I’m writing an article called “Advice from a senior to a freshman.” Has it really been that long? It doesn’t feel like that long ago I was walking onto Homewood for the first time, standing in the middle of the Gilman Quad utterly and completely lost. I don’t think I’m ready to leave yet.
During my three years here, I’ve only been away from this campus for a total of maybe three months. I’m an international student, so I don’t go home a lot. I’ve spent Thanksgivings, spring breaks and summers here. This campus was where I saw my first fall, where I went sledding down a snowy staircase on a lunch tray for the first time, where I ate my first deep fried Oreo.
And as clichéd as it sounds, this place has really started to feel like home. I don’t want to accept that leaving is so close; I don’t want to accept that this is ending. Because even with every stressful night, every tear, every setback, these have been the three best years of my life.
When I first stepped onto this campus, I was terrified. Here I was in a new city, a new country, with my family so far away that there were maybe a total of four hours a day when I was awake at the same time as them. I came from a high school with a graduating class of 100 people, so walking into the Orientation kickoff celebration with over a thousand of my classmates was one of the most overwhelming experiences of my life.
I had no idea how I would even begin to find a completely new set of friends, so I did what a lot of freshmen do: I latched onto the first group of people I met and convinced myself that we were going to be friends forever. Now I’m not saying that those friendships won’t last — they might — and for some people, they do. But that definitely wasn’t the case for me.
During the time between freshman fall and spring, as I started to feel more secure here, I started to explore, to talk to more people in my classes, to talk to people on my floor who I didn’t actually meet during my first week, and that’s how I found the people I’m still friends with now.
So maybe you will stay friends with the people you meet during Orientation, maybe you won’t. But no matter what, don’t close yourself off to meeting new people, because you never know when you might meet someone who you can’t imagine going through college without.
The summer before my freshman year, though, having to meet new people was something I wished I didn’t have to do.
While I was saying my goodbyes to my high school friends, we promised each other nothing would change, that we’d always keep each other updated on everything that happened in our lives. But when you don’t see each other every day, it’s very difficult for it to stay the same.
Slowly, we started to realize we really didn’t know all that much about each other’s daily lives, that our friendships really were changing and that things weren’t going to go back to normal again.
That homesickness really hit me when I got sick freshman year. I went to HelWell, but they just gave me soup that I was allergic to, so I wasn’t doing that great health-wise. I just kind of laid in my bed watching Netflix and thought about how much easier this would be back home where I had someone to take care of me. But then my roommate came in with a can of soup from CharMar and yelled at me to stop watching Netflix and either get some rest or do my homework, and the homesickness went away just a little bit.
Your first semester, it feels like everything is do or die, like that first test or that first friendship will determine the course of the rest of your time here. Some people might tell you that in the end none of it matters, but it does. When you fail your first test and get your first B or C, it’s not going to ruin the rest of your life like you’re afraid it will. But you will learn from it. You’ll know what you did wrong, and most importantly you’ll know to stop beating yourself up over every setback.
Because here’s the thing: There will be setbacks. You’ll fail, and you’ll come up short, and there will be so many opportunities around that no matter what you do, you’ll feel like you’re missing out on one. But through it all, the people you meet and the experiences you have will help you come out a better person.
There will be times when you’re freaking out about something, and your friends will literally come running; when you’ve been studying non-stop for your two midterms and wake up that morning to find a bright pink note above your bathroom sink saying “you’ve got this;” when your friend just shows up outside your door because she knows you had a rough day and wants to make sure you’re okay; when the place where you grew up is two oceans away and you feel like you don’t have roots anymore, but then your friend’s family makes you feel like part of theirs.
And then after a while, you’ll get older, and you’ll meet a freshman who thinks you’ve got it figured out and wants your advice. I know advice was what I was supposed to give you, and I don’t know how much of that was useful to you, but all I know is I’ve got one more year. I intend to enjoy every single second of it. You’ve got four.