Written by Hannah Paquette
I made the final trip from the car up the green, carpeted stairway and turned the corner into my new room. The space was larger than I expected it to be for a triple, but I was still unsure of how living with different people would be. I instantly took the bed that sat on it’s own – but it was naive of me to believe that sleeping on a non-bunked bed would be the ultimate factor in helping me adjust to the college lifestyle.
I’ve never truly been in a situation such as this before. I haven’t moved houses or gone to overnight camps in the summer, so I don’t have any experience with being away from home. Back home I’ve had friends that I’ve grown up with before we even started kindergarten, and parents who frequently work at home. Living in a town where I knew almost everyone around me was a blessing and a curse. It would be a rare occasion to go into town without running into anyone I knew, meaning it was nearly impossible to be on my own. Alone time was something I cherished. It was a gift whenever it came along, to have such peace and quiet. I now realize how lucky I was to have everyone around me so often.
Saying goodbye to my family was tough, but in reality I was in for much more of a ride. The first day I stumbled through each orientation event, quietly taking in my surroundings. I had no idea what to do. I was supposed to socialize with my people, but everything was so overwhelming to me. It’s not that I didn’t want to — I like to be around others. But this is only easy for me when I know the people I’m talking to. Otherwise, the introverted half of my personality takes over. I went to bed that night so exhausted, mentally and physically, that I couldn’t even pick up my pen and write in my journal to relieve my stress.
The next day was the same as the one before. I went to all the events I could, slowly creeping out of my shell. It wasn’t working though. That night I noted in my journal, “I’m really struggling to connect with people. The events the college hosts are just large masses of people — and that’s incredibly daunting.” I felt so alone, as if I could never connect with anyone else as well as I did with my friends back home.
I ate by myself twice that day, only to be kindly invited by my roommate to join her and her friends for a meal. It felt was like I was intruding on their dinner, on their own friendships. I felt as if I needed one of my other friends to be with me to survive through this new experience. I drove this idea home in my journal that night; “I really miss home though — I miss my parents, my sister, my dog, my friends. Just the people not even the place.” Somehow, I had hope. “But it will get better.”
And it did get better. Not immediately though. I sat through another lonely breakfast. But I kept going to events and talking with people as much as I could. I built up the courage to ask someone to go to one of the events with me, and we had a lot of fun. We chatted about our majors and where we were from, and I was glad to finally have some actually meaningful conversations. Although I didn’t walk away close friends with any of the people I talked to that day, it was a good first step. That night, my journal ended on a much better note. “Today was a lot better than yesterday. I talked with and met a bunch of cool people today. I’m glad that it is getting easier — because other than the social problems, I really do love it here.”
The entry for the last day of orientation started on the best note any of the days had so far, stating that “The days just keep getting better.” I had finally come across some people who I could see myself becoming good friends with. We ate breakfast together, attended the last parts of orientation, and found ourselves some free time. So I asked, as any one who loves video games would; Who wants to play Mario Kart? This went over well. “This afternoon [my new friend] brought his TV to the common room, and I brought my Switch, and we played Mario Kart and Overcooked with tons of people from our hall.” I had sufficiently figured out the most efficient way to make friends, and I was finally relaxed for once. The way I ended off my entry that night said it all; “Damn. I’m having so much fun.”
Since then, my journal has been filled with happy thoughts and funny stories I’ve collected through my very short time being here. These experiences include ordering Papa John’s too frequently to the dorm (and sometimes putting in the wrong address), playing Shrek 2 for the Playstation 2 (something I never thought I’d say), visiting Walmart at least once a week (while listening to Russian rap), controlling only the keyboard while someone else controlled the mouse in Rainbow Six Siege (a game I’ve literally never heard of until about a week or two ago), binge watching Stranger Things as a group (which I’ve never seen before — I know), and playing an ungodly amount of Fifa (another thing I never thought I’d say).
Don’t let me fool you into thinking that I’ve completely adjusted though — I still have my moments longing for home, for those I left behind. I frequently message my parents (often about my dog), and I Snapchat my friends to keep up with everyone’s new experiences away from home. As hard as the transition has been and continues to be, coming to college has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.