WAS MY COLLEGE EXPERIENCE WHAT I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE?
The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Thinking about college that final summer after my high school graduation was a weird time for me. I thought my life was good, I felt like I had a solid friend group, I had a good idea about what I wanted to do as a career and I was pretty certain on who I was and how I presented myself. I laughed at those who believed that cliche college “find yourself” movie storyline nonsense that some people made it out to be. I was prepared to be exactly who I was at that moment for the rest of my life. And while I wasn’t completely wrong about how the next few years of my life would go, I wasn’t completely right either.
In high school I had largely been friends with the same group of people since middle school. We grew up together with the same experiences, same styles, likes, dislikes, interests, etc. We all had only ever experienced my hometown. We went to the same school, places, did the same activities, hobbies, shopped at the same stores, went to the same restaurants. While I felt fully comfortable with the same group of people, I was living life in a constant replay. I liked the repetition though, I liked the safety and the stability of knowing each and every next move. Everybody already knew me and I already knew them, I had an image, and so did everyone else. Life was like a puzzle I had memorized like the back of my hand, every piece fit and everyone had a place. And if I had spent the majority of my life acting and spending my time this way, why would there be any need for change?
That last summer I spent my time with my closest friends. The same group of people that I sat with at lunch everyday, had hushed conversations during classes with, and saw after school hours. The people who, while talking about the future, pinky promised over being friends forever. And that last day before I left, I was already dreading leaving the life I considered to be my safe place.
My first weekend as an official college student my roommate at the time introduced me to some people she had met at our orientation meeting. It was devastating to me, the thought of becoming friends with people who weren’t my familiar group. So I didn’t give them a chance. I saw them at nights, ate dinner with them, was added into the group chats, but I was guarded. Any chance I could I excused myself early to talk to my hometown friends or boyfriend, just to feel a shred of that familiarity I missed. Almost every weekend I found myself taking the three hour drive home for a taste of that simplicity of comfort and ease. My entire freshman year I was reluctant to open up. I considered these new people my “friends” and I was glad to have people to keep me from feeling alone, but they weren’t in my plan for life. They weren’t how I envisioned my future from my high school view point.
My high school plans called for a job somewhere within the field of video editing, and a minor in history. I would take only afternoon classes or later because I needed to sleep in (I was a night owl). I would stick to the saying “C’s get degrees” since, while I naturally had been pretty good at school, I was never someone to study or try. Clubs were not in my itinerary and a job during the semester would make my life way too difficult to maintain. My style was set, my makeup routine was memorized and my hair care had been followed religiously for the last three years.
Some time at the beginning of my sophomore year after living in a suite with the girls of my college “friend group” I noticed some changes. It was just after quarantine had lifted, coming back to school for the first time in months. Almost everything was still closed, making it impossible to avoid being anywhere except surrounded by these people at all times. I spent my mornings with them, my afternoons, my nights, my weekends and even the short walk from our dorm to the dining halls. And somewhere along the line I felt myself opening up. I gradually forgot about my dedication to my original path. Instead, going outside my comfort zone, making new experiences, finding new hobbies, places to eat, and shows to watch. I fell into a new routine, but one that was encouraging individuality, differences, and unique traits.
I felt so loved and accepted despite my variances. I didn’t have to worry about fitting in correctly, or filling my image, because they only knew the me I was showing them. The me that was completely me, with no influences or limitations. I learned beyond the knowledge of my hometown. I was introduced to different foods, music and sayings. I felt praised for my distinctions that separated me from my new friends. My fashion slowly changed as I was introduced to differing styles, and my (also) curly haired roommate introduced me to new products. For the first time I felt it unnecessary to wear makeup everyday and got comfortable in my own skin. And soon enough, I began to dread going home for breaks rather than returning to school.
Meeting new people opened up a lot of doors for me. I watched my roommates uncertainty in school, plans, and majors, and it allowed me to make decisions on my own schooling. Being completely honest with myself I came to the conclusion that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I still liked my major, which was broadcasting, but I didn’t want to stick to my original plan. I also learned I wasn’t dedicated to history. So I instead picked up a creative writing minor, which was something that made me happy. Now as a senior, I still have no idea what my dream job is, but I’m okay with that. I’ve accepted letting life take me where it needs me to be and at least I can say what I know what I don’t want to be. I learned that I love early mornings and working a job makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something everyday.
Now it’s the summer before my senior year and I’ve spent the last few months reflecting on my life around this time three years ago. My summer before college. When I thought I knew who I was. When I was scared to expand and convinced that my life changing was the worst possible alternative. Now, at this point in my life I’m excited to graduate college and make new experiences. The thought of meeting new people, learning new things and gaining more perspectives is something I can’t wait to begin. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still the same person I was before college. I still have the same face and live in the same body. I still know what I look for in a friend, dislike the same foods and have the same morals. Looking back at that girl from high school I had only just started to begin learning my personality and it felt great finally getting to watch it flourish. I look forward to becoming a new version of me and the thought of not knowing who I am doesn’t scare me anymore. Instead I’m eager to see the additions to my identity and I can’t wait to meet myself in a year, or five from now.