What I Learned During my First Semester of College

Maybe it’s the fact that it’s partway through my first college finals week and I want to distract myself, or the fact that I feel like a lifetime has passed in a matter of months, but I’ve been rather reflective lately. Thinking about the person I was when I got here and how much I’ve accomplished, it’s mind-boggling to see the effects college has had on me.

It seems cliche when people say that “college changes you”. But, being in a new environment with new people and a newfound sense of independence, it’s quite easy to notice shifts in your personality and habits. I know that I’ve picked up on things I never knew about myself. Here are five things that I’ve learned after my first semester in college:

It’s cool (and good!) to have multiple friend groups.

Depending on the size of your college campus, you’ll be exposed to anywhere between hundreds to thousands of new people. Why not take the chance to befriend lots of them? Don’t feel compelled to stick to only one group of friends. It’s great to have a group of friends to eat meals with, to go out with, and to study with. Multiple friends groups also help you get a richer college experience. You’ll be able to appreciate a more diverse range of viewpoints, and you’ll never have to worry about hanging out with certain people too much. Trust me, it can be exhausting to be around people 24/7 in college. Fight this exhaustion by making sure you’re spending time with various people to avoid arguments or falling outs.

College is much more of a balancing act than high school.

In high school, I was a fairly involved person. I was in multiple bands, on the board of two honor societies (and a member of even more!), and was a captain of the speech team.  I felt as though by senior year, I had gotten the concept of balancing my social life, school work, and health down to an art.

Coming to college, I realized that I had it all wrong.

Social lives in college are much more demanding than in high school. You have to keep good relations with your roommate, have to find people to study or have fun with, and weekend are always filled with some sort of activity to attend. Sometimes, I found that homework keeps you from friends, or you spend too much time with friends and neglect your other responsibilities. Student organizations add another layer of commitment to an already busy schedule. Sometimes my responsibilities to student media double the amount of work I have in one night.

Try to find a balance early on. Make clear distinctions of when you can hang out with friends and when you need to buckle down and study. Utilize a planner. And, if you can be a bit forgetful like me, keep a stack of post-it notes to write reminders on.

It’s okay to be homesick. You’re not the only one.

Being an out-of-state student has been one of my biggest adjustments. While I love Ohio University and know that I made the right choice in going here, it doesn’t make being so far from friends and family easier. Don’t be afraid to tell your college friends that you’re homesick. I promise they won’t think you’re super lame. Odds are, at least one of them is feeling the same way. Plus, the amount of people who go home for 3 day weekends is a testament to the fact that everyone longs to pet their dog or enjoy a home-cooked meal every once in a while.

Your emotions are valid. Don’t bottle them up.

In high school, it’s easy to bottle up your emotions towards negative situations. You have a place to retreat and clear your head: your own home. In college, this is not the case. Odds are, you’ll have a roommate and will almost constantly be around other people. And, trust me, they’ll be able to sense if you’re stewing in anger or upset about something. 

If you have a problem with a roommate or friend, confront it head on. These relationships are still new, and harboring negative emotions or not confronting problems can only hurt your relationship in the future. Sometimes, your roommate or friend may feel the same way and they’re equally as nervous to bring up the elephant in the room as you. Even if discussing your feelings doesn’t fix the situation, it at least addresses the problem, and that’s a start.

Personally, I’ve had to address some situations that have made me uncomfortable or upset this semester. Knowing when to bring up problems with your friends or roommate can be a challenge, but sooner is always better than later (or never!). Be straightforward and honest. Focus on your feelings towards the situation but be open to hearing the other person’s perspective as well. There’s always a give-and-take in friendships and college is no exception.

Be open to new things.

There’s a saying here at OU that’s so popular, we’ve got a Snapchat filter for it: Athens Happens. Wherever you go to college, you’re bound to find an entirely new culture from what you had in your hometown. There are new things to do, new places to explore, and a million lessons for you to learn along the way. The bottom line is, try at least some of these things. The experiences you have from stepping outside of your comfort zone are the ones you’ll remember on graduation day. I won’t remember eating in the dining halls or studying with friends– the typical college moments. I’ll remember spontaneously getting pizza late at night, heart-to-heart conversations while walking around Peden stadium, and trying out all the local coffee shops.

Yes, college is about finding yourself. But that doesn’t mean you have to completely reinvent your character.  Above all, be open to your new lifestyle molding who you are; just don’t let it reshape you entirely. 

Homecoming Part II: Thanksgiving Break

Thanksgiving Break marked my first time returning to my hometown since the beginning of college. My personal “homecoming” marked a lot of firsts for me, actually: my first plane ride alone, my first time seeing friends and family since I went to college, and my first time getting lost in an airport (and unfortunately, it probably won’t be the last).

My time away from Ohio University was fairly jam-packed. I spent a lot of time catching up with friends from high school, visiting family, and quite frankly, stepping away from my homework to relax a bit.

Being back in Oswego, Illinois was a breath of fresh air. But, at the same time, it felt strange to revisit my hometown after being away for so long. My bedroom no longer felt like my own (did I really get that much room to myself?) and I no longer felt the same resentment towards my hometown that I once did.

I feel a split in me now. I have a home in Athens and Oswego. And that split is somehow a beautiful thing. I have found that I can create a place of solace and comfort where ever I go. It’s not the location that makes the home; it’s the people.

The people in Oswego will always hold a place in my heart. Now, they just need to scoot over a bit to make room for my newfound family in Athens.

The video below shows my experience of going home for the first time: the epiphany I had about what home is, the beauty of my friends and family, and the travels I had commuting between my two home states. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed my break.