Coming home from college after your first semester is full of catching up on sleep, reconnecting with high school friends, and answering the dreaded “so…how is college?” question. To be perfectly honest, I dreaded this question for the longest time, for college hasn’t been anything like I thought it would be. In a lot of ways, my first few months at William and Mary have been amazing, and in other ways, they have challenged me in ways I didn’t think I could handle. Answering this loaded question can’t be done with a simple explanation, so I figured I’d come on here and write about it to try to put into words the craziness that has been the past four months of my life. Let’s go piece by piece.
Orientation: Absolute craziness. From the second I got to campus on move-in day, free time was pretty non-existent. The orientation aids took us from activity to activity to activity that week with few breaks in between. In the moment, all I wanted was some time to decompress, but I think the lack of free time forced me to focus on building connections there instead of missing my parents or overanalyzing whether or not I would be happy here. I quickly became close with a lot of girls in my hall, and during orientation week we made some amazing memories, from going to a magic show that absolutely blew my mind, to taking cute pictures during convocation, to attending our first college ~parties~, to having some really honest heart-to-hearts after certain orientation presentations. I got lost on campus SO many times, locked myself out of my room after showering once, and definitely had a few freak out sessions, but I also met so many great people that week and was homesick much less than I thought I would be, and it was honestly a great way to start off my William and Mary experience.
Classes: Honestly, my classes this semester were really easy. I don’t say this because I’m some type of genius or because I study 24/7- I say this because I was in a lot of introductory level courses that were objectively not too difficult for the average William and Mary student to succeed in. I decided to take an acting class to fulfill my arts proficiency, and while I loved that it brought me out of my comfort zone and that my professor was one of my favorite people ever, I wasn’t obsessed with the class. My Apartheid history class was so interesting, and my professor was so passionate about the subject which I really admired. My psychology class was kind of a joke since we covered probably half of the chapter we needed to, but it was a relatively easy A. My favorite class was probably my microeconomics class which is SO weird because I thought I would like it the least. I took a total of 14 credits which is what they recommend for first semester, but I’m cautiously excited to amp that up to 16 credits next semester. Finals were definitely more stressful than I anticipated, but high school prepared me for the work it would take to succeed on those last few exams.
Campus: So beautiful. The sunken gardens is probably one of the prettiest places I have ever seen in my life, and getting to do work there in the early fall was so relaxing. I also love our library, even though it’s not the most aesthetic place in the world. The library is a place where I can focus solely on school and nothing else that may be stressing me out, and I’ve found that this setting helps me compartmentalize and thus reduce stress a good amount. I love the old buildings on campus, even though sadly a lot of them are next to statues of some problematic people in history. We have a Wawa right outside of campus which has been a blessing to me in so many ways, and we have a Cosi on campus whose turkey avocado wraps I devour after my volunteering shift every Friday. We’re also right next to Colonial Williamsburg which reminds me SO much of my hometown. Getting to go on runs through the main street, eating at its famous Cheese Shop, and experiencing all of the town’s fun holiday traditions has been great. Also related but unrelated, the squirrels in Williamsburg are SO WEIRD. Pennsylvania squirrels run away the second they see a human, but Williamsburg squirrels are just unbothered?? It’s not right??
Food: I mean, it could be worse. I eat so much healthier at home since I don’t have chocolate chips and soda tempting me during every meal, but like, it’s fine.
Dorm: I lucked out majorly with my dorm this year. The freshman dorms at William and Mary are actually disgusting, but I managed to get one with air conditioning AND a sink in our room. I’m such a drama queen, so I don’t think I would survive if I had to drown in my own sweat like a lot of my friends in other dorms had to during the first few weeks of the semester. Our hall is really nice for the most part, other than the fact that we had mold scares and that once someone went to the bathroom on the stairwell, but that’s college, I guess. Sadly, my roommate is the WORST…just kidding. I love and miss her already. Sophie is the kind of person who will literally laugh and dance while she has a full-on nosebleed, and her happy energy encourages me to be a happier person.
Friends: This was probably the thing I was most worried about coming into college. I never really had social anxiety before, but toward the beginning of summer, I started having a lot of its symptoms, and I was so scared that it would impair me from meeting people in college. I was so terrified that I’d either be too shy to talk to anyone, or that I would be too blunt and scare everyone. Luckily, during one of the first few nights, Sophie and I knocked on the door of the girls who live next door to us, and since then, we’ve been so close (Hi Nut Home- I love you all). I am also really close with a different group of girls in our hall, as well as with a few people from my clubs and classes. I am so thankful to have had some of these people during some really trying moments of the semester, for whether it was with a back rub or a shoulder to cry on, they were there for me even though they’ve known me for such a short amount of time. On brighter days, I love laughing and spending time with these people talking about lord knows what. No, these friends will never replace my friends from home, and no, these new friends don’t know me the same way my Newtown friends know me, but I always remind myself that these new people are slowly carving their own new place in my heart and that they know me in a way that my home friends don’t. To be perfectly honest, my social anxiety is still often there. I still sometimes overthink my interactions with people, but I’ve found ways to calm myself down and cope with that stress when I feel myself shutting down or wanting to just get some alone time and decompress. It’s also so reassuring to know that any day, I can meet a potential new friend. While a lot of people have solid friend groups, I don’t think anyone at William and Mary is opposed to making new friends, which is really special. On that note, I am still in desperate need of a friend to watch The Bachelor with, for as lovely as all my friends are, NONE of them watch it (Sophie has sworn on camera that she would watch it with me, but someone should really spare her the trouble…serious inquiries only please).
