Real Advice with Real Talk: Struggling with the transition to college
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Dear Real Talk,
I’ve only been at college for a couple of weeks, but I absolutely hate it. I miss my home friends, I miss my dog, I miss my house, and I miss my parents a whole lot more than I thought I would. Nothing feels normal here. I’m overwhelmed by the people and activities and classes. I wasn’t ready for this new phase of life, I just want my old life back. I know it doesn’t work that way, but how do I possibly move forward?
Struggling with the transition to college
My heart goes out to you. Just six years ago I was feeling exactly the same way you are right now. I’m guessing you loved high school. It sounds like you had a great group of friends and a supportive family, and I’m sure a life that you really loved that you weren’t ready to say goodbye to. How does that Winnie the Pooh quote go… “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” You were so lucky to have that wonderful high school experience. Chances are, you’re going to end up feeling the same way when you leave college in four years. Imagine that.
Life transitions are hard, especially when you’re not ready to close the current chapter. We’re rarely ever ready for a new phase of life. But, my friend, this transition is one of the most challenging- because it’s the first big one. If you can do this, then all the other chapters of life that come after will become much, much more manageable. And you absolutely can do this.
Growth comes from grit. It comes from persevering through life’s challenges and coming out the other side stronger. The start of my freshman year of college was miserable. Similar to you, I was not ready to leave my hometown life behind. I was going through a breakup with someone I thought I would be with forever. I felt like I had zero control over my life or my emotions. I look back now and know that was probably my lowest point. But, I grew so much from that change and the sadness I experienced. I learned how to pick myself up and how to trust myself. I learned to love spending time alone, (a concept I could not comprehend before college.) I also made the best friends I’ve had in my entire life. I can honestly say that I would not have the life I had now without that defining, sucky, sad semester.
I love the person I’ve become by undergoing life’s adversities and learning how to make the most of shitty situations, emotions, and moments. I got a little tattoo to commemorate this time in my life. It reads “Lux in Tenebris,” the Latin saying for “light in darkness.” It symbolizes all of the good that came from the bad I experienced those first few months. While I don’t regret anything, there are definitely some ways I could have enjoyed my first semester of college and leaned in a little more. So listen up, I’m here to spill all the advice I wish someone had given me.
Make this your “yes year.”
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of saying yes to things. That was my number one mistake during the first semester of my freshman year. I turned down countless offers to go to parties, grab food at the dining hall, attend a club meeting, and walk to class together. I just wanted to sit in bed, cry, watch netflix, and eat goldfish. I can only imagine how much quicker I would have realized I LOVED college if I had just said yes; allowed myself to come out of my shell and meet friends and experience joy. I have since realized the power of saying yes. Saying yes can lead to meeting your best friend or life partner. Saying yes can give you days and memories you will never stop talking about. Saying yes can result in you moving to another state, discovering a new passion. Saying yes is FUN! Do it more.
Feel your feels, but do NOT let yourself rot away in sadness
Letting yourself feel your emotions is important. “Researchers have established that crying releases oxytocin and endogenous opioids, also known as endorphins. These feel-good chemicals help ease both physical and emotional pain.” Don’t put a mask on and pretend everything is perfect when it’s not. Instagram already does enough of that for us. But don’t let your sadness cancel out your opportunities for happiness. Spend some nights in. Facetime hometown friends, watch a sad movie (maybe with a new friend!) and treat yourself to some TLC. But after a night of that, make a plan with your new roommate or a classmate! Don’t rot in sadness. Rotting is not going to help you long term.
Give yourself a routine, but be flexible.
Creating your new normal will be a massive help during this transition. Maybe go for a walk every morning, or evening! If you have a couple hours in between classes, find your study/homework space (an alcove in the library, cute off-campus coffee shop, etc) instead of going back to your room. Tuesday night trivia anyone? Once you get into a groove, you will feel like you’re regaining control of your life.
Keep up with a hobby you already love.
Stay true to yourself! Transitioning some of your high school hobbies into your college life will provide you with a sense of comfort and normalcy. If you played field hockey in high school, try out for the club team or look into rec fhockey. If you wrote for your school newspaper, search for your university student paper or magazine. If you like doing ceramics, take a pottery class for fun! There are clubs, organizations, and student groups on literally every single corner of campus. And if you feel like it, it’s always fun to try something new!
College is hard, but they say it’s the “best four years of your life” for a reason. If you lean into it, I promise you will have a blast. I’ll leave you with some of my all time favorite Taylor Swift lyrics: “You’re on your own, kid. And you can face this.”