I’m leaving for the summer in exactly one week. By 12 pm next Friday, I will have packed up my things, cleaned out my drawers and cabinets, and left Wolman Hall for the last time. Never to sleep in my bed, go for a run on the treadmill in the fitness center, or make crepes in the kitchen ever again. My freshman year of college is pretty much officially over.
I remember, in the months before I left for Hopkins, I scoured the internet for college advice, both general and Hopkins-specific. What classes should I take? What should I bring? What clubs should I join? What meal plan should I get? What shouldn’t I bring? I wanted to know, before I even arrived on campus, exactly what to expect. I was beyond excited to finally be an independent adult, away from home, free from adult supervision, and I was determined to make the most of that opportunity.
As the months went by, I realized that no amount of internet advice could have prepared me for what I actually encountered. College is weird, guys. It can be a roller-coaster ride, completely unpredictable yet absolutely exhilarating. It can also be boring and frustrating and extremely hard. Looking back, in some ways I feel utterly satisfied with my freshman year, proud of everything I’ve accomplished and excited for whatever happens next, in some ways I feel even more confused than I was at the beginning of the year. What I can say for sure is that I’ve learned a lot, both inside and outside the classroom. And as much as I believe you can’t prepare yourself for college by reading lists of advice from random internet blogs, I figured I’d share some of the things I’ve learned in the hopes of helping future college-bound people do just that. You know, just in case.
Don’t compare yourself to other people. There is no “typical college experience.” Don’t feel like you’re missing out just because you never go to lacrosse games or work in a research lab. Sure, maybe most students do these things, but your time at Hopkins won’t be any less meaningful if you don’t. At first, I felt like the fact that I wasn’t friends with my roommate was a bad thing, and that it somehow diminished the quality of my freshman year, but I don’t think I missed out on anything because of it. Not everyone is going to experience college in the exact same way, and that’s perfectly fine
Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Don’t do something just because everyone else is doing it or force yourself to like something just because everyone else likes it. Be true to yourself no matter what and don’t be ashamed to be different. Most of my friends are engineers, and for a while I wanted nothing more than to fit in with them. I never really considered changing my major, but I tried to force myself to like math and found myself glorifying engineers and desperately wishing I was one. Once I embraced my true passions–writing, social justice, using my strengths to help others–I was a lot happier.
Take some time for yourself. Or rather, don’t be afraid of being by yourself. In college, since everyone lives together, eats together, studies together, basically does everything together, it can feel like if you do something alone, you’re doing it wrong. In high school, I was always perfectly happy to spend Friday night in my room reading or watching Netflix, but in college I felt like since everyone else was going out every single weekend, I had to, too. I can promise you that there’s nothing wrong with staying in just because you feel like it (or because you have to study, which will probably happen more than once tbh). As an introvert, sometimes I need to take the time to decompress after a week of socializing and being around people 24/7. Once I got comfortable with that, my life became a lot less stressful.
Take risks. Be spontaneous. I know I’ve blogged about this before, but out of everything I’ve done at Hopkins, the things I’ve done pretty much on a whim–going to the women’s march, joining a sorority, becoming a news editor–have been some of the best and most rewarding experiences. If an exciting-sounding opportunity comes up, take it, even if it scares you or it’s not something you’d usually do.
Things aren’t always going to go exactly the way you want. I got rejected from a whole bunch of internships and programs I applied for. I didn’t get into the Intersession classes I wanted. I didn’t get my first choice sophomore dorm. I could go on. It’s natural to be depressed at first when things don’t work out–I definitely was–but wallowing in misery takes away from appreciating what you do have, and keeps you from going out and finding new opportunities. I ended up getting a summer internship that I’m super excited for, the Intersession classes I did take were super interesting, and Charles Commons is probably better than Homewood Apartments anyway. You can’t avoid the low points in life, you can only trust that a high point is just around the corner and get ready to enjoy it when it comes.
Slow down. Busier isn’t always better. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself, eating healthy, getting exercise, hanging out with friends, getting enough sleep. Sometimes, this is very hard. Sometimes, it is impossible. Try anyway.
Do what you love. Whatever you’re passionate about, find a way to do it on campus. If you don’t know what you’re passionate about, try lots of things until you find it. Find other people that love it, too. College is basically a segue between childhood and adulthood, where you have more responsibilities but you’re not entirely on your own, which makes it the perfect opportunity to discover what you want to be doing for the rest of your life. You don’t have to figure it out immediately–I haven’t–but getting involved and doing things you love with people you like will certainly put you on the right track.
I could go on, but it’s 11:42 and this blog is due by midnight. Maybe this advice was helpful, maybe you knew all these things already, maybe your college experience will be completely different from mine so none of this is relevant. Whatever the case, it definitely helped me evaluate the past year by writing it all out, and if I can make even one future college student feel a little more confident or a little less nervous, then my mission has been accomplished. I guess this concludes my last blog of the year; I can’t say I’m not relieved to take a break over the summer and recharge. But for now, it’s still finals week, so I’m not going anywhere.