This is going to be kind of a long post since to explain why it is The Best Advice I Ever Got I have to go back to the beginning of my freshman year two years ago. To start off you need to know that I consider my Freshman year of college the worst year of my life so far. I may have a worse year in my future considering I have barely lived my life, but as of right now it takes the #1 spot. I spent countless nights crying myself to sleep at night and was a minute away from packing up my dorm room and going home, never to step back onto USC’s campus.
So let’s flashback to the beginning of freshman year. The day my parents left after helping me move in was one of mixed emotions. I was excited to be starting this next chapter of my life and see what college had to offer me, but I was also sad to be closing the previous chapter. They left though and the next chapter was upon me. I had decided to rush a sorority so that was what I spent a lot of my first week doing. The problem with that, was I ended up dropping the sorority I was pledging and didn’t keep any of my friends from it (I might write a separate post about what happened here, but it’s not important right now). Since everything that I had been doing the first few weeks was with my sorority, the only friends that I really had to fall back on were my roommate and the other girls who lived on my floor. They all of course had other friends to hang out with so I ended up being alone a lot of the time. The worst were the Friday and Saturday nights that I spent alone in my room or eating meal after meal at the dining hall alone.
When it comes down to it, besides feeling like I didn’t have any friends, the entire college experience was really overwhelming for me. I had moved half way across the country and not only did I have to adjust to college in general, but I also had to adjust to a new area, new people, and living on my own for the first time all at the same time. Eventually everything built up to me being miserable.
The thing that kind of was the last straw for me happened at one of the football games. I came from a high school where the football team wasn’t very good, but we had a lot of school spirit so we would go to all of them games, cheer them on until the last second, and then go get ice cream afterwards to celebrate the fact that we actually scored this time. At this USC football game though, people were expecting a winning them and when they didn’t get what they expected they started complaining about everything and anything. I couldn’t understand why all these people had to be so negative and couldn’t just enjoy the game and being surrounded by friends. This really frustrated me because it was that moment where I realized the people I was hanging out with weren’t anything like my friends from back home and I really missed that type of people. I also realized that these weren’t the type of people that I wanted in my life, but I didn’t know how to find the people that I did want.
After that game I decided I had had enough and I sent an email to my dad basically saying that I hated USC and wanted to come home (Tip: If you are going to tell your parents you want to drop out of college, there are much better choices than email such as a phone call. I have no clue why I decided to email him). I talked in the email about how I hated Los Angeles (still true), couldn’t find anyone to be friends with that didn’t want to party all the time (it took me a while, but I eventually found them), and that it seemed like no one cared about school, which seemed weird to me considering I was at a fairly good school. My dad and I emailed back and forth for a few days and eventually decided it would be a good idea for him to come out and visit me so we could talk in person. When he came to visit and we had dinner I was a wreck. I had pretty much convinced myself at that point that USC was not the school for me and I was ready to transfer. He suggested some ways for me to make new friends and we decided that if I still hated it come Christmas than we could figure out a new plan.
About halfway through the semester I started regretting dropping my sorority. I wondered if maybe the people I was supposed to be friends with were the ones I had left behind in the sorority (I now know they definitely weren’t, but when you’re going through a tough time there’s always those what if questions). There was also a lot of Facebook comparing, which is honestly the worst thing you can do for yourself. I would sit there on my laptop looking at all of the fun people I knew from high school and that I had met at college were having and compare my own experience with what I was seeing. Guess what though? People don’t share the bad parts of their life on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media. No one sits there posting about how they are spending their fourth Friday night in a row watching Netflix alone in their dorm. They post the highlights, the things that are happening that they want to remember (Example: The picture at the top of this post was taken at the football game that was the “last straw”). So I was sitting there comparing all of my footage (the good shots and the bad) with their perfectly edited final film (this is the movie geek in me coming through).
So anyway, I came home for Thanksgiving and spent a good part of the holiday a crying mess, which really bummed me out because I love holidays. Before this night everyone in my family besides my dad didn’t know how much I hated college. I barely called my grandparents during the semester because I every time I would I would break down crying. I also only called my mom when I was having a good day. Another example of how we only show others what we want them to see.
That night I was supposed to see my high school friends and since I couldn’t stop crying I went over to my friends house crying and while I wanted to make up some elaborate lie about why I was crying (I came up with the idea that I was going to tell them the car in front of me hit a deer #minnesotaproblems), I decided to go with the truth. They were all really supportive, offering me suggestions and giving me big hugs. They also talked about how their college experiences weren’t that great either which made me start realizing that maybe everyone didn’t love college as much as I thought. I’m not sure how I convinced myself to go back for finals after Thanksgiving, but I think a big part of it was that I knew I would hate myself if I lost all of those credits.
