College is a confusing time. You live in one place for four months. You come home for one month. You go back and live there for another four months, only to come home for another three. The concept of “home” is unclear, and its meaning becomes a jumbled mess of feelings and people.
Your first winter and summer breaks home are a shock. You think you’ll fit right back in. But you won’t. You’ll try to maneuver yourself into your old life, and you’ll feel like a mismatched puzzle piece. In fact, you’ll begin to wonder how you ever fit into that puzzle in the first place. And, after a few weeks of emotional confusion, you go back to your new home at school.
If you asked college students what they think of when they think “semester break,” most would say freedom. But here’s what they won’t tell you:
You will lose friends.
For some, you saw it happening throughout the first semester. For others (like me), you were in denial. As the semester got busier, you put your old life on pause, hoping you could pick it all back up after finals. But your first college break is a rude awakening because you learn that life has no pause button. In the time that you were creating a new life for yourself at college, you were losing parts of your old life at home. You were making sacrifices without even realizing it. You’ll spend the beginning of break attempting to salvage the relationships that you once had. Some relationships may be fixable, but others won’t be. One day, you’ll wake up and realize that you did all you could do. People grow and change and move apart. Welcome to adulthood.
Nobody “hangs out” anymore. All you do is “catch up.”
When you leave for college, you promise to stay in touch with your friends from home. But four months after moving out of your hometown and creating a new life for yourself, you learn that this promise wasn’t as easy to keep as you thought it would be. During break, you will find yourself drowning in lunches and coffee dates that lead you to one painful realization: this isn’t hanging out anymore. Gone are the days where you sit on your friend’s couch and do nothing together. There’s not enough time for that. There are too many stories to tell and feelings to share. There’s too much of life to catch up on.
You will be an emotional roller coaster.
This year will forever be one of the most important years of your life. In one calendar year, you graduated from high school, chose a college and began attending college, among many other exciting things. When you compare January You to December You, be prepared to not even recognize yourself. You started the year as a frustrated senior, ready to leave high school but not entirely sure yet where college would be taking you. You leave the year a quasi-adult. The transformation will leave you with a mix of emotions. You’ll miss the happy parts of high school (yes, there were some happy parts). You’ll thank your lucky stars that you’re not still in high school. You’ll reminisce on the summer. You’ll miss old high school friends. You’ll miss new college friends. You’ll freak out that you aren’t doing college “right.” You’ll calm yourself down. You’ll freak out again. You’ll stress and un-stress. You’ll clean your room and throw old mementos away, only to dig them out of the trash the next day. You’ll drive around your town, remembering the silly times you had and wishing you could relive them. You’ll eat at your favorite restaurants and see familiar faces. And yet, there will be something inside that will remind you, through all this familiarity, this is only a vacation. This is not permanent. This place may feel like home, but is it really?
Aside from the holidays, being on break from college is a fairly boring time.
The week after finals, you will fall in love with your newfound freedom. You’ll spend most hours in your bed and the few remaining hours frying your brain with Netflix and junk food. Then come a few holidays, and maybe a trip or two. And then, as if a vacuum sucked all the excitement out of the air, the spirit of freedom will disappear, and being on break will begin to show its true bleakness. You’ll drive around your town, wondering why nothing is open later than 10PM. You’ll open and reopen your fridge all day, eating food to fill the time. You’ll contemplate going to the gym (because you can’t sit still anymore), but then you’ll end up back in bed, watching more Netflix. After a few weeks of this, you can’t wait for the next semester to begin.