5 Things I Wish I Knew Last Year

If I had a quarter for every time someone assumed my freshman year of college was a breeze, I wouldn’t have to scrounge through my purse for 10 minutes every time I try to park in downtown SLO.

Parking meters suck.

And leaving the place you called home for 17 years can suck, too.

It’s where your parents are, where your pets are, your big bed, and everything that makes you feel comfortable, supported, loved, and at peace. The suddenly all of those things are miles away.

I honestly had no idea what I was getting myself into when I clicked “Accept”. Don’t get me wrong, I love Cal Poly, but my first year of college wasn’t all straight A’s, frat parties, and beach trips.

In fact, it was more like my first C since 7th grade and an Incomplete, pity parties, and post-mono trips to the Health Center.

When I look back on last year I feel a mix of emotions. A lot of not-that-chill things happened, but I also made a lot of great decisions and learned more in those 10 months than I ever could have expected.

Still, there are some things that I wish I had learned in advance or at least accepted more quickly:

1) The first time your identity is challenged in college you’re probably going to have a bit of a mental breakdown. When “who you are” starts changing in high school, well, you have your parents, siblings, and friends to either bring you back or help you push through it and grow. In college, almost everyone around you is practically a stranger. They don’t know the old you, they’ve only scratched the surface of the current you. They wouldn’t understand the difference. So you feel isolated and confused—two of the worst things to feel and a deadly combination. But this is what college is all about. You’re here for an education, sure, but also a transformation into adulthood. Don’t be afraid to question yourself and what you want out of life. Your first year is an extremely formative one and your identity might not be as solidified as you thought.

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This photo, taken by Sam Smith a couple years back, captures the confusion I felt mostly throughout Winter Quarter of my freshman year. Funny thing is, I was still in high school when we did this “gloomy weather” inspired shoot.

(I promise I don’t actually do my hair and makeup like that in real life)

2) The “Freshman 15” isn’t true for everyone. Some people gain weight, some lose weight (what is this sorcery?), and some stay the same. Personally, I gained the Freshman 5 or 6 lbs. But no matter what happens for you, don’t let it get to you. A few extra pounds won’t make you any different whether they are lost or gained. It really is on the inside that counts, and I mean that, as cheesy as it sounds. So as long as you are HEALTHY and HAPPY… stop stressing! If it bothers you that much, try to seek out the healthier options at campus dining (it’s hard, but NOT impossible) or exercise more. And remember, it’s not just you struggling with this.

3) You’re not going to like everyone in your dorm. I know, I know… for the first quarter it’s like, “Oh my gosh, I love all my roommates and floormates! Best tower/hall/dorm ever! *insert tower/hall/dorm name here* for life!!!!” I was literally that girl. My instagram was eyeroll-worthy (more than usual haha). But towards the end of Fall Quarter, I realized it was unrealistic to expect all 60 or so people in my tower to mesh. It took awhile for me to realize that I didn’t have to like everyone and not everyone had to like me. A dorm is literally taking polar opposites of all kinds and stuffing them into a building. Early birds and night owls, SoCal kids and NorCal kids, loners and social butterflies, etc. Sometimes unlikely friendships blossom and sometimes you’re going to want to smack people in the face.

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Thanks, Urban Dictionary!

Typical "first week in the dorms" picture... some of these people turned out to be my close friends, some of them didn't, and some of the people in this picture didn't even live in my dorm. #awkward

Typical “first week in the dorms” picture… some of these people turned out to be my close friends, some of them didn’t, and some of the people in this picture didn’t even live in my dorm. #awkward

4) Homesickness is a thing. In the months prior to when I left the Bay Area for San Luis Obispo I had managed to convince myself that my hometown was the worst place on the planet. I hated the food, the people, the smells, the buildings, all of it. I had this idea in my head that SLO was this “utopia” of sorts, and although it is actually its own little paradise, it’s not perfect. No town is! Still, I wanted out of my hometown and I was 110% sure that I wouldn’t miss a thing. About a month or so into the school year, I missed everything about Silicon Valley. The diversity, my high school’s Homecoming traditions, the tourists taking pictures in front of Apple HQ, etc. I started calling my parents everyday and crying everyday. Eventually I visited home more frequently and got more used to being in a new place, but I think if I had just initially been more realistic about the fact that first year students are supposed to get homesick, it wouldn’t have been as bad. Don’t be naïve.

5) You’re still smart, I promise. Yes, you took Honors and AP classes throughout high school while simultaneously participating in clubs, sports, and ASB… so I know the Quarter System doesn’t seem the least bit daunting. You KNOW busy. You LIVE busy. Well, guess what? You don’t know busy like this. Welcome! To midterms anywhere from Week 2 to Week 8. Finals? Anywhere from Week 6 to the actual university-scheduled “finals week”. When all of this starts piling up and overwhelming you it’s natural to feel stressed and incapable. Your grades might suffer, but don’t worry about it too much. Straight A’s are not all that make you, although you might have thought they did in high school. (I know I did) Even if your GPA drops like a bowling ball from a bell tower, do. not. freak out. It happens to everyone. You’ll fix it and get it together next time or the time after that or the time after that. College is hard.

That’s why it’s college.

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2 thoughts on “5 Things I Wish I Knew Last Year

  1. This is actually great. I was able to resonate with pretty much everything you said, and I’m sure any other college student could too.

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