Clubs: My two main clubs on campus have been Team Blitz (the school’s running club), and Moot Court (like Mock Trial but also very different). I knew I wanted to run in college, but I also knew I didn’t want the time commitment or the physical exhaustion that would come with running division three cross country and track. Luckily, William and Mary is Division 1, and I just flat out don’t have the times to even think about running D1. Joining Blitz has been so fun, and the team was the reason behind my favorite part of the whole semester- running my half marathon. Additionally, I joined the Moot Court club, and while I was definitely unprepared for the work it would require, I am SO happy I stuck with it. I was so insecure about my lack of knowledge about the legal system coming in, but our scrimmage and regional meets gave me the confidence to know that I am capable of one day pursuing law (if that’s the path I stick with). During the last few weeks, our team got really close, and I’m really excited for next semester with them. I managed to get a job lined up for next semester, so I’m hoping I still have a good amount of time to dedicate to these clubs, but I know I’ll do whatever it takes to find that balance and make it work.
Parties: I won’t go tooooo much into detail about the party scene because well, college parties are college parties. I will, however, say that almost every party usually features the playing of either “Dancing Queen” or “Mr. Brightside,” and those moments are always so wonderful.
Boys: Meh. If I could give any incoming freshman any advice, it’s to not get into a relationship first semester. Yes, there are some exceptions, but I now firmly believe that you need to find your own happiness in this new atmosphere, focus on making solid friends in clubs and classes, and figure out who the new you is before you commit yourself to another person. The first few weeks brought so much unnecessary boy stress that should have ended way before it even started, and I hate that I let it take even the slightest toll on me. Then, a few weeks after fall break I met a really incredible boy (as far as I know lol), but he and I both had a whole world of issues going on in our own lives, and the saying “you can’t fill someone else’s cup if yours is empty” reigned true. After we ended things, my primary goal for the rest of the semester was to get to that place of inner peace without any boys distracting me from the person who needs my love the most: me (cheesy but true). I can’t say I’ve fully gotten to that place, but I feel myself taking baby steps, and I’m just so ready for a spring semester sans boys stress.
Therapy: I was reluctant to write about this because it is a pretty private, vulnerable thing, but my hope is that it will reduce the stigma and make anyone else seeking professional help feel less alone. Therapy has become an element of my life recently. Toward the end of September, I started having really bad insomnia and my anxiety was exponentially increasing. I decided to call the counseling center since I knew that counseling was free and available to all students. They couldn’t get me an appointment until literally a month later, which made me feel really isolated. I cannot begin to understand why the college would build this fancy, multi-million-dollar Wellness Center if they didn’t even have enough counselors to provide kids with the help they need. Nonetheless, I waited a month, had my consultation, and was put into group therapy. I can only speak from my own experience, but while group therapy definitely helped me feel less alone in my struggles, I don’t think it gave me the solutions I needed to fix or cope with these struggles. I don’t know if/what kind of therapy I will do next semester, but the one thing I’ve learned from my experiences this past semester is that the stigma against therapy is ridiculous. So many people that I’ve seen in the waiting room of the therapy office are the same people I see smiling with their friends hours later. We all struggle with something, and while that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone needs therapy, it does mean that struggling with your mental health, especially during the first semester of college, is perfectly normal. This step into adulthood is freaking terrifying, and I don’t know too many people who haven’t yet had at least a tiny breakdown, so if you feel like you need more than just a friend to vent to, take advantage of any resources your school has to offer.
So there you have it, my first semester. I know I went through a whole roller-coaster of emotions with this post, but I wanted to be fully transparent and show both the super-fun highs and the not-so-fun lows of the process.
There have been plenty of times in which I wanted to just pack my bags and go home, but I know in the end, I made the best decision by choosing William and Mary for my first semester of college, and I want to go into next semester with the intention of choosing this place every single morning when I wake up. The first few days of break have been really good to me, and I’m just really excited to go into next semester feeling more at ease and getting to be the friend that my friends deserve to have. Next semester is going to be significantly busier and crazier in so many ways, but I feel really damn hopeful about it…woo!!