As promised, here are my thoughts for Sarah and all the high school graduates of 2009. (OMG…class of 2009…that’s just gross.)
You’re going to hear it a million times…college is the best time of your life. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that, but it is a damn fine time. You are going to learn a lot; some in the classroom, some in the dorm room, some in the backroom of the local bar. You may even “find yourself” in one of those rooms. (Barf.)
Within the first couple of weeks (or minutes, as was my case), you’re going to make friends with some awesome folks. They’ll help you fit in and keep you busy when you’re feeling homesick. About two months in, they’ll be all you talk about when you call home and you’ll think “wow, these are the college friends I’m going to be friends with the rest of my life.” WRONG. These ladies and gents may be great. They will probably hold a special place in your heart forever, but their main purpose is to help transition you from high school kid to college coed. The Big Time Friends will come into play at least a semester into it. By then you’ll be comfortable in your surroundings and looking for friends just as friends, not as babysitters or schedule fillers. These will be the people you’ll stay up all night with-sometimes to figure out the meaning of life, other times to contemplate which is better-Lucky Charms or “Chocolate Fruity Peebles.” (And don’t get me started on the pizza vs. chicken finger debate. Just flip/flop between the two….Otherwise, y’all may not be friends when you wake up in the morning.)
Even if it feels totally against your normal ways, try out some of the local activities. I’m thinking you’ll have an easier time with this than I did, but who knows. 250 miles is still a decent drive, so local San Angelo kids may really be into Japanese anime or follow the basketball team like its religion. And do it right-if people get dressed up in costume for the anime movies, heck, try it out. Everyone is doing it. Check out the sorority scene or other college clubs. Whatever peeps are fanatical about, try it out. No one wants to graduate from college and realize they never truly experienced campus or the college life. Hell, if you were going to do that, you should just commute from home.
Every college has at least one ‘scene’ that you’ll question when sober. A cabin out in the woods by the zoo? A semi-abandoned liquor store/gas station? The Chinese restaurant’s parking lot? All locations of some great party spots during my time at Carolina. Oh…and always travel with at least two friends. It’s harder to lose someone this way. And in case of twisted ankle or other debilitating injury-easier to carry.
The first time your car dies, or you get sick, or someone takes your wet laundry out of the communal washer and throws it on the floor, you’re going to want to call home and get help from mom. Don’t do it. At least not at first. Ask yourself if you know how to solve the problem yourself. No? How about your friends? Or (gasp!) your professors or other university staff? John, The Sandwich Guy From the Patio, turned into my Dad Away From Home and hooked me up with tea, honey, and lemon every time I came in sick AND he let me eat from the football player line (better food AND better line companions…thanks, John!) Granted, I still got help from mom and dad a lot, but part of this going away bit is learning how to do it on your own. (And you know what…”calling mom and dad” is sometimes step 1 of doing it on your own. Don’t worry, I’ll never tell.)
You’ve been pretty set with what you want to be when you grow up. That’s awesome. But don’t feel bad if that changes after you’ve had a bad class or internship. (Oh, another thought…any job you have in college (and have a job in college…its embarrassing to call home AGAIN to ask for more money…) should be related to your major. It may be grunt work, but find some place that pays you, but will still look good on a resume. Never too early to start padding that puppy.) Be smart about your changes. If you’ve made it past the refund deadline, stick with a class, no matter how hateful, for the whole semester. Same with a job-give it at least two months before you quit. Trust me. Every minute will seem like agony, but you are learning how you will act once you are in your boss’ shoes. And you’ll be able to look back and laugh, I promise. (I’ve got some great pictures of a pro-Confederate flag rally to prove it.)
I’ve got a million more things, but you’ve got four years ahead of you to listen to my rambling. (Oops, there’s another…don’t do like I did and graduate early. Real Life comes soon enough, don’t force it upon yourself too early.) Enjoy this summer and get ready for a whole new chapter. You’re gonna love it, girlfriend!