Thursday, September 7, 2017

Dear Freshman Me {A Letter to My Freshmen Self}

 Last Tuesday was the first time I went to Furman and felt out of place. Since I am taking grad school classes there while teaching I had a reason to be there but it was hard. Seeing that Furman continued to go on even after we left was something we knew would happen but my friends and I discussed how hard it was to see it so soon after leaving. One of the weirdest parts was realizing the all those freshman walking around were people that we would likely not get to know and would probably be experiencing Furman in a different way than we did. Moral of the story? Let the wound of graduating heal before heading back on campus. Maybe I'm in a bit of denial considering this weekend I finally changed my instagram bio from college blogger and still have photos on my phone that I can't bring myself to put into a senior year Facebook album 1. because it's really delayed and 2. because I'd be admitting it's actually over. Despite how much I'd love to do it all over again I think it is about time I came to terms with reality. If I knew then what I know now. As a 22 year old recent college graduate I won't even for half a second pretend that I've got things all figured out, but throughout college I learned a lot of textbook material and even more about myself that I wish I could tell myself as I was going through it. Hindsight is always 20/20, isn't it?


Dear Dorothy,

Congratulation on making it through high school. While it was a good experience for you with a lot of opportunities and friendships Furman is one of the best decisions you could've made for yourself. It will be hard at times to see friends at Alabama and Auburn constantly running into one another and experiencing recruitment sooner on in their experience and football games that people actually attend but you won't want to exchange your tight knit experience with that of being another face in the crowd. Trust your gut even on the days you question being eight hours away from home with very few people you know. The adjustment to college will be a bit more challenging than you'll expect but you'll be thankful for the time management skills you develop from learning to balance classes and all the free time that is suddenly yours during freshman year. 

It is completely acceptable to focus on quality over quantity when it comes to friendships but don't sit in your dorm room the first nights of college expecting someone to come in and introduce themselves and instantly make friends, take it upon yourself to take the initiative. Through this experience though, you'll quickly realize that one of your very best friends (who will continue to hold that title even after college) just happens to be the person with her bed across from yours who you fall asleep talking to at night and whose alarm wakes you both up the next morning. Don't take this for granted but know that even when your time as roommates comes to an end this will still be the person that you call every other week to have 3 hour phone calls with just to catch up on every detail of what they've been up to and neither of you will know how to hang up and end the conversation because as roommates you knew the conversation would continue the following morning. Rely on your friends and be intentional with them because when you deal with challenges they are who you will come crying to or look for to eat a meal with you even though they've already eaten. Ignore the fact that college will still be cliquey and do your best to not let it get you down since most of the time it's due to convenience and not exclusivity. Also know that you'll make one of your best friends junior year and it is never too late to add more people to your circle. You'll be thankful to get another opportunity to live with some of your closest friends after graduation and will be so grateful to have the one friend that became one of your best friends junior year in the same city with you post grad!

Allow yourself to fail. No, don't fail your classes but be open to the idea of things not always working in your favor because in reality, it's about time. In high school things worked out in your favor more than they maybe should have. There are so many opportunities on campus with clubs and extracurriculars but with so many students who are used to being the ones who did everything in high school, got awards on awards day, and were used to getting everything you're bound to sometimes have things not work out in your favor. Yes it's ok to be bummed when you don't get something you apply for but also realize that the time you're not spending doing that will be able to be spent on other activities and leadership roles making it worthwhile.

Take classes about things you're genuinely interested in earlier on in your college career. It may have allowed you to realize that despite majoring in education being something you are capable of and enjoy in the classroom you'd be less afraid to change your major and try something you are truly passionate about. Realize that you don't have to finish your GERs (general education requirements) right away although there is a lot of convenience with that. Take the communication and digital illustration classes that sound interesting to you while looking at the course catalogue. You'll realize that senior year when you finally do this that it would've been helpful to discover how interesting these courses were to you much earlier on. If you were to do it all again and were able to go back for a second round your major would be different this time around. Be thankful for parents who support you with your decisions as well as your varied interest to maybe eventually take a job that has nothing to do with your major but instead better aligns with your passions because you'll realize that not everyone has that support.

Don't let people box you in, you'll be proud of yourself for proving them wrong and pushing outside of your comfort zone in the process. Freshman and sophomore year you'll stay within your comfort zone a lot. While that's not a bad thing, junior and senior year are a lot more fun because you're tired of people forming their own opinion of you without knowing you. Be open about exactly who you are and stop hiding the fact that you have a blog because people are much more receptive to passions of that nature than they were in high school. Come senior year it will be the topic of a number of conversations even if there is still a tinge of confusion or judgement but also don't let them pin you down as a blogger and just that. Do the way out of your comfort zone contest that you joked about doing at the kitchen counter with your roommates while avoiding studying for a math test and know that even if people do put you and your personality in a box it's because they haven't taken the time to get to know you.

