By Laura D’Angelo
If you’re a freshman and you’re reading this, congratulations! That means you’ve successfully survived your first few days as a Binghamton University student without getting kicked out, having to call your parents to bring you home, or being found passed out on a table in C4 at four in the morning. (Okay, maybe the third one happened.) Regardless, you’ve gotten through your first couple of days of college in one piece. WOO! The following thoughts may have crossed your mind from time to time:
“What in the world am I doing here?”
“Is it too late to go back to 2nd grade?”
“Is it normal to call up my mom crying?”
“Why is my class in the Fine Arts building impossible to find?”
“Will the dining hall food ever stop making me feel like I want to vomit?”
“Am I actually going to be able to do this?”
If you’ve asked yourself any of those questions, take a deep breath and stop yourself from panicking. Coming from a former lost and homesick freshman, trust me when I tell you that it’s perfectly normal for you to be feeling some of those emotions. First semester of freshman year is one of the most nerve-wracking periods of a kid’s life up to that point. You’re literally plopped out of the comfortable home life that you’ve known forever and onto this intimidatingly big campus having never lived on your own before, and yet no one really prepared you for how big of an adjustment it’s going to be. You have intentions of finding people that you’ll fit in with smoothly. You’re hoping that they’ll become good friends that you’ll share some good times with while you’re here. You want to be able to do well in your classes, oh, and hopefully figure out your whole career path, while finding something productive to get involved with that will benefit said planned career. And during all of this, you’re hoping that the college experience you build for yourself is going to amount to all those expectations that old people tell you when they say, “Ah, college years were the best years.” That’s a lot of expectations to hold yourself accountable to. With that said, it’s totally normal to get a little overwhelmed during a time of such uncertainty. So, take it from your average freshman survivor. Here are a couple of tips that I either used or would’ve gone back and given myself during my first semester of college.
1. Keep in mind that it takes time to build close friendships with people
This is something that a lot of people tend to forget when they go away to college, partly because of outside expectations and partly because of internal expectations you build up in your head when comparing your newfound friendships to the old ones you left back at home. But here’s the thing you have to realize: you didn’t make your best friends in high school over the span of a couple of weeks, or even months. Those are old friends that you’ve had for years, maybe even since kindergarten. So it’s kind of crazy to assume that you’re going to get to college and have these automatic, built-in, unbreakable friendships that are all going to stick within the first couple of days. That’s part of the comfort of being home that you have to get used to not having. So even though it’s easy to, try not to stress too hard over finding the,”right people,” right away, because chances are, they’re just as nervous as you are too, which brings me to my next tip:
2. Remember that a lot more people than you think are feeling the exact same way that you are, despite the impressions their social media may give off.
I can not stress this point enough. Going away to college is scary enough already, but for us millennials, the bar is set even higher when you add in the factor of feeling obligated to document every single fun moment you’re experiencing in order to prove to your peers and yourself that “college-you” is in fact thriving. Social media is a hotbed for self-validation. It’s a place people turn to when they’re looking for a confidence boost. This means that at the beginning stages of your college experience, you’re going to scroll through your phone and see lots, and lots, and lots of posts that scream,”LOOK AT ME! I’M HAVING THE BEST TIME EVER,” whether it be through Snapchat stories of crazy parties late at night or Instagram pictures of people posing glamorously in front of their dorm dressers with their new squads. When you’re feeling homesick, social media could be pretty frustrating because it makes you question yourself. “Everyone else seems to be having nothing but a whole lot of fun, what’s wrong with me?” But you have to keep in mind that no digital perception is a completely true one. Take it from me. While at the height of my “I miss my doggy and comfy house and home-cooked meals and teachers that actually knew my name” phase, my two best friends from home, who I thought were doing just fine at their colleges, opened up to me about some of their struggles with adjusting to being away, and I couldn’t believe it. They were homesick too? But they looked like they were having a blast, and they said the exact same thing to me. When you’re expected to keep up a certain front because it’s what everyone else is doing, it’s not easy to address your emotions because you think you’re the only one who’s feeling them. But the important thing is to be honest with yourself and others. It’s difficult, especially when you’re not completely comfortable with everyone just yet, but you’re allowed to be vulnerable and admit that there are things you miss about home. You’d be surprised; more people than you think will admit to feeling the same way, and when you remember that everyone really is in the same boat, it makes you feel a whole lot better.
3. Be prepared for your classes and you’ll feel better
Okay, this is my boring and cliché tip that’s probably making you roll your eyes, but classes are kind of the whole reason that you’re here, right? Still, from being so overwhelmed with everything else you might be dealing with, it’s easy to let yourself fall behind, or even just not care. But you want to know the one thing that is far worse than being hopelessly homesick during your first semester of college? Being hopelessly homesick and flunking out of most of your classes on top of that. Don’t get me wrong; I know that Binghamton is a tough school. But even if you’re majoring in biochemistry or calculus, or rocket science (wait that’s not actually a thing right?), or some rigorous subject of that sort, there has to be at least one or two “easy A” gen-eds that you’re enrolled in, and you can do great in those as long as you stay on top of that syllabus that they gave you on the first day of classes. That thing should be like your Bible. If you don’t know where it is, find it, read it, learn it, and love it, because once your professors hand it to you, you’re held accountable to all of those deadlines. But don’t let the thick pages freak you out, because it gives you the full capacity to get a head start on what you need to get done. Have a paper due in two weeks? Finish a rough copy a week before so you could bring it to office hours and have your professor literally grade it before they actually grade it. Test in a month on the first six chapters of your textbook? Sure, a month’s a long time, but why not get the readings done in advance to give yourself a couple of days to review all of the material, rather than tragically trying to jam it all into your head the night before? It’s easy to get distracted with all the activity that happens in your dorm, but that’s what Bartle’s for. If you’re not forcing yourself to sit in the library for a couple of hours here and there, start doing it, because in the midst of being homesick during this quite confusing time, it feels a lot better to get a good grade handed back to you rather than a sucky one.
4. It’s okay to be homesick. It makes you stronger and wiser, and you will get over it.
I’m a firm believer in the notion that every experience has meaning behind it, and getting through your classic case of first semester freshman blues can actually be an extremely positive one in the long run. It may be hard for you to see it right now, but trust me when I tell you that you are going to get over your homesickness, no matter how severe it may be. For me, feeling homesick enabled me to do a couple of things: appreciate home more, become comfortable with the uncomfortable, take chances on getting involved with activities I would’ve never thought to try, and develop a period of my life that I can now always look back on and laugh about. It’s actually pretty great to reminisce and be able to compare your life now to a time when you were a whole lot less happy. So don’t sweat it if you’re confused right now, if you feel like this is the scariest place ever, if you’re yearning for your comfy bed at home, or if you really just can’t see what the future holds. If I got through it, I know you definitely can. Just keep an open mind and hold onto that optimism and patience, and I promise you that this big campus will become your home sooner than you think, and this unfamiliar life will gradually become one that you can proudly call yours.