What to expect as a freshman in college

Claire Aniela recently graduated from The Catholic University of America with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Drama. She is currently living in Washington, D.C, working as a professional actor/model, and taking postgrad life one day at a time.

If you were to play a word association game with the average American, the word “Thanksgiving” might be followed by food, family, or football. If you were to play the same game with a college freshman, you would likely hear a different F-word: freedom. For most freshmen, Thanksgiving is the first time since heading off to school that students are able to take a break from their college lives and return home to their friends and families for a few days of rest and relaxation. I distinctly remember being a freshman, heading home for my first college Thanksgiving. I felt a massive weight lift from my shoulder as I watched my campus get smaller and smaller in the rear view window of my mom’s car. Filled with anticipation and excitement, I spent the two hour car ride furiously texting friends and planning what I assumed would be an awesome five-day break from reality. Boy, I was mistaken.

Now don’t get my wrong; my first Thanksgiving break in college wasn’t horribly miserable. I got together with friends, celebrated the holiday with family, and caught up on some much needed sleep. It was nice, but definitely not what I expected. Here’s a something of things you can actually expect in you first college Thanksgiving:

1. While you may be free from classes for a few days, you are trading one freedom for another when going home for Thanksgiving. You have grown accustom to staying up all night studying or partying or both and it seems normal for you and your friends to order pizza to your house at 4am. Trust me, it’s not normal and your parents certainly aren’t used to it. The first semester freshmen year is the first taste of independence most of you have experienced, but new flash: college is NOT the real world. Unless you are funding your own education, paying your own bills, and living in your own home, you are still dependent on your parents. The next few years are going to be a major strive towards becoming an adult and being truly independent, but Thanksgiving will go much smoother for all if you show your thanks to them by respecting their rules and remembering all that your parents do for you.
2. Think about all has happened since you started college. You’ve had so many amazing experiences and met countless of awesome new people. With all that has happened in the last three months, you probably have hours worth of wild stories to tell your friends from home. I hate to break it to you, but your stories aren’t as interesting to your friends as they are to you. Coming back home for Thanksgiving break, you can expect that things will seem off with your friend group. You may have some friendships that can pick up where you left off, but don’t freak out if some of your friends spend the entire time you guys are together texting their new boyfriend or roommate. If you feel as though you are growing apart, it’s because you are. Relax, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It just means you’re going to have to work a little harder to maintain friendships as all of you have started new chapters of your lives. It’s a bit disheartening, but it will show what friendships are worth keeping and which ones you can leave in high school.
3. The most deceiving thing about Thanksgiving break is the word “break”. You can take the freshman out of the classroom, but…yeah you still have work to do. Being home, it can be really easy to ignore the hundreds of pages of reading you have assigned or the papers due once you get back. You may have five days off, but don’t make the common mistake of putting off work until the night you get back on campus. Do yourself a favor a plan out time to focus on school work. I know it doesn’t sound fun, but your break will actually be more relaxing if you find a balance between vacation and reality. Otherwise you’re going to spend the holiday stressing about how much work you have when you get back instead of breaking it into smaller, more manageable sections. There’s nothing worse than trying to finish almost a weeks worth of studying into a few hours, especially with final exams right around the corner.
4. Five days is an odd amount of time to have off. Literally. It is going to seem like you have all the time in the world and then all of a sudden you’re on your way back to school wondering how it was possible for five days to go so quickly. And then it will sink in: Homesickness. Thanksgiving break is just long enough to remind you of how good your mom’s stuffing is and the joys of a queen-size mattress, but is never long enough to be completely satisfying. Being homesick after Thanksgiving break is something that every other freshmen is experiencing, regardless of whether or not they admit to it, so don’t be embarrassed. Think of Thanksgiving break as a preview for winter break, which will be here faster than TVs sold on Black Friday. The best thing you can do with the few weeks between breaks is really focus on finishing the semester strong, but also spend as much time as you can with your new college friends. This will be the last time you get together before the month long break. And trust me, after winter break, you’ll be more than ready to start your second half of freshmen year.

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