Be real about what you're going through. You'll later be surprised to hear just how many of your friends were mentally and physically exhausted after sophomore year from living on the hall with your friends non stop. Despite everyone  categorizing this as one of the best parts of greek life there are times when everyone felt the way I did and had we voiced that sooner we would have realized there's no reason not to feel isolated because of those feelings. Don't put up a front about having it all together because you probably don't and upon entering the real world that has never felt more real.

Don't let people saying that college should be the best four years of your life affect the way you look at what you're doing now. There is a lot of pressure that comes with a statement like that and honestly every moment isn't going to feel like the best ever. It's unfair to yourself to put that kind of pressure on yourself. While yes, college is a ton of fun and you should try to make that a priority I think that it would be better to consider whatever time frame you're experiencing now as the best x years of your life. I wish I had realized this earlier on in my college experience since it made me question whether or not I was doing it "right" and there really is no right way to experience something since your experience is based on your own interpretation. Maybe that's just me but I'd rather not box my most fun years into one set time frame since it makes the future seem less optimistic.

Even after long weeks when you're exhausted, months that are far from the best, and weekends where you had too much fun that they flew by leaving you unprepared for the following week each day will come with a new set of challenges and opportunities. Take advantage of them while you can!



Some tips to the current college undergrad:

1. Take advantage of free stuff and your meal plan. The real world has a lot fewer opportunities for free things that it seems like college campuses are constantly offering. Also make sure your meal plan becomes your best friend. Cooking after working all day is not my idea of fun hence why I prep all of my meals the Sunday before so that all I have to do is heat them up and sometimes even that feels like more effort than I'm willing to exert. Stand and wait in 4 different lines so that you have 8 very random food options on your plate because before you know it a meal that you haven't cooked and one with variety will be a lot less common.

2. Do things for yourself and not your resume. This may sound like the opposite of what you'd expect to hear but make the choices of your major, extracurriculars, and internships based on what will interest you and build you up as a person instead of just looking good on your resume. Yes, being president of my sorority looks good on my resume but is the skills and responsibility it taught me that allow me to convince people of that, not the title.

3. Call your parents and don't forget to thank them for the little things you miss the most. When my parents came to visit me during my Parent's Weekend freshman year they admitted to me (and themselves) that they had been way overly nice to one another since they weren't quite used to what it would be like living at home without me. Thank your mom for doing your laundry, cooking delicious meals (see number 1), always being right. Thank your dad for dealing with car maintenance, never failing to make you laugh, and always encouraging a second bowl of ice cream. You'll miss them more than you think and will be trying to convince them that a post grad parent's weekend is necessary just so that you can see them more than every 3 months.

4. Do something everyday just for you. If that's sitting in your room with your lights out and an episode of a tv show on, do it. If it's going off campus to workout, do it. If it's getting off campus to work at a coffee shop, taking a walk around the lake, taking a bath (although if you're in a dorm be sure to clean the bath tub first), going for a drive, staking out at your favorite table in the library, do it! This is good for your personal health.
5. Have fun. After graduation you'll realize all of the opportunities there were for you to have fun with little effort and planning since all of your favorite people lived within spitting distance of you. Now, I feel like having fun is almost a chore (but worth it). You don't have plans made for you constantly and your friends may be more spread out. this summer my parents jokingly told me, "you took college way too seriously." Honestly, they are probably right. Junior and senior year I chose to step out of my shell and branch out more and it was so worth it. Yes, I was stressed frequently but despite junior year being so stressful (I had stress rashes on my arms and legs to prove it and who knew that was even a thing) I look back at those times with fond memories because I was still able to do fun things to decompress. Don't graduate and have your parents tell you that "you took college too seriously" but on the flip side it's not meant to last forever so make sure you take it seriously enough.


Here's to freshman year in the real world with lots to learn. If you're still in college, have some fun for me, be efficient with your work, and invest in yourself and others. You won't believe that it goes by too fast until it's over so remember that even when the days feel long. 

4 comments :

  1. As much as I hate my college's food, it is quite convenient.
    Kate || KATE KOUTURES

    ReplyDelete
  2. Starting college this year at a very large commuter school. A lot of days when m last class is over everyone just leaves, it makes it hard to create new friendships. Despite that I love college so far, and I am trying to take advantage of the short period of time I have there

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  3. Love this post, Dorothy! I just started my freshman year at Clemson so I will definitely be keeping this in mind!

    xoxo,
    Katie
    chicincarolina.blogspot.com 

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