On Saturday, August 27, 2016, my parents packed up the car and dragged me to DC to move me into college. I tried to bring my cat, they wouldn’t let me. Nearly four months later, my first semester is finally over. This is what I learned and how I survived.
College is basically a colony of young people who are free to do whatever they please, no matter how questionable it is. Their dumb ideas get even dumber as the night gets later which is why I went in prioritizing sleep. It was one of the best decisions I made. I never needed caffeine because I was energized every day and ready to get to work. Additionally, not following the crowds of idiots was key to my first semester success. I’m glad I stayed true to myself, my morals and my passions. I continued to go to mass every weekend and rode every chance I got. Although my school and home city/situation changed, my activities and habits didn’t.
Only being in school for a few hours each day allowed for a lot of free time that I knew had to be filled with studying. I treated everyday like I would any other school day to avoid staying up late or not having time to make dinner. Cooking was an outlet for me and allowed me to save money while eating healthy. Out of the $2,000 I was allowed on my GWorld for the semester, I only spent around $650.
When I was tired, stressed or wanted to go home, I did, either via FaceTime or in real life. Talking to my parents, a friend or both for around a hour each day provided me with a sense or normalcy and family connection. Although getting to know everyone in my building to a point where we became close friends made me feel very at home, nothing will ever beat my real home. Counting down the days to my next trip home, wether it would be for four days (Fall Break), a week (Thanksgiving), or three and a half weeks (Christmas), seeing a light at the end of the tunnel got me through.
Staying (or trying to stay) stress free was important for me in managing my workload well. My happiness did not lie in my grades. If I got a B on something, I wouldn’t care; it wouldn’t be the end of the world. This outlook worked well; I never got anything below an A. Knowing that I was doing my best, and that that was enough was everything.
In all my classes I made friends. Everywhere I went I talked to people and by doing so, developed a diverse group of friends who came from different parts of the country and world. I didn’t just talk to people to learn things about the school or to make friends; I was also forced to talk to people to survive and stand up for myself. If the heater broke, I had to call someone and complain. If someone was screaming drunk at 3am or bouncing a basketball on the floor above me (loudest noise ever!) I’d have to speak up and tell them to quiet down. If something went wrong with my rental car, I’d have to call and get a refund. If I wanted food, I’d have to go out into the city to get it and interact with other people like an adult. Although it was not fun, learning to effectively and comfortably advocate for myself and others was one of the most important things I did this semester. If something didn’t live up to my standards of excellence, I would make sure it did.
The final thing that got me through this semester was the constant reminder from my mother to have fun. Going out and taking advantage of living in DC was something I didn’t do enough, but when I did was a great deal of fun. Taking breaks and taking care of myself was crucial. Nobody else is going to do that but you. I can’t believe my first semester away is over. I officially survived.