I remember coming to the University of Maryland and thinking that I was going to feel at home the minute I got here. That was the plan: I would leave home and immediately feel free, like my life was finally starting.
All of high school I, like many of my other classmates, anticipated leaving my small town for college. I wanted that feeling of looking around and thinking, “I made it.”
But that feeling of belonging didn’t come as naturally as I’d expected.
When I got to this university, I found myself constantly comparing my college experience to those around me. I would go on social media and see people going to parties. Everyone seemed to already have their friend groups established within the first few weeks.
What could I possibly be doing wrong?
Looking at my peers’ college experiences made me feel like I was somehow behind – as if it just came easier to everyone else. It was almost as if my experience wasn’t the correct one.
This was not how it was supposed to go. I was supposed to get to this university and instantly fit in. Everyone says college is bigger and better than high school, so how could I be having such a hard time adjusting?
Reflecting on the year now and talking with my friends, it’s clear I was not the only one who felt like this.
At the beginning of the year, it was impossible for me to look past everyone else’s Instagram and Snapchat posts of football games, parties, and endless adventures with new friends.
In reality, I was doing perfectly fine at college. I had slowly but surely made friends, mostly with the people on my floor.
The only reason I ever felt bad about my adjustment was because of the comparisons I was making online.
After telling myself I would take a small break from social media, specifically Snapchat, I instantly felt better.
I finally felt like I could breathe and adjust to my new environment on my own terms. Although I eventually ended my break, that time away helped me immensely.
There are so many expectations entering college because for many people, it’s what they spend their high school careers working towards. You think everything will somehow pay off the moment you step foot on campus.
While I don’t think this sentiment is entirely untrue, I do disagree that college will somehow immediately feel like home. Maybe it’s true for some, but for me it wasn’t.
I had to stop trying to force my freshman year to be an unrealistic version of the “ideal” college experience.
The truth is that most people have, in one way or another, a hard time adjusting. I was comparing my whole life to small moments that people have chosen specifically to share online.
The notion to stop comparing yourself can sometimes seem tired or cliché, but I found it to be the most helpful advice in terms of my first year at this university.
Once I gave myself a chance, I made friends and met new people, all of whom I’ll be sad to leave over the summer.
When going into your first year of college, don’t put pressure on yourself to make it perfect. It’s exhausting and probably won’t work. Instead, give yourself time to adjust and settle in. I promise you will eventually feel like you’re in the right place.