A whole new lot of first-year students will move into our residence halls on Saturday. I can’t help but flash back to my move-in day with my multiple carloads of crap, family members in tow, and an overwhelming amount of excitement. I had the good fortune of spending 6 weeks at my college prior to the beginning of the fall semester and already had 36 acquaintances/friends/soon to be boyfriend under my belt. I was never nervous about people. I was more nervous about my academics and just figuring out all of that bureaucratic “stuff” that comes with college.
My mom doesn’t do prolonged goodbyes so she told me “we’re going to head back” took my hand and filled it with a folded wad of cash, hugged me, and before I knew it she and the rest of the clan were driving back to Portsmouth which is a whopping 45 minutes away from my college.
When I think back to that first semester and the roller coaster that college can be, I began to wonder what I would have told myself to help me get through it all? What do I wish I would have known as a first-year student?
I had boy woes, a bit of an eating issue that resulted in an iron deficiency, crippling self-doubt when it came to my academics, raging racial/ethnic identity development problems, and a bit too much fun on the weekends. So, what messages might have been helpful to little ol’ me?
1. Take Spanish. A foreign language will be more than helpful to you throughout your life. Don’t place out of it just because you can.
2. Figure out a plan to study abroad. This is my one true regret from college. I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity and I’ve still never been out of the country.
3. The rejection you experience this first semester will serve a greater purpose. It’s all going to be okay.
4. Your first love should be yourself and not some boy. If things happened in that order, you both would have been better off in the long run. Sitting around depressed and pining for him is quite a waste of your time. Snap out of it!
5. Sometimes you and your friends grow apart. It is what it is. Just cherish the good times you had with each other.
6. You’re beautiful. You’re enough.
7. STOP with the t-shirts with the ridiculous phrases.
8. Do things that sound cool to you and don’t let the people around you sway you from going on an adventure.
9. Go to church!
10. Invite people to eat meals with you.
11. Yes, this school is really hard BUT the work ethic you’re developing and the skills you’re acquiring not to mention the importance of producing quality work on a daily basis is going to serve you for the rest of your life. You’ll look back and be glad that you chose a pressure cooker for college.
Hmm…all of this stuff still sounds relevant today and I would certainly give this advice to any first-year student I have the privilege of meeting on Saturday.
College, for me, was AMAZING! I loved it to an extreme degree and even when I hated it, you could have never gotten me to leave. It was my home. I knew it like the back of my hand and when I needed to I figured out just how to escape the “noise”. I only remember REALLY wanting to escape once and I called my brother and told him to come get me. He, of course, called my mother and it was settled that I would not be leaving campus to go anywhere including home. All of this drama was about a boy. Ick!
What I want for our first-year students is a chance for them to choose their own adventure. I want their journey to be full of learning, growth, fun, taking chances, failure, and moments of brilliant resilience. I want them to make friends by being their authentic self. I want them to own what makes them a unicorn. I want them to grapple with their identities and hard topics. I want them to stay up until 2am chatting with their hall mates about their hopes and dreams. I want them to have an internal sense of freedom that guides them to join or not join a student organization. I want them to love it but not to their detriment. I want them to love themselves so much that they understand when to say yes, no, I don’t know, and I need help. I want them to find a spot on campus or in the city that when they need it, they can breathe it all out and let it all go. I want them to look in the mirror and be proud of who they are becoming and if for some reason they’re not then I want them to find the strength to start again and to have the wisdom to know that it’s okay. They are coming home to their alma mater but also to themselves.
This may be asking a lot BUT I know they have it all inside of them and like anything else they must find the COURAGE to live it. I enjoy helping them discover that courage.
So, what would you tell your first-year self?
My next few posts will be dedicated to words of wisdom for first-year college students.
Thanks for reading.