115 days, 5 classes, and 1 new city later, and I am finally finished with my first semester at Hopkins. It is truly amazing how much a life can change in such short period of time. In some respects I often felt like my whole life was leading up to college, like college was more of an endpoint or destination than a simple milestone. I was so focused on getting there, on getting in where I wanted and finishing out high school, that I never really pictured the act of being at college. So, dear reader, I would like to give you some insight into the ambiguous noun that is “college”. While I am no expert on the topic, I do think that these 115 days have taught me a few things:
- You’re kinda sorta grown up, but not really.
Freshman year is weird. It’s this awkward stage between being largely dependent on your parents, and being entirely independent (like paying rent and taxes and owning an iron and all that way-too-real stuff). You’re on your own for the most part, but you still have your meals made for you, guaranteed housing, and RAs available just in case there’s a bug in your room that you’re still a little too scared to squish. You feel like a total grown-up when you do your laundry, remember to set your alarm, and “take out the trash” a.k.a. move it from the bin in your room to the one two feet away in the hallway. You swear you’re at least 46-years-old when you make a to-do list and actually follow it, especially because it even included changing your sheets (which you really didn’t think you could do because the fitted one is super hard to get over the last corner). And remember that one time you Lysol Wipe’d your desk? Yeah, we all remember, because you told your mom 4 times on the phone just to make sure she heard you the first 3 times.
2. You are never alone.
The whole friend thing can seem super daunting. There are tons of new people to meet, but at first it can feel a little lonely. Your high school friends may be all over the country or even all over the world, and that can feel really isolating. But instead of curling up in bed and watching the Food Network while you scarf down microwave popcorn, remember that the best thing you can do is put yourself out there. One of the most important things I’ve learned so far is that loneliness is just a mindset. You are totally capable of changing it – it’s just a matter of walking out of your dorm. The more you sit in your room, the more you miss out on opportunities. And no, I don’t mean opportunities for internships or job offers or whatever someone once made you think college was all about. I mean opportunities for connections with people you never thought you would have something in common with, or for seeing a new part of the city with someone you only met twice, or for simply making a friend by sitting next to them in the dining hall and commenting on how pretty they made their omelette (you are basically a Food Network judge, after all).
3. You have so much time to figure things out.
I feel like I need to repeat this one just to make sure it gets through: you have so much time to figure things out. Like I previously mentioned, I used to feel like college was some sort of endpoint. I thought I would have my whole life all decided, and then all I would have to do was attend college and that’s it. I’m done. The end. But fortunately, that is not the case. I applied to Hopkins with the full intent of being a Writing Seminars major. Somewhere between applying and getting in, however, I realized that I have absolutely no idea what I want to do. It takes me at least 16 minutes to choose a shirt in the morning. I spend 234% more time than the average person trying to choose what I want at a restaurant. In basically every aspect of my life, I may as well have “undecided” stamped across my forehead. So when I glanced at the list of majors yet again after I decided to go to Hopkins, I realized that only one major was my true calling: Undecided.
It took me awhile to become comfortable with my fate; “undecided” was so against everything I ever associated with college. But after attending college for one semester, I can safely say that being undecided is totally okay, and if anything, it is pretty awesome. Because of the open curriculum at Hopkins, I was able to take the strangest assortment of classes known to man, including Intro to Fiction and Poetry, Brain Behavior and Cognition, and Principles of Marketing. Do these courses make any sense together? Maybe by some weird long shot (which I have tried desperately to justify and failed, needless to say). But did I love the variety? Absolutely, and taking this random schedule really did give me a better understanding of many different fields. Most importantly, however, it helped me realize just how much time I have to figure things out. I may not know what I want to be when I grow up, but how can I? I don’t even know what I want for breakfast tomorrow! And that’s okay, because college isn’t an endpoint or a destination – college is a journey. It’s a strange combination of learning how to be independent, connecting with people, and becoming comfortable with the unknown… but that sounds a lot like life.