This is a short article I wrote for my high school’s library newsletter about my initial experiences with college:
It seems millennia ago that I began applying to colleges. The experience made my head pound, stomach lurch, heart clench, teeth grit, and shoulders tense. As I mentally prepared to head off to UF before the fall semester, these feelings resurrected. I had been building up to this moment for far too long and the ultimate tension born of it was finally nearing its breaking point. Questions wrestled in my skull (had I made the right choice of school, would I do well, would I be happy) all the way up until the day classes began.
For those seniors who sympathize with my emotional unrest, I urge you to take a deep breath. (For those who may be out of practice, breathing is constituted by an inhale followed by an exhale.) I’m going to tell you a secret: Once you actually get to college, you’ll realize that the majority of your preliminary stress was probably unnecessary.
Granted, there is a period of adjustment. Having spent summers away from home, I felt adequately prepared for handling my own scheduling, laundry, eating habits, motivation to work, etcetera. (In terms of food, specifically, I was initially concerned about my meal plan. Since starting the semester I’ve found it much more acceptable than expected, not that I don’t often miss the consistency and comfort of home cooking.) I’ve also dealt with dorm life previously, so the occasional roaches and hair ball monsters in the shower drain come as no shock to me. I truly lucked out with my roommate, so that potential stressor has proved nonexistent. I thought being in classes with hundreds of people might be intimidating, but I have not found this to be the case. They are odd, though, in that they allow next to no interaction with the professor and other students. I’ve found that having smaller discussion sections once a week compensates well for this. Work load and assessment difficulty hasn’t been bad thus far, though I feel that might simply be the nature of the level of courses I’m in at the moment.
One aspect of school that took less adjustment than expected was my integration into the dance program. I’m enrolled as a dance major and plan on dual majoring in behavioral and cognitive neuroscience eventually, so my schedule is about half academics and half dance to keep me on track. In respects, the dance program reminds me of MSA. Each class is about an hour and a half. There is broad range of ability, yet each dancer brings something that others can aspire to emulate. This is particularly true in terms of performance quality and improvisational ability. We often hold informal showings so everyone can see and comment on how pieces are developing. We look at dance in terms of its history as well as its current, fluid definition. The community within the program is infinitely supportive and enthusiastic. I’ve found it’s really nice to be part of a more intimate subset of this school of fifty thousand. This is encapsulated in the fact that, outside the dance program, I really only know and interact with others in my dorm. Perhaps that is born of my tendency to introversion, but I’m very happy with the few close friends I’ve made and so am content.
Retrospectively, I suppose I’ve had the most trouble adjusting to the absence of my old extracurriculars. As far as student organizations go, I’ve joined the psychology club and a club made up of my fellow BFA dance majors. Though I’m glad to be a part of them, I do miss the dynamic of my beloved MSA clubs. Concerning dance, UF’s dance program is heavily modern based, so I have been sorely missing my ballet studio, particularly as Nutcracker season approaches. I am taking a few classes a week and was fortunate enough to be cast in a ballet piece for our upcoming show, but I’m still having some withdrawals. It’s just been odd not to have my weekends filled with rehearsal. Once my homework is done, I find myself with a surplus of time and no particular way to fill it. It’s a struggle I’m not familiar with, but I have managed to keep myself occupied.
I hope I’ve instilled my impression of college effectively upon you. In the end, it is an amplified version of high school. Most of the differences emerge from the newfound freedom (or responsibility) you gain in regards to yourself and your time. Handle that, and you can handle anything college throws at you. Handle that, and you can handle anything life throws at you.