It was Freshman Move-In Weekend and all of the orientation leaders, wearing khakis and t-shirts with their school colors, were singing welcoming songs and organizing the bright-eyed first-year students into groups.
Except for one set of orientation leaders who were consoling a young woman who was away from home for the first time. In fact, she was about a thousand miles away from home, and her roommate was from about an hour away from the college. What set her off? Her roommate already had plans to go home in about two weeks to attend a friend’s party.
This girl wouldn’t see her friends or family for another two or three months. Every obstacle she would have to face without the support group she had her entire life.
Of course, when the admissions packet came in the mail for her during her senior year, she was ecstatic to be accepted. And though she was motivated by the fact that she was making her parents proud and her friends excited for her, she felt so alone without their immediate presence.
So the orientation leaders told her some valuable advice- as much as you feel like you’re alone, you are one of many who traveled far for your education, and you are certainly not the only one to become so overwhelmed that you cry.
I had a very difficult time adjusting to my dream school because, even though I was grateful to be there, it was hundreds of miles and over a dozen hours away from home, and it was a completely different culture from the one I grew up in. So how did I overcome this?
I sought out the others who were from cities and states outside of where I went to school. In fact, I found that some of them were even more heartbroken than I was, and one even transferred to her home state after her first year, so I was clearly in the presence of folks who understood what I was feeling.
I went to interest meetings for extracurriculars and got involved. Meeting like-minded people, regardless of where they are from, helps make your campus feel more like a second home.
I also befriended peers who were from the area so we could hang out at local hot spots, to further help me make the new city I was living in feel like home.
I volunteered. A lot! Getting involved in the community made me feel like I was part of it.
I also wrote letters to my friends at their colleges. Yes, regular snail mail. Sometimes I even sent them small souvenirs from my campus shop, such as pens or hats, and they sometimes returned the favor. It made me feel like I was still a part of them, and when they reciprocated I felt like I was part of their college experience, too, instead of “that friend from high school.”
And, remember, there’s no shame in calling home just because you miss your mom, dad, or siblings.
It is also advisable for those who did not move away from home for school to be sensitive to the feelings of friends who did. No, going away to school is not the same as going away to summer camp, as having a dog is not the same as having a baby. Summer camp is pretty much meant to be fun. School is meant to challenge you to become a more well-rounded person, and with that comes unique stressors that you would not face in a camp situation, and thus have to deal with differently.