Many people think that, from reading my blog or having one conversation with me, I hate college. They think that my first year was awful and then they shoot me this stare, wide-eyed and full of pity. This post is going to dispel some of these misconceptions about my perspectives on college and give some advice to those of you froshies heading off soon to face the big bad world.
I am the world’s worst liar. I really just can’t do it. I used to be better at it, but I think I’ve grown to the point where my instincts are always inclined to be real, to say what’s on my mind. So much so, that I don’t know how to lie well anymore. Or, at all.
So, when people would ask me how college was going or how I liked Richmond, I was never able to say, “It’s great!” with ease. I would hesitate, and by the time I decided it wasn’t worth getting into, that no one wants to hear about my struggles, the hesitation was too obviously not positive. I was honest.
I told mostly everyone I talked to the truth, that I was struggling with a lot in regards to my mental health and that was tainting the whole experience for me. I told them that I didn’t vibe with college too well, that I didn’t really fit into the culture. And, I told them how much I missed being in a city. Not 15 minutes away, but really REALLY in a city. Everyone was so kind and sympathetic.
But, starting out a conversation with all of that and then leading into the parts I really enjoyed (like being on my own, being in student government, and some really amazing courses), doesn’t usually make up for the first impression. I distinctly remember one of my friends from high school telling another friend of mine, who will be attending Richmond this year as a freshman, not to ask me anything about my experience because I “hated the school.” That couldn’t be more wrong and it saddened me to think that I painted such a negative picture of UofR.
The school itself is incredible. I honestly can’t find one thing wrong with it except for the fact that the administration is TOO helpful and accommodating. The things that hurt my experience were two things almost completely separate from UofR… American college culture and my own declining mental health.
Nothing is black and white. When people still ask me how my first year went, I am never quick to say positive things but just as equally I am never quick to say negative things either. So much happened that it can’t be boiled down to a thumbs up or a thumbs down. I am pretty excited to go back for round two and see what my college experience is like with a fresh pair of eyes.
I wouldn’t trade the past year for anything. Whatever path you are going down after high school, it’s going to be hard. I think that preparing for that difficulty is just as important as getting yourself excited. My advice to those of you heading off to college for the first time is this: don’t get discouraged for too long. If, and notice how I say “if” because every single experience is different, you get knocked down a couple of times while away from home, come back fighting harder. I think one of the biggest mistakes I made, partly because of my depression that made it nearly impossible to avoid, was that I got discouraged way too easily and gave up too early.
I freaked out and blamed myself for not making friends so quickly as everyone else appeared to be (FIRST, no one can be best friends after one month and SECOND, many friendships made first semester are formed from drunken hazes and therefore may not be long-term). Then I isolated myself and told myself it was everyone else’s fault besides my own. I wonder what my experience would have been like if I had just swallowed my pride and tried over and over again until something stuck.
But, I have no regrets. Like I said, I wouldn’t trade my past year for anything. It has shaped me in so many ways and brought about so many connections that it was all worth it. I mean, this blog wouldn’t even exist if I hadn’t gone through (or wasn’t still going through) everything from this past year.
You may not understand my advice right now, it’s probably all excitement and jitters, but you will understand it at least at one point during this upcoming year. And, I’m always waiting for people to slide into my DMs needing some love and support!