My first year of college wrapped up a week ago, and I’m definitely glad to be home. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time during my freshman year, but I’m excited for the summer at the same time. I learned a lot about myself, my friends, and college as a real thing instead of just a concept in the past year. I’d like to take the opportunity now that the craziness is over to reflect on some of the things that I’ve picked up.
I could’ve shopped for my freshman year a lot better than I did. I didn’t end up with too much stuff in my dorm room that I didn’t need, but there were definitely some things that ended up untouched throughout the year. In retrospect, I would err on the side of “don’t buy it” any time I was uncertain (I’m looking at you, mini ironing board). After all, there’s always Amazon…
Which is the second thing I didn’t expect about stuff in college. Amazon is everywhere, at least on my campus. A day doesn’t go buy when the recycling bin has no Amazon boxes, and because students get six free months of Amazon prime with a college email address, it was easier to get something on Amazon than to run to the nearest Target or Walmart. When a friend of mine whipped out her phone to order a box of tissues on Amazon, I realized that it was the grease that kept the wheels of my campus turning.
And because Amazon was so accessible, I found myself turning to it when I needed to get things that I hadn’t thought of before coming to college. My top three picks for “things you don’t think you’ll use, but are actually a daily necessity?” Bluetooth speaker, Swiffer, and a super long phone charger.
I love having my friends so close to me all the time. It’s great to be able to walk out the door into the hallway and find someone to grab a meal or watch a movie with, but sometimes it can get overwhelming. I’m super extroverted, and even I found myself worn out by the constant freshman socialization sometimes. Part of the point of living on-campus is that everything is nearby–your classes, friends, professors, room, study spots, dining halls, but sometimes that can be too much of a good thing. Don’t be afraid to take time for yourself by going to meals alone, getting off campus, or just sitting in your room watching Netflix. You’re at college to study, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a break and recharge.
Friends will come and go, even within the short time of freshman year.
At the same time, it’s surprisingly easy to have friends drift away, even when they’re (physically) quite close by. Friends will come and go, even within the short time of freshman year, and that’s something I wish I’d been more aware of going into college. It’s not necessarily a bad thing when people drift away–everyone is new to each other coming into college, and it makes sense that friendships are fluid in the beginning. People will change and float around between groups, but that doesn’t mean you have to let people drift away if you want to be close with them. Just remember that though someone may live down the hall, that doesn’t mean you can neglect the friendship.
Call your family. That much is obvious. But when I left for college I didn’t anticipate how much I would enjoy talking to my parents on the phone. I probably talk to my parents on the phone three or four hours a week, because for me it’s a way to keep up with them and feel connected to home (it’s also really nice when I’m frustrated with someone that I can call and complain to my mom, and I know she won’t report back anything I say into the campus rumor mill!).
But not everyone needs or wants to be constantly texting and calling their parents. Figure out what works for you and your family, and work with it. If you need to find a set time to call home every week, do that. If that feels too rigid, find something more flexible. The important thing is just that you maintain connections and keep in touch.
Of all the surprises of my freshman year, the pet rats were probably the biggest. A girl down the hall from me had a pet rat and had gotten a new cage, so I put her old one down in my room to see if there’d be any space for me to get rats next semester when I’d have a little more room in my dorm. I had really liked playing with her rat and thought I might like my own, but it was really just a hypothetical until, lo and behold, a week later I had two little baby rats in my room.
Creating a space for another creature to play in was a great way to center me and help me relax.
I ended up loving having pets freshman year (although my roommate was less than thrilled). They’re sweet to cuddle and play with, and it feels good to take care of something. Cleaning out the cage at the end of the week is a relaxing routine to kickstart me cleaning my own room, and when I felt overwhelmed with school stress and finals, I would open up their cage and set up new toys, shelves, bridges, and other fun things for them to play with. Creating a space for another creature to play in was a great way to center me and help me relax. Not all colleges will allow you to have pets, but some will, and keeping a fish, bird, or rodent in your room can be a great way to feel like you’re caring and nurturing something while you experience college.
This summer is a great opportunity for me to recharge from the year, but it’s also a time for me to look back on the freshman year and see all that I’ve learned. I definitely don’t have the full picture of college yet. But I had a great first year, and I’m excited to go back in the fall!