People often say that if you don’t expect anything, you will never be disappointed. I have to agree that in most cases that quote may be right. Expectation is the root of all heartache after all (William Shakespeare). But when I was preparing to leave for college, I was counting on tips from my friends, family, and books on what and what not to expect in college. If you were like me, and decided watching youtube videos would be a great help, you would notice that a lot of them said that the first few weeks of college would be horrible. Days would be depressing and filled with homesickness, but to tell you the truth, those days didn’t come. In fact, I am as happy as I can be, and I believe it is because of my expectations. Whenever they say the quote, “If you don’t expect anything, you will never be disappointed,” they quickly infer that your expectations are positive. Expecting the worst scenarios sometimes make the best ones. Who thought I would have found a friend the moment I stepped into my hall? I was so ready to feel sad, and I can’t be more grateful that I didn’t have to go through tears and nervous breakdowns. Like I said in my previous posts, my first night in Penn State was spent playing badminton with people down my hall. It was sort of like an instant friends kind of thing. Expecting the worst doesn’t mean you have to be pessimistic all the time, it’s about getting real and honest with yourself. You’re in a brand new place where no one knows your name, don’t expect that you’d have friends the moment you get there. It isn’t how it works.
If you’re about to go to college, I understand how horribly scared you might feel. What if I get lost? What if I don’t find any friends? What if I flunk my first semester? What if they don’t like me? I’ve been going through all these ‘what ifs’ ever since I visited Penn State University. I was so nervous my stomach was doing the flips to the point that it hurt. I went to Penn State for the First-Year Testing, Consulting, and Advising Program (FTCAP) and it was the first time I felt overwhelmed. The campus is HUGE. I was a jitterbug all day. I didn’t want to be separated from my family, but I had to. That’s the first thing you have to learn in college, you have to LET GO and ACCEPT that you are alone and independent. No one is going to do the laundry for you, no one is going to clean up after you, no one is going to tell you to wake up. You are on your own, and your family is a thousand miles away (in my case at least). It was for this reason that I wanted to study abroad–I want to learn how to become independent and confident.
I parted from my family and spent the next few hours with other students listening to the orientation. In that orientation the professor made a few exercises that revealed that most of us, incoming freshies, were nervous. You are not alone, and that’s another thing you have to know. You are on your own, but you are not alone. Huge difference. There are so many clubs out there (more than 900 clubs in my school) that are there to make you feel at home. I would be surprised if you can’t find what you’re looking for, and if ever that is the case, you could always start your own. I was able to find friends almost immediately. When your RA tries to arrange hall dinners, do yourself a favor and go. Try learning the names of the people down your hall. Sit down in class and strike up a conversation. I was scared to do all of these of course, it isn’t as easy as it sounds, but there are just times when you have to suck it up and get out of your comfort zone because you’ll never accomplish anything if you chicken out. And when you get enough practice, you’ll find that starting a conversation isn’t as bad and as scary as you first thought it would be. There will be A LOT of opportunities to get to know more people or to get involved in activities, all you have to do is take them. College is about trying new things, it’s about exploring and learning more about yourself, so make the most out of it.
In the orientation, the student leader shouted, “WE ARE!” Everyone shouted back, “PENN STATE!” Nothing feels better than being a part of a community. Everything is a lot more fun when you are with a group of people (The more the merrier). Imagine 100,000 Penn State fans in the Beaver Stadium cheering their butts off for the school they love. It is breathtaking and absolutely thrilling. It is one of these times when I really felt united and somehow connected to my school. Learn the cheers of your alma mater, unite with your fellow students and share school pride. Short story: The cheer WE ARE started way back when color segregation was being demanded by Penn State’s opponent. SMU coach wanted to meet with Penn State to discuss not to bring their black players, and the coach of Penn State, Triplett, said, “We are Penn State. There will be no meeting.” Penn State has canceled games in the past when their opponents didn’t allow black players, Penn State’s slogan at that time was, “We play all or none.” Be a part of a community that would welcome you with open arms. Be a part of a community where you can learn, develop, and hone your skills to be the best person you can be. Surround yourself with wonderful people and good influences.
After the orientation I almost whooped when I realized I knew where I was. I’m not fond of getting lost and the only way to fix that problem is to get yourself a map. If you don’t want to be caught holding a map everywhere, use your phone (that’s what I use). You can seriously go anywhere if you have a phone that has GPS. You can shop for clothes, groceries, furniture, anything. Having a GPS with you everywhere is golden. It makes life easier when you know where to go. Just be sure to have the phone charged and ready at all times. Once I got around with the phone, I slowly detached myself from it and started knowing where everything was. The school was getting smaller and smaller, and in fact it’s still getting smaller everyday. Ride on the bus, get its schedule, and enjoy the ride.
Remember when I said that you’ll have a lot of opportunities? Yeah well, do not end up joining everything. You did go to college to learn. Don’t forget that studying is your first priority. There are wonderful libraries you can study in and study lounges that could be open for 24 hours. There will be times when you wouldn’t even have enough time, so carefully balance out your schedule, and do your best to stick with it. There is a time and place for everything.
I am still the same shy Patsy, I still get nervous, but at least I’m doing something about it. If you’re a teenager, may I suggest reading the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens.” My roommate is currently reading it, and so far she and I are hooked. So yeah. Immerse yourself. College is the time of your life. Be the ultimate best you can be. My sister once told me that life will always be filled with awkward moments, we all just have to live with it.