So, a couple months ago I wrote an article on what I learned my first semester of college and some people liked it. I even got a (somewhat awkward) interview on Huff Post Live! Now that I’m home after my second semester of college, I think it’s appropriate to share a few things I learned during my second semester of college:
(It’s my second semester of college because in my country the school year starts in February and ends in December, so I started college in Spring 2013).
1. Without even noticing it, you grow up and change a lot while you are in school.
The other day, I was talking to two of my friends, one who is a junior and the other is a first-semester freshman. My friend who is a junior was telling my friend who is a freshman that once she goes home for the first time, she is going to see how much she has changed in one semester. Truthfully, the first time I went home, I felt I was the same girl I was when I left. If anything, I felt smaller, younger, and less experienced than I’ve ever felt before.
But, looking back, my first semester of college was a lot more than that. I moved to a different country where I knew absolutely no one, to a state I’ve never even visited before; I had to make friends starting from zero (and I absolutely suck at making friends) and adjust to college life all by myself. If that’s not growing up, even a little bit, I don’t know what is. I’m very happy that I had the opportunity to leave my country and figure out stuff by myself, even if it was nerve-wracking at first. Now that 2013 is about to end, I look back to the anxious girl I was in January, and I’ve definitely come a long way from that.
There’s a picture on Humans of New York, where a girl says, “Life is cumulative, and you can’t devalue any type of experience.” I love that. Sometimes we feel like what we are doing in college isn’t really a formative part of the growing up process. But every little thing we do, from drunken hookups to downing Redbull at 4 am in the library, is part of the whole college experience and it’s important.
2. I finally discovered what really scared me about going away to school.
It always scared me that when someone speaks about a famous person, they usually speak very little about their childhood and adolescence. Like they were born here, and they grew up here, and that’s usually it. Sometimes, their adult life is so different and faraway from where they grew up. And when I left for college at seventeen, Panama was the only thing I knew. While I was excited to leave for college and look for my own adventures, it was scary to leave that part of me behind. I didn’t live a super interesting or crazy childhood, but I loved every minute of it, the good and the bad. What if fifty years from now I’m living in a completely different country doing things I wouldn’t even have imagined before (which sounds pretty cool, actually) and everything I knew until that moment was just a memory?
A couple months after leaving for college, I saw this on Tumblr and thought, “Yes, this is it! This is exactly what I’ve been feeling”:
“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. Like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.” – Azar Nafisi
College is the pathway to the rest of your life. That’s super exciting, but it sounded (still sounds) super scary to me at the time. When I graduated from high school, all the adults in my life would tell me some variation of the same two phrases: “Ahora es que viene lo bueno.” (The good stuff is just beginning) and “Cosas mejores vendrán.” (Better things will come). And life is pretty amazing, so you just have to trust that these things are true, and that everything will work out in the end.
3. Going back home is always good, but after a while, it can feel a bit weird.
And truthfully, I don’t think I’m in that stage yet. What I do know is that the first time I came home from college I was VERY excited to come back, and that this time, I was feeling a little meh about it. Don’t get me wrong, I was very happy to see my family and friends again, but I think it’s a good thing to feel this way, because it means you finally feel like you’re at home when you’re in school.
When the novelty of moving away to college wears off, it can feel a little intimidating. You may feel out of place, or like an outsider. But, sooner or later, this feeling will go away, and your school will feel a little more like home. Homesickness is a thing. It took me completely by surprise because I never expected to feel this way. I love my parents, but I’ve always been very independent. Sometimes, on lazy Sunday mornings you think Man, I wish I was at home. Or when you are sick. Or sad. Or stressed out and you could really use a hug from mom.
But eventually, this will go away. And you might not even want to come back home because college will feel like home. That’s pretty cool.
4. Growing up means realizing who your real friends are
Leaving high school was sad for me because I felt that after all the drama I had finally discovered who my real friends were. It was so hard imagining that five years from now most of these people would not be in my life anymore. It was also hard drifting away from people I felt I would be close to forever. For example, every year some of my friends have a Christmas dinner. The first year we did it, I was very close with maybe half of the girls attending. This year, the number has gone down to three or four. But that’s how life goes.
There’s a beautiful piece I read called A Love Letter to College Freshmen, and it says, “When people grow distant and old relationships don’t fuel you anymore, just accept it. That’s life. It’s always happening. Clear away and cut the ties you need to cut… make room for better and more. You’ll find best friends in this place.”