Reflections on My Transition to College


Life throws us curveballs.  That’s the way it works.  You play the game, you do what you can to get through.  You plan ahead, but you can’t always guarantee that things will go according to plan.

Leaving for college was like that for me.

I chose my school based on gut instinct.  I’d hem-hawed around, avoiding any solid choices, and suddenly decided on an impulse to go to my current institution.  It just felt…right.  Not everyone is lucky enough for their decisions to be that easy.  The only complicating factor I had at the time was a boyfriend who I’d dated since freshman year of college.

To expect that it would be smooth sailing was…idealistic.  And incredibly unrealistic.  It almost felt like a “too-good-to-be-true” situation, and in many ways, it was.  During Freshman Welcome Week, I had the flu, and missed out on some valuable networking opportunities with other first-year students.  I also had the shocking realization that I was the “poor kid on the block.”  Coming from a rural background, attending the school primarily on generous scholarships and loan programs, I felt outnumbered.  Many students asked me why I would even have to work, let alone juggle multiple jobs.

Over the last three years, I’ve learned to be more understanding of the students who come from more…financially-comfortable backgrounds.  It’s not their fault, necessarily.  And who knows, maybe all that hard work led to the marketable young professional that I feel I’ve become, even in my junior year of college.

I didn’t anticipate the growing pains that came with building a relationship with a college, especially one so radically different from where I grew up.  Moving from a town of 3,000 people to the wealthiest suburban town in the greater Chicagoland area was a culture shock.  Despite how hard it was, though, I’m glad I’m still here.  I’m glad I stuck it out.  I missed home.  I missed the open spaces of the country.  I missed my family.  I missed my friends.  I missed my dog.  I missed my boyfriend.

However, that builds character.  That overused and cheesy as they term is, I stick by it.  Being away from all the things I held dear helped evolve me into a more capable human being.  It also set me outside of my comfort zone.  I grew.  I gained new experiences.  Mostly, I matured.

So, despite how difficult my transition to my new life in the wealthy west Chicago suburbs was, I’m glad I’m still here, over two years later.  Sitting pretty with a decent GPA and an incredibly bright professional future, I’m glad I did it.  I’m glad I stepped out of my safe zone.

So, if I ever share any advice to any new or future college students, it’s this:  don’t give up.  Don’t let the transition scare you away.  Don’t be afraid to be upset, and understand that it’s normal.  However, don’t ever let someone tell you that you can’t do it, and don’t tell yourself that you aren’t good enough.  In retrospect, the hard stuff makes it even more worthwhile.

Best of luck!

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