiving those acceptance letters, to move-in day, to meeting quirky people from all over the world, to the first day of classes – these and the infinite moments between them are overwhelming and exciting. But amidst the fun and novelty of everything in freshman year, perhaps you find yourself questioning why you’re at college, second guessing your intended major, or just struggling to juggle the college triangle between getting enough sleep, socialising and getting good grades.
Take a moment to imagine your five-year-old self walking into a candy store for the first time: You stand in the middle of the store in awe and maybe even confusion. So many candies seem enticing and if you don’t try a bit of everything, you feel like you are missing out. You want to try the gobstoppers but that girl over there buying the cotton candy makes you want that too. Then you see a boy walking past with sour gummy bears and now you really don’t know what to do.
College, in a similar vein, throws a plethora of new things at you all at once. Within the first few weeks and perhaps even in the months following, you are constantly meeting new people. No doubt, the ‘speed friending’ process of asking, “what’s your name” “where are you from” “what’s your intended major?” has been thoroughly recycled after the first month. You panic about making friends and it’s bewildering how you’ve lived eighteen years of life yet you still haven’t quite figured out the art of friendship.
When shopping for classes started, you are thrown into the deep end with countless classes in every academic field possible waiting for you to try. We have all been told that college, especially the first year, is a time of exploration so what better way to try something new than to take a class in German linguistics and computer science? Then, when the first midterm is right around the corner you cannot fathom why you ever thought taking this class would be ‘fun’ when you’re up till 2 a.m. trying to make sense of chapter one.
This notion of pushing oneself outside of comfort zones and embracing liberal learning is heavily endorsed at my school. The open curriculum at Brown is like this overarching ideology that transcends into every aspect of college. Everything is about what you want as an individual. While that may seem appealing, in practise it is easy to have a harder time when given more choice. When you are lucky enough to have so much choice, you can’t help but question if you are making the right choices. As you grow up the choices that you face tend to have increasingly more important consequences on your future. So each choice that you’re faced with seems to come with a greater weight over your shoulders.
Naturally, you may have already experienced the moments where you suddenly question every decision you ever made since arriving at college. If you haven’t, chances are you will. It is almost inevitable to have expectations about what college will be like. But don’t expect anything to manifest the way you imagined it would be. Not knowing what in the world you want to do with your life is absolutely fine. In fact it’s more than fine, it means that you are open to possibilities. Even when you think you know, chances are you don’t. Admitting you that don’t know is so much more valuable than focussing entirely on the destination.
Remember that candy store image? Now, try looking at everything from four years on. During the four years, you will have plenty of time to try new flavours discover which ones you like and which ones you don’t. You might be blown away by the taste of twizzlers and repulsed by the jellybeans. You have grown to acquire the taste for lime sherbet and lost your love for butterscotch chews. Or perhaps you have stayed loyal to your chocolate egg addiction.
I guess what I am trying to say is don’t let the stress and overwhelming nature of the first few weeks and months of college stop you from enjoying every moment (excuse the cheesiness). Embrace your freshman self. You are no longer a child but at the same time you are not considered an adult. You are simply a college student. A student whose vocabulary no longer includes curfews and healthy food. A person that is ridiculously talented at procrastination. A friend that complains a bit too much about the struggle of college. While we all try to tread through this foreign land of college it is important to realise that there is no one size fits all formula for having a fulfilling college experience. No one quite has it figured out yet. You, me, that girl texting across from you, the boy in your math class, none of us know for sure.
But that’s okay. We’re not meant to.