I made it through the rest of the semester and then finally got to come home for Christmas. I was talking to someone from back home when they asked me how I was enjoying college. I said that it was ok, but I wasn’t enjoying it all that much. She was shocked to hear that, and I’m pretty sure didn’t even really believe me, because she said that my Facebook photos definitely showed otherwise. At first I was really upset that someone was trying to tell me that I was wrong about my entire first semester, but then looking at my Facebook, I was smiling in every single photo. There were photos of me having fun at football games and laughing at Disneyland. It really hit me then that I was editing my own film too.
During the entire Christmas break I avoided talking about USC or what I was going to do the next semester. I really didn’t want to go back and my family really thought I should and I honestly just didn’t want to talk about it. Eventually though I had to talk about it and during the last week of break I did. After a lot of discussion I realized that deep down I knew USC was the right school for me because nowhere else could I have the same opportunities I do here. It was this knowledge that led me back to USC for my second semester.
The hardest part for me about going back was knowing I was going to be unhappy and that I couldn’t figure out how to be happy. I am someone who believes you control your happiness, so when you are unhappy only you have the power to fix it. The only problem was, I was in a situation where I had no clue how to fix it. I had talked a lot with my family about ways that I could be happy, but none of them really seemed to click for me which was beyond frustrating.
During my second semester of college I was once again miserable. It was filled with more lonely nights of crying myself to sleep, going to class which was my favorite part of the day, and secretly researching how I could transfer. I told no one I knew at USC that I was thinking of transferring and that I hated it there so I would look at transfer applications while my roommate was out. I quickly found out that it’s a lot harder to transfer than everyone makes it seem. When I was originally choosing a school everyone would tell me “don’t worry, if it ends up not being the right school you can always transfer”. Turns out if I pretty much couldn’t transfer to a similar ranked school to USC so I knew I would either have to stick it out or transfer down, and I worked so hard to get into USC that I knew I couldn’t transfer down.
The thing that I think was the hardest for me during freshman year was trying to figure out how to make new friends. I never would have imagined it would be so hard to make new friends considering I felt like I had been doing it my entire life. I did have a few friends through all of this like my roommate, a few guys we became friends with, and some girls on my hall, but it seemed like I was close with none of them and I hung out with them maybe once a week. I didn’t have any of those close friends that I felt like I so desperately needed. (Looking back I had a lot of people that I now consider my friends and they were my friends back then too. The thing was, I was expecting during freshman year that making friends to be a lot easier and that all of a sudden we would do everything together like my friends back home, but I had been friends with a lot of those girls for 6 years already so the friendship I had with them when I left was something that had been built over those years and these were people I had just met.)
I made it through my freshman year though and continued for my sophomore year knowing USC as a school was where I belonged. I won’t bore you with the details of my first semester of sophomore year, but it was definitely better than my freshman year even though I was still pretty unhappy. I feel like at that point I had just kind of accepted that I would be unhappy for the next three years. After this last semester though I am finally happy at USC and enjoying life again. My efforts towards finding the people I want to be friends with led me to join APO and it is the best decision I have made. The group is filled with people that inspire me to be a better person and they are people I actually enjoy hanging out with instead of people I just hanged out with to hang out with someone.
This all leads me to the best pieces of advice I have ever got, which is you will always end up where you belong. After two years I finally feel like USC is where I belong and I have found a family to belong to here through APO. Sometimes you may not feel like you are in the right place, but just keep going and eventually it will end up the right place or you will find a new place. I got this advice from my dad when I was ready to drop out and I got it from my mentor as well. It finally clicked for me this semester and it’s now something I live by. I think it really helps me because I now worry less about the future and more about the present and making sure that I am happy (and if I’m not I work on figuring out how I can be). I have come to learn through this advice that with hard work and a little bit of hope things will always work themselves out in the end.
I have a really hard time talking about this because I’m not one to share my emotions. My close friends from back home knew a little bit about it at the time, but in general there aren’t that many people who know how upset I was. I am finally at the point where I am happy again, and ready to share my story. So why am I sharing this story? Because I want everyone to know that it’s not just them. They are not the only ones who miss home and they are not the only ones who feel like they don’t have any friends. They aren’t the only ones who are unhappy when they get to college and they aren’t the only ones who want to transfer. I want people who feel like I did to know it’s ok and that things get better. You will find the people you belong with, it just might take you longer than other people (and when it does take longer it just means that some friends are worth looking a little bit harder for).
Now that I’ve shared the best advice I got, I want to share the three biggest pieces of advice I can offer any college freshman. The first is to try not to go in with a lot of expