What I learned during my first semester of college

My first semester of college was surreal. I feel that part of me was still trying to wrap my head around the concept that I was on my own for the first time, regardless of the fact that I was still too young and inexperienced. After spending nearly two years in high school planning and hoping and waiting for the moment that I could escape my home town, I had made it to Macon. To school. I was expected to make it out here in the wild, all by myself. 

While I had anticipated an influx of knowledge and ideas that I had never encountered before, the lessons I learned in five short months spanned far past my academics and instead impacted how I approached my life as a student, woman, young adult and member of society. 

I learned to be okay with being alone. Going through airport security as a solo traveler is a lot less scary than you would imagine. Eating lunch at a cafe by yourself is much more peaceful than I believed. Perusing through a store without a companion eliminates the pressure of taking too long to try on clothes or not looking at things that interest both of you. Driving around town alone is sometimes the perfect opportunity to have your own personal karaoke session, but doing the same with a friend is equally enjoyable. 

College is lonely. Making friends is sometimes harder than I anticipated, but the past few months have shown me to balance the idea that you can be your own best friend, with the idea that putting yourself out there in a new environment is one of the best things you can do. 

I learned to appreciate phone calls. In an era where I had become entirely too reliant on texting, the ability to hear the voices of people I love and hold extended conversations with them became increasingly important to me. Long phone calls became a remedy for homesickness, or even just a long and tiring day. 

Giving myself time to sit and talk to my mom or friends from high school taught me to slow down and remember that I have a mother a state away who is wondering “if I’m in my room for the night” and best friends who like to hear what overdramatized anecdote I have for that week. I’m learning to grow new relationships in my new home, but also hold on to the ones that have remained constant through many stages of my life. 

I learned that I liked my hometown a little more than I originally thought. The time spent away from home in a foreign place that hasn’t quite become familiar yet led me to realize the unique quirks about my Tennessee suburb that I hardly appreciated as a 17-year-old anxiously waiting for graduation and the day I would finally move away. 

The back roads next to my house are especially beautiful and therapeutic when you speed down them while the sun is setting. The local McDonald’s where I ate dinner with friends after high school football games is seemingly better than all others. The Kroger is easier to navigate. The coworkers I visit when I go back to the restaurant I worked at my junior and senior year are like my second family. I learned that nothing could ever replace those memories. 

I learned how to adjust to living in a new place. Slowly but surely, I’m learning to see this new place as my new home. I’ve learned which Walmart is my favorite, which parts of town to avoid at night, which Goodwill has the best thrifting gems and what kind of coffee to order at my favorite coffee shop downtown.

My dorm room is beginning to feel like my own, and I sometimes have to remind myself that I haven’t always been here. I haven’t always lived in Macon, been a college student or eaten Chick-fil-A multiple times a week. But this is my reality now, and little by little it’s starting to feel less temporary and more like a part of who I am. I’m learning how to create a new community and I’m learning how many beautiful people are in the same stage of life that I am. 

I learned how to stretch my meal swipes as far as they can go. I learned how to get ready in the dark as to not wake up my roommate. I learned where the best places to park are and how to ensure I do not get any parking tickets after getting one too many. I learned that sometimes naps are crucial to survival. I learned how to use footnotes. I learned how to plan my classes so that I don’t have to get up earlier than 9 a.m. three days a week. I learned the names of the cashiers at Einstein’s in the morning and how to step out of the boiling stream of water in the shower when the toilet flushes in my hall’s bathroom. I learned how to be a college student. 

As I begin my second semester of college, a little less clueless but still naive in a world full of things unseen and done, I still maintain the idea that the world is going to be surreal for me right now. The friends I have made, the places I have visited, and the things I have learned strictly belong to this place, this time of my life, in a way that is unparalleled to eras of life I’ll experience as I continue to grow older. This is my world as a college student and this is what I learned during my first semester of college, and there is so much more to come.