“How’s college? Do you like it?”, asks every person I talk to.
“Yeah I really like it.” Is my usual response.
A true response would take way longer than the time they have and be much more personal than they wanted to know. The true answer is that most of the time it is great. It finally feels normal and I really like my classes and professors. But 15% of the time it straight up sucks. But no one wants to hear that college sucks. And if you are an optimist(like me) or a mathematician( not like me) my off-handed response of “really good” is an accurate average of my time away at school.
It’s widely said that a lot of a person’s personal growth and development happens during their college years. I don’t disagree. In my four months up at school, I know I have grown as an individual immensely. Just like those growing pains and growth spurts that you had as a kid, but instead these are emotional growth spurts, both of which sometimes hurt a lot.
People also say “Oh you will make lifelong friends in college.” Or my favorite, “The friends you make now will be your bridesmaids later!” No one tells you that for a while you will feel like you have fake friends and half friends. No one tells you that if you go to a place where you don’t know a soul, that sometimes it gets lonely. They never say, “You will start to wonder if you smell funny before you actually feel as though you have a couple solid friends.”
I think this provides many people with a false expectation for what college will be like. For example, fireworks will not go off in the background when you first meet your roommate and you will not be instant best friends. I know that I was not at all aware of the sub-clauses in those general comments everyone makes about college. I went into college thinking I would totally have it all together by day 10. Be involved, check. Make friends, check. Ace your classes, check. Grow, check. And by grow I do not mean in your waistline from the freshman 15, just to clarify.
Reality check: man was I mistaken. I never realized how much growing hurt. Being away from everyone I knew for close to 70 days, when I can’t think of a single time that I had spent without the presence of a familiar face before going to college, it hurt. I missed dinner with my family, doing homework and hearing my parents talk as they were preparing dinner, sharing a room with my sister, good morning hugs from my mom, I missed all of home. I missed the community of my small group, as I doubted that there was actually a single other Christian on the entire campus. I craved having someone with whom a look could be interpreted to speak 1000 words.
In the midst of this pain though, God always appeared. When I needed to meet another Christian on campus just to be reassured that they actually existed, in a totally random moment, I sat down next to one in a lecture. When it turned out that my dad had to fight a fire and couldn’t come to visit, two of my church friends from home to plan a trip to come visit. When I missed the companionship of my home friends, there was a friend waiting for me – I just needed to open my eyes and look around. God was always there in the pain of growing, and with his help I have grown with leaps and bounds.
I was also vastly unprepared for just exactly how long it would take to feel like I had really good friends. Even though I knew I was going somewhere where I wouldn’t know a soul, I thought, “It’s okay. I have already done this once before in high school when I went back to public school after homeschooling” what I failed to realize is that in high school I already knew some people. And they knew some people. So their friends became mutual friends and my friend circle expanded. In college it’s different. There is only one of me. I can only meet so many people and I can only spend quality getting to know you time with an even smaller number of people. I constantly have to remind myself to have grace with myself. Making friends takes a long time. Making best friends, let alone bridesmaid worthy friends, takes even longer. And in that long time, sometimes it gets a little lonely. But it’s okay. Everyone feels like that.
Give yourself grace, is what I have to keep reminding myself. Do you even remember how you made your last best friend? I know I can’t. Actually other than being nice, how does one make friends? I feel like it just happens naturally. Is there a point in time that marks the transition from friends to good friends to best friends? I think it all just takes time. It takes time to create the shared memories and inside jokes that come with a great friendship. It’s okay, friends will come with time. Hang in there.
I wrote this after first semester, and hesitated to put it up because it seemed really pessimistic, and that wasn’t what I wanted to portray-I knew it would get better, it was just slow going. Looking back on what I wrote after a full year under my belt, I still agree with what I was feeling, but I know it also gets better. Second semester I found my people-friends I knew were friends. I joined a sorority (though I never dreamed that I would), track season started, I found a home church, a bible study, and I became better friends with the people whom I had met during first semester. I knew how to juggle school, laundry, feeding myself, and having a social life way better. After two months of summer, though I am loving home, I miss my friends at school so much I almost wish school would start already just so I could see all my friends again. Wholeheartedly, I can say that school is great and I am really enjoying it.
In conclusion, a note to all the incoming college freshman-have grace with yourself. Realize its a big adjustment, and set your expectations accordingly. Have fun, and know that everything gets better after first semester. And a note to everyone who says, “College is the best time of your life!”-be careful, you might be creating false expectations in a nervous freshman’s mind. You might not remember the trials of the first couple weeks, because the good times have washed out all of those memories, but more than likely they were there.