1. You’re actually on your own.
You’ve been mooching off of your parents for the last eighteen or more years and now they’re far away. Busily, they’re turning your room into a home for the new pool table while the family cat is pissing on boxes stacked haphazardly in the garage containing your precious belongings. There is no one to do your laundry or remind you to do all the adult things. You’re entirely by yourself, and this fact alone is enough to scare you to death. As ready for school and leaving home you may have thought you were, there’s nothing quite like your parents driving away and leaving you in a tiny dorm room with a complete stranger to give you a swift kick off your high horse and into reality.
2. So is everyone else, though.
So you’re nervous and you’ve definitely peed your pants a little bit during the orientation frenzy. So has everyone else! It’s like being at a waterpark…don’t be embarrassed by your wet caboose, because everyone else around you happens to be sporting a matching one! Everyone has collectively gotten kicked in the balls by an unforgiving steel boot called adulthood and academia. The only thing you can do now is find some humor in it, giggle lots, put on a brave face, and help each other out as best as you can.
3. Your only real responsibility is to learn.
Which is nice. Learning is fun. Food is being cooked for you and distributed straight into your mouth buffet style. You barely have to clean your dorm unless you happen to be a particularly messy human being. You don’t have monthly bills to pay, and you don’t have to worry about your electricity or water getting shut off. You don’t have chores. Granted, you should probably be responsible with your hygiene as well, to be fair, but I’m not here to lecture on that. You paid a ridiculous amount of money for an education, and that’s exactly what you’re getting. That’s honestly all you really have to focus on at this point, and that’s pretty sweet. So do yourself a favor and be decent at it. While you’re doing that, enjoy it as well, because education is a wonderful gift that isn’t given to everybody.
4. People will use you.
…And they aren’t always what they seem to be, at first. Unfortunately, it’s true. Although they are not against you. People can be selfish and thoughtless—that fact has always been known. They think only about themselves and it may hurt you in the process, but the key here is to avoid acting like your angsty high school self. Socially punishing them won’t hurt them, only you, most likely. And posting vague Facebook statuses hasn’t helped you since the eighth grade, and it definitely won’t now. So let it go and accept that they, like you, are an uncertain and scared child who also peed themselves. Maybe you should thank them. And kindly ask them not to reproduce.
5. People will love you.
You will meet amazing friends who are there to help you and make a serious effort to be in your life and get to know you. Let them in. Even if they are completely different from you, you will learn such valuable, silly, and unforgettable things from them. Many people in college, I have regrettably found, have a hard time allowing themselves to form deep friendships and connections, and I frankly can’t understand this at all. If someone finds you interesting and values you enough to pursue such a meaningful friendship, let them. You deserve people like that in your life. Chances are, they have a lot to teach you.
6. It isn’t what you’re used to.
I’m an introvert in every sense of the word and I always have been. A large percent of the population is introverted just like me. I was definitely not used to living with two other girls who I have absolutely nothing in common with (but adore all the same) and never being alone. When I eat, I always have to be around people, and that’s not cool. People ask me to hang out all the time, often coming straight to my dorm to retrieve me. I was not used to this or prepared for it. Sometimes, all I want to do is read my books for three days straight. And even when I’m not hanging out with anyone, usually one of my roommates has people over. It’s a lot to adjust to, but it’s a vital albeit difficult part of growing up. I’m definitely not used to paying $700 for books every semester. And how am I supposed to get used to going to the bathroom and showering in the presence of others? (Spoiler alert: You don’t. Grow accustomed to pooping at 3 A.M.).
7. You are being bombarded with opportunities every single day.
Seriously, you can travel out of the country for long periods of time for so much less basically whenever you want, multiple times. That’s pretty neat. You can learn to dance, sculpt, sing, act, draw, write, and speak a foreign language— virtually anything — for free. You are daily given the opportunity to do things you never dreamed of being able to do, although you’ve probably secretly wanted to try them in the back of your mind for a long time. There’s a plethora of clubs, organizations, job or volunteer opportunities, dances, events—you name it—going on every single day. Personally, I’ve found I enjoy DJing for the radio and organic farming quite a bit. Does this have any relevance to my area of study? Nope! But only at college are these opportunities offered and encouraged free of charge, so you should take advantage of it.
8. Your family is the best
You miss them every day. You miss the way your house smells and your bed feels and the constant bickering, and most of all, the taste of your mom’s cooking. You even miss your sister’s perpetual grumpiness and the looming presence of your serial killer neighbor next door. The separation teaches you to appreciate your family so much more than you did before you left for school, when you mainly took them for granted and used their Wi-Fi. Now, when you go home you spend most of your time with family and less time with old friends and you like it that way. Your only wish during school is that they could live right next door to you (and you get to choose when they’re home).
9. The people you went to high school with are the worst.
You thought you would eventually find a tender spot somewhere in your heart for them, but you don’t. With every Facebook picture of them smoking in the high school parking lot or drinking Jack Daniel’s while giving each other stripteases in their parent’s basement, or every status that states simply, “got anothr fing d.u.i. lol,” you grow more and more thankful to be long gone. Obviously, this point in the article has certain exceptions for good friends. And when you log into Facebook and see a former classmate who is instead doing something productive and loving every second of it, it’s a wonderful feeling to be completely happy and proud of them.
10. You will change.
It’s inevitable. You quickly find new interests and opinions, and you begin to learn who you really are. Sometimes you go through phases of trying out different versions of yourself. It’s healthy and necessary. Your views are constantly challenged by others and sometimes you begin to challenge them yourself as well. Although people from home may berate you on how much you’ve changed, as long as you haven’t spiraled into dealing meth or prostitution, change is generally good.
11. You’re on your way.
You have big and extravagant plans that you’ve worked hard BSing for. You don’t realize this your senior year of high school—you don’t even realize it at your graduation. Only when you’re actually out DOING STUFF in classes and on campus do you realize that you’re actually on your way. It’s exciting and nerve-racking all at once, but that’s the joy of it all. Now all you can do is try to enjoy it as much as you can until you get there.