What college freshmen need to know

Alexis Donaldson is a junior at the University of Pittsburgh, where she is earning her Bachelor of Arts in Social Work with a concentration in Psychology and pursuing a Leadership Certificate. She has an interest in eventually becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and working along side of active duty soldiers, veterans, and their families. She is a part of Pitt Pathfinders where she serves as an ambassador and tour guide, while recruiting prospective students. Alexis has had experience volunteering at the Veterans Affairs hospital, homeless shelters, has advocated for homeless children, and has served as a mentor to young students at local schools. She is a part of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Phi Eta Sigma, and a junior representative for the Bachelors of Arts in Social Work Club (BASW).

Starting college brings many new challenges. Some are big, such as new expectations in the classroom, and some are small like doing your own laundry every week (or maybe more like every other week). One of the biggest adjustments though, is leaving your family behind and living on your own. It’s pretty common for students to look forward to this kind of freedom, but for some, it can also be a bit intimidating as well. I was definitely looking forward to make my own decisions when it came to staying out as late as I wanted, going wherever I pleased, and so forth. However, I was also sad to say goodbye to the people who I had served as my moral support for the last 18 years. I started to feel guilty for feeling this way for a longer period of time than my friends; most of them didn’t seem bothered by the fact that they wouldn’t see their family for another three months. For a while, I tried to ignore my dissonant feelings and focus on my new environment and way of life. I figured I needed to get into a new routine and learn to be comfortable, and eventually those negative feelings would fade away. After a few months though, I realized this wasn’t the case. Three years later, as a junior now, it still isn’t. But you know, I don’t think it’s such a bad thing. I feel that society depicts our generation as too dependent on our parents and tries too much to push us to be independent. Since when did independence have to imply not wanting to go home occasionally? It seemed like in the college-world, whoever hadn’t been home in the longest time had some sort of a bragging right among students. I see my family about once a month—whether that is they make a trip out to see me for the day, or I go home for one weekend. I enjoy our visits and look forward to seeing them. In no way shape or form do I feel that going home or missing my family makes me weak or maladjusted to college anymore. Instead, I think it emphasizes the strong relationship that we share. Coming from a military family, we cherish the time that we can spend together and take every opportunity we get.
For students starting college, I think it’s important to remember that it’s okay to miss home and to miss your family. There is nothing like a home-cooked meal, sleeping in your bed, or snuggling with your dog. Nothing beats a family game night or attending one of your siblings’ sports games. Just because you went to college, it doesn’t automatically result in the demise of your family dynamic or drastically change it. Instead, it just begins to adjust and evolve. Everyone is different and has a different way of maintaining their relationships. For my family, it involves calling each other regularly, a family group text, and occasionally seeing each other. However, if you don’t feel the need to go home, that’s okay too. For someone who doesn’t have that opportunity, the only option may be to see the family over the holidays. Either way, it’s perfectly fine. It’s all about finding the balance that suits you best, not your friends. So, next time you want to call your mom or see your dad, do it if it’s possible. Not only will you feel better, but also they will appreciate it too, because those few times spent together will always be memorable!

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