Looking back to my first year at Fairfield, there is so much advice running through my mind as to what to share with current students now – so many things I wish I would have known or someone would have told me.
I suppose what comes first to mind is to not expect it to feel like “the best four years of your life” as soon as you step foot on the campus. So many parents and family members look back and share only the fondest memories of college, and I think that a lot of first year students come into Fairfield with very high expectations.
I remember coming to campus, for instance, and being fully confident that I would meet a group of friends, similar to those I met in high school. I would socialize every weekend, excel in my classes and have a laidback schedule, which would allow me the time to partake in countless shenanigans with my friends.
I remember thinking that everyday would feel like a sleepover with my roommate and new friend, and the possibilities were endless as to all the fun we would have together.
No one likes to tell you that your first year at college may actually be the hardest year of your life. Which for me, it was.
I found out that meeting that great group of friends can take a long time and that reinventing yourself isn’t as easy as you may think. I found out that your roommate may cause more heartache than laughter and that the career plans I laid out for myself could unravel within an instant. I learned that people will come and go and classes take up a lot of your time, and that if you don’t actually prioritize spending time with friends you may find yourself never doing so.
I learned that being at rock bottom is the hardest and scariest thing to ever experience as an eighteen year old. But I learned and can see now, looking back, the beauty which quickly follows in building yourself back up.
I learned that college may not feel like “the best four years of your life” when you’re a first year or sophomore, but it is a time of growth. Everything may not feel right from the very beginning, there will probably be struggle, and that’s okay.
Because with struggle and pain, comes strength. You find your own voice, you repeatedly put yourself out there until you find that group of friends you can rely on, you take the time to try out different classes and pursue a major you love, and you simply focus on one day at a time.
I wish someone had told me that it was normal to be struggling my first year. I wish someone had reminded me to just take it one step at a time and everything would work out — because it does, everything works out.
Part of this was my fault, as I was embarrassed and I didn’t let many people see that I was struggling.
Choosing to be a New Student Leader as a sophomore to help first year students transition taught me a valuable lesson. So many students struggle their first year and it’s completely normal.
I think it honestly is part of the college experience and leads to a whole new level of maturity and grace. Sometimes you have to get through the storm to see the rainbow.
And whether or not you are struggling as a first year student or you met that great group of friends on your second day, none of it reflects your character or worth.
Everyone’s situation is different and it’s honestly kind of a whole game of luck.
I guess if I were to leave you with one big piece of advice, it’s to not be hard on yourself if you’re still struggling and to know that you will come out the other end stronger and more capable than you went in. Sometimes it just takes a little time for college to feel like “the best four years of your life.”
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