As I prepare to start my senior year of college, I’ve reflected quite a bit on the first three years, and the experiences that have brought me to today. There is so much I wish I could go back and tell my freshman self- I haven’t had the easiest or most enjoyable time in college so far, but in hindsight, I can clearly see what I could have done to change that.
I dealt with near-crippling social anxiety for most of my college career, and I truly wish I could tell freshman-me that the way to deal with that isn’t by avoiding the situations that make you scared- it’s by taking the plunge, and talking to that person, or going to that club meeting, or doing whatever it is that you’re convinced will cause the world to end if you do it. The world won’t end, I promise. Don’t be scared to take a risk (as long as you aren’t doing something destructive. Please don’t take those kinds of risks). Even if you don’t like it, or it doesn’t go the way you planned- what’s the worst that will happen? You learn something.
Also, change is COMPLETELY and TOTALLY okay. Decide you hate your major, and want to change it? Cool! Want to try a brand new activity, or get a job or internship unlike anything you’ve ever done before? Awesome! Develop a love for something you previously hated? Way to go! College is all about exploring, and figuring out who you want to be. Changing your mind is a very normal part of this process, and everyone does it. New people and passions may replace the old ones in your life, but they don’t have to- there’s room for everything and everyone you love.
I really wish someone had emphasized the importance of taking care of yourself in every way in college- physically, mentally, and emotionally. I’m practically a walking advertisement for this sort of thing now as a public health major, but freshman-me could have been a lot better at taking care of myself. Besides the obvious benefits of staying in shape, eating well and exercising have the power to transform your mood, and make you feel all-around better. Now, if I’m feeling anxious or stressed, I’ll go for a walk or run, or put on some music and dance around- dance is a very fun form of exercise, and I do it often because I enjoy it. (Sorry to the people who live below me.)
Above all, I wish I could tell myself to get out and experience life. Staying in your dorm or going home EVERY weekend is no way to enjoy the time you don’t spend in class. You don’t have to party (although if that’s your thing, live it up! Safely.); find some friends you can catch a movie or a show with, or hit up an on-campus activity (there are zillions of these at UMASS, and I wish I had taken better advantage of them while I was living on campus). You work hard during the week (I hope)- you deserve to let off steam!
College can be an enormously overwhelming change from what you’re used to, and just remember that there are always people to talk to who want to help- your parents, siblings, friends, RAs. Everyone wants to see you succeed, so reach out if you need support. You’ll get it!
Best of luck to everyone going back to school- you’ll be amazing, I promise 🙂