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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

My Freshman Year: The Ups, Downs And Turn-Arounds

Sarah Collins |
April 7, 2014 | 11:50 a.m. PDT


Spending quality time with our school's mascot. (Sarah Collins, Neon Tommy)
Spending quality time with our school's mascot. (Sarah Collins, Neon Tommy)
As soon as people step out of the elevator and onto the floor of my freshman dorm, most of them see a wall decorated with random facts, quotes and other tidbits from residents. With only five weeks left of freshman year, my R.A. decided to make this month’s theme a kind of memory book of our time thus far in college. Being the clever clowns we think we are, most people scribbled inside jokes or embarrassing moments so passersby could have a little chuckle or scratch their temples in bewilderment before floating down to the lobby.  

At a loss to find something humorous, I abstained from chicken scratching anything onto the wall and decided to spill my thoughts and recollections in a Word document (a custom of mine). Because, really, my freshman year is worth a lot more to me than words on a piece of paper to be thrown away in a month’s time. 

So here it is: confessions from my freshman year of college. I can honestly say that these have been the most exciting, heartbreaking, unique, stressful and educational nine months of my life. Living with some 18,000 of my peers thrilled me when I realized I could be out with friends until 3AM and tortured me when I yearned for quiet the night before a midterm while people partied at deafening volumes next door. 

There were times when I felt on top of the world – receiving one of the last tickets for an exclusive Elton John concert, personally interviewing Gavin Newsom, the smoldering Lieutenant Governor of California – and times when I just wanted to go home and cry (which I did, admittedly, once or twice) from eating a meal alone one too many times or being hospitalized from physical manifestations of anxiety.

Was it the best year of my life?

Honestly, no. And for a while, I thought the answer might be to transfer schools. But then I started looking at the facts: I’ve loved all of my classes and professors; I’ve learned more in school this year than all the previous ones combined. I’ve had incredible opportunities (I mean, did you see the part about Elton John?), and I’m involved with a few awesome organizations on campus.

There were times when I felt on top of the world. (Sarah Collins, Neon Tommy)
There were times when I felt on top of the world. (Sarah Collins, Neon Tommy)

So maybe, I figure, it’s just dealing with the reality of it all, the reality that I’m not a kid anymore. Of course, I might always be a little girl to my parents, but these years are some that will really count in my adult life. The grades are critical, of course, but homework on my social interactions and work ethic is also essential. 

Going from two brothers to seven suitemates was not at all easy; I think I’m just now starting to fully tolerate my living situation. Some people are messier than others, some don’t say hello when you see them in the morning and some just have really, really loud voices. At first, I thought a sea of flies would attack me, that none of the other girls liked me, that I would never have peace and quiet. Over time, however, my suitemates and I talked some, argued a little, laughed a lot and made compromises. We created a chart to keep track of dish washing, I came to understand that not everyone is a morning person, and I systematically learned to fall asleep, even when my surroundings aren’t perfectly silent. 

Moving away from a place where I’d known everyone since the second grade and creating my college self was also a challenge. I am both blessed and cursed with Shirley Temple-style curls, and, to shake things up, I began the year with semi-permanently straight hair. Doing this, I thought, would give me a chance to conceal my most visible feature and allow people to know me as someone other than “that girl with the curly hair.” Upon meeting other students, I would play the role of the "college freshman girl" to the best of my ability, hoping to make some fast best friends. I still talk to a few of them, though most of them now are nothing more than a polite smile I encounter while walking to class. Honestly, what’s the point of befriending people who only know you as a constructed personality anyways? Being honest with myself, I was never meant to rock the straight-haired do (oops).

Gradually, the months floated by. My hair grew curlier and some friendships grew deeper, and here I am, almost finished with my freshman year of college. My locks still have awkward bits of straight in them, and I don’t think I have a “B.F.F.L.” just yet, but I know that everything will strengthen with time. I know that, in the next three years, difficulties will come, genuine friends will appear from the woodwork, my appearance will return to normal and I’ll continue to learn more than I could ever have imagined. 


Reach Contributor Sarah Collins here; follow her on Twitter here



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