I have openly said it before: I did not enjoy my first semester freshman year. I had a many acquaintances but I hadn’t really made too many good friends yet. Yet, when I went home for winter break, plenty of people told me that it looked like I was having the time of my life at school. In person I always said something along the lines of, “Yeah! I really am!” just so I could avoid having to talk about why I wasn’t happy; in my mind however, I was thinking, mmmmm not really. It’s funny how people got the impression that I was loving school, just by what they saw on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Here’s the deal: Everyone has an adjustment period. Everyone. It could be a semester and a half (like it was for me), it could be a couple of months, it could even be a couple of days – but leaving home and going to college isn’t as easy as people make it out to seem. Leaving a place you grew up isn’t easy. It takes time to feel at home and that doesn’t happen immediately. Homesickness is completely normal, but it’s become almost stigmatized. You spend your entire high school career preparing for college, and now that you’re here you want to go home? That’s ridiculous! Stop crying and take a shot with me! I’ve seen this situation happen and it’s not a happy sight. So why does it keep happening?
I think there are two reasons why: first, no one talks about the “bad” in college. When you ask a current students about their schools, don’t expect them to start listing off things they don’t like. Don’t expect them to say how hard the transition was or when they wished they could come home. Expect them to say how gorgeous the campus is, how much they love the tailgates, how fun their new friends are, and how much they love their school in general. Should there be more dialogue about the bad? No and yes. No, because it could scare prospective or soon-to-be college students and make them even more nervous to start the new chapter in their lives. However, I say yes because when I went to college, I expected to be acclimated right away. Speaking with my friends, I realized they felt the same. It seems as if you’re automatically expected to love the college you attend that anything other than infatuation is looked down upon.
Building off of that is my second reason: it would be perceived as weird if a college student posted a picture of him/her homesick and upset. Crying in your bed? Perfect time to upload a selfie to Facebook! Swamped with work, overtired, and an emotional wreck? Time to pick a filter and Instagram it! I try to imagine this actually happening, but it’s difficult to since it rarely – if ever – happens. My friend Carly once said to me that “Facebook during college is one big competition to see who is having a better time.” My newsfeed is filled with pictures of people at bars, fraternity parties, sorority mixers, dorm parties… the list goes on. Not only do you want to have an amazing time at college, you want to prove that you are. There are other reasons for sharing pictures too – posting to show your home friends, posting because you like them, etc. – but it’s hard to feel as if there’s not another motivating force behind it, especially during freshman year.
I’m guilty of posting pictures during my adjustment period freshman year. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I really did want to show the world that despite my homesickness, I loooooove school and I don’t just sit in my room every weekend (although there is nothing wrong with that). It doesn’t seem so crazy anymore that people would assume I was having a good time – after all, that’s what I wanted. But what’s on the screen is only part of the reality of freshman year. Behind the flash, behind the filter, behind all of the likes, there is someone who went or is going through the transition process. So don’t feel bad if you feel homesick, because you’re not alone, and college takes some getting used to.