Hello, I am Julia Bluhm, and I just survived my first week of college.
Now, looking back to a week ago, all the anxious, what-if-I-have-no-friends/what-if-I'm-uncool/what-if-I-get-lost/what-if-I-hate-it??? thoughts just seem kinda funny. So far it's been much better, and above all else, much easier, than I anticipated. Not "easier" in terms of school work or stress (I know, I know, it's coming), but easier in terms of meeting people, getting adjusted, and not crying alone on the top bunk. I didn't expect that.
Here are all the things I didn't quite expect about my first week of college. For context, I go to a medium-small sized private school in the mid-west.
You are not "on the outside" here, because everyone sort of is.I'm the type of person who often feels "on the outside" of a group. Like, people hang out without you, have inside-jokes you aren't a part of, etc. This is mostly due to the fact (during high school, at least) that I tended to cling to one or two friends for dear life rather than a whole group, and I spent a lot of time alone. I wasn't even sad about it though, because sometimes other human beings frustrate me to no end ;). The difference with starting college, is that everyone is in the same boat. People have no reason to not include you, because they have no clue if you're a loner or a party animal or popular or lame, and most of the time, they don't really care. This brings me to my next point...
People will talk to you (and invite you to things).The number of people who say "hey Julia" when they pass me on the sidewalk between classes makes me both shocked and giddy. When I say "the number of people," that number is actually, like, five. But considering there was NOBODY in this entire state who was even aware of my existence (except my grandparents) before 7 days ago, that's pretty good! And the number of people who say "hi!" or smile at me because they recognize me but don't remember my name, is, like, through the roof!
What I'm getting at is, people will talk to you. They will say hi. They will strike up random conversations. They will ask you (so many) questions about your life. They will suggest that you walk together to class, or eat together at the dining hall, or go to a Zumba class together. They will invite you to parties (and say "it's cool, see you Monday!" if you decline). They will say "hello" to you in the hall, and they will hold the door open for you an awful lot. People will be friendlier than you expect, and they'll make you friendlier, and then more people will be friendly to you in return.
There will be lots (and lots (and lots)) of things to do.Most colleges have tons of fun (and interesting) stuff going on all the time, but especially during the first few weeks. My college has a program called "good clean fun" which puts on two school-sponsored events every weekend for the first six weeks, and they're all free. Last weekend I went to see a hypnotist (which was pretty crazy). Plus there's always a talk, or workshop, or performance, or club meeting going on, and they often have free food. Last week I went to a diversity meeting and got free mashed potatoes and chicken. I also got peach sorbet upon visiting the spiritual/vocational house. If you ever want to do something, there will be something to do. (Often, too many things).
You'll get an unbelievable amount of free stuff.This is probably the #1 thing that surprised me the most. I'd heard that you get a lot of free stuff in college, but I guess I didn't realize quite how much. Besides the common abundance of free food, I've gotten free toiletries, free office supplies, free cups, free energy drinks, a free water bottle, free umbrellas, free shirts, etc. Is this a normal college thing, or is my school just weird? I would say bring an extra bag to keep all your random free-stuff in, but you'll probably get at least three free bags.
People won't really care how you look.I don't know about you, but this was my approach to my appearance in high school: I would wake up early, usually wear makeup and some sort of slightly-creative outfit, and try to look at least loosely put-together. Then, after school and ballet, I'd come home, take a shower, inhale some food, and collapse onto the couch in a makeup-less, sweatpants-clad, sluggish state of release. I would try (and enjoy) looking nice around friends and acquaintances, but when I was alone at home I didn't really care. The difference with college is, you don't have that time of the day in which you are all alone, being a potato. Your friends and acquaintances are around you literally twenty-four hours a day. They know that sometimes you will 'look nice' and sometimes you will be a mess. Even if you chose to wear makeup and straighten your hair, they know that you also get pimples and that your hair also frizzes, because they'll also see you when you're "just lying around." And as self conscious as that may make me, I also find it really comforting. Everyone knows (and doesn't care) that you are vastly imperfect, because they know that they are too. Nobody feels the need to hide. I was in a dance rehearsal the other day and I found myself watching people and thinking, "her hair is so frizzy and she has imperfect skin and she's dancing around in a way-too-big polo shirt... she looks so cool." And this is coming from a girl who wears dresses like they're jeans. Funny, huh?
There will be a lot of group chats. Join them.Make it easier for yourself and download the "GroupMe" app right now. If your college is anything like mine, you'll use it. Currently I'm in a group chat for my dorm, for people in my major, for my orientation group, and for my dorm unit. That may sound excessive, but it's actually super-duper helpful. People are always saying, "so who's headed to dinner right now?" or "anything fun happening this weekend?" or "driving to target, who wants to come?". And even if people are making plans to do things that I'm not super into, I still feel very at-ease knowing what's going on, and what I may (or may not) be missing out on. My FOMO is much more limited when I feel somewhat in-the-loop. So if someone says "are you in the __ group chat yet?" or if someone makes a group chat and shares it on the private freshman Facebook group, jump on in.
You won't sleep very much.I cannot stress this enough. During the orientation craziness I found myself thinking "sheesh I can't wait until classes start so I can finally sleep." (Spoiler alert: that's not how it works).
There will be tons of cool people doing cool things (and they'll want you to join).There are so many clubs in college! And actually, I feel like "clubs" kind of undermines their legitimacy; they're freaking organizations. They have presidents and PR-representatives and twitter accounts and responsibilities and deadlines. I don't know about you, but in my high school clubs were either mostly run by adults, or constantly unorganized and somewhat-non-existent. Clubs in college seem to be taken really seriously, and they get a lot of stuff done. I admire that so much. The best part? They really, really, really want you to join them.
Spending time by yourself is not weird.People are always studying alone in the library, walking alone between dorms and classes, and even eating quick meals alone in the dining hall. Gone are the days of eating lunch in the bathroom (or for me, the ballet dressing room) because you have no one to sit with in the cafeteria. In college, everyone is always coming and going, on their own schedule, doing their own things. You will find yourself alone in the cafeteria at one point or another, and it will not, in any way, be a big deal.
It will rain more than you expect.Okay, this isn't really a legitimate piece of advice and it may be completely untrue depending on where you are... but the weather in Indiana has been so utterly ridiculous that I feel like I need to mention it. The biggest lesson I have learned in college thus far: keep an umbrella in your bag at all times!!