Some college first years thrive with this new found freedom. They find it easy to meet people, join groups and clubs they are passionate about, and flourish without the same restrictions they lived with at home. These students seem to transition seamlessly to a completely different lifestyle. But, for others the first quarter of college can be an uncomfortable, lonely time that seems to go by at an unbearably slow pace.
My hopes for the current first-years at Cal Poly is that their transitions into college life are as seamless and positive as possible. However, it is important to remember that it is completely normal to feel overwhelmed by the changes occurring in your life. However, these overwhelming feelings of discomfort will pass, and as appealing as going home to a familiar, comfort may look, do not make the trip too early.
For a majority of Cal Poly students, home isn’t too far away. Most students live a three or four hour car ride away. My car ride home is three hours and I’ve already made the drive home once this fall quarter. Going home this year seemed trivial to me. I had to pick up some things from home and watch my dog for a night. I didn’t even see my parents because they were out of town. It was relaxing, and maybe even a little productive. But, I couldn’t stop thinking about how detrimental to my mental health the same short trip would’ve been just a year ago.
I think the biggest overload of mixed emotions I have ever experienced was in my first week of college. Looking back, the reasons I was having a hard time weren’t the ones I expected them to be. It wasn’t that I was having a hard time making friends, or that I hated having a roommate or that I disliked the food so much it sent me into tears — I was miserable because I wasn’t handing change as well as I thought I would.
I compared everyone that I met to my friends at home. I compared new friendships to ones that had been developing for years. I was mad at myself for not having a busy routine like I did in high school. I had never before beaten myself up like I did those first few weeks of college. But, the emotions that were completely abnormal to me were part of a completely normal reaction to such a major change in my life.
Eventually, I learned to not compare everything that I had at home to what I had at university. As classes started, I got into a routine, balancing classes, homework, extracurriculars and downtime. I took interest in classes, met more people living in my dorm and in my major, and forced myself to stop comparing my month-long friendships to my best ones. I focused on my new life, instead of my old one.
If I had gone home after those first few weeks instead of diving deeper into my life at Cal Poly, I would have been pulled back into the sad part of myself that missed what used to be. As corny as it sounds, be grateful that you have something to miss and enjoy the opportunities sitting in front of you. As gratifying as a quick trip home can look, if you’re not in the right headspace, it can reset your transition progress and make settling in even harder.