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Opinion | Dear first-years: don't worry you will eventually find your way

If the Shew Fits

By Sarah Shew
On November 12, 2012

I talked to a friend this weekend who reminded me of myself about two years ago: disheartened with the college experience, feeling alone and unsure if she made the right decision.

I told her, and would tell anyone else with the fall first-year blues, what a wise friend told me:

Stick it out; everything will be fine, trust me.

The first year of college is tough.

I don't mean it's tough because you have to study more than you did in high school or because you have to trek through the rain/snow/mysterious Ohio precipitation at 8 a.m.

I mean it's tough because you're plucked from the place where you know everything and everyone.

Because in high school, you'd been with the same people since kindergarten, your teachers knew your big brother and your mom cooked you breakfast every Sunday.

You'd most likely never been in a place where you knew no one, or even almost no one. Then you get to college.

You're tossed into this amazing, exciting, yet somewhat scary place where you're expected to gracefully slide into new friendships and social settings involving intense alcohol consumption.

You're expected to easily figure out how to manage your time, without teachers or parents or high school activities dictating your schedule.

You're expected to figure out how to balance papers, friends and beers.

You're expected to call Mom and Dad, and come home, but not too often.

You're expected to be social, but productive.

You're expected to do all this and more, while maintaining the kind of grades that will get you into any Ivy League medical school.

Has anyone taken a moment to think about that, seriously?

Oh, and throw in the little detail that you have to learn to live with someone you hardly know, in a room the size of a shoebox.

It's insane.

Yes, it's insane, but it's incredible. It's a year where you'll learn more about yourself than you ever thought.

You'll learn about the kind of person you are.

You'll learn about the kind of person you hope to be.

You'll learn about the kind of people with whom you want to surround yourself.

Looking back, I wish I could have told myself those things. I worried too much.

I stressed over small details of papers, studied using poor methods and spent about six months testing various, terrible ways to manage, or improperly use my time.

I worried about whether or not I was happy at Miami, and if I made the right choice.

I worried about looming deadlines instead of just doing my work.

I worried about things with my boyfriend.

I worried about things with my ex-boyfriend.

I worried I was upsetting my roommate.

I even worried that my dog at home would forget me.

I am seriously surprised that I made it out of my first year of college alive, with no brain aneurisms, heart attacks or grey hair.

But an acquaintance, who since has become a very close friend, told me basically to relax.

She was a junior, as I am now. She said that it takes time to settle in to college life, to get over the break-up feeling we experience when leaving home for the first time.

She said that every year of college, she felt more confident in herself and her choices.

She felt each year a clearer direction of who she wanted to be and what she wanted to do.

She said that for her, the first year was a stepping-stone that she needed to understand herself.

When I was upset or worried for the rest of my first year, I thought about that.

I had an amazing time, and cultivated friendships that will last long after graduation.

I won't say that my first year was easy, but it was worth it.

So to anyone experiencing homesickness or the feeling of being lost, I say, remember that it's all a stepping-stone, a lesson.

You can and will succeed here.

There are amazing people to meet, and amazing times to be had.

These four years will fly past you so quickly that you may miss them if you don't seize the opportunity to live them to the fullest.

We are so blessed to be at this place in our lives, the transition between being someone's responsibility and being responsible ourselves.

So don't panic about your grades, but do your work in the best way you can.

Don't go out every night, but enjoy yourself.

Don't worry too much about what you're going to do with your life, because you'll find your way.

If you're a planner like me, this is the hardest thing to do, but right now, letting go and letting life happen is the scariest, most rewarding thing you can do.

Sometimes it may be almost terrifying.

But college is about feeling lost in a way.

And our kind of lost is the most amazing, exciting kind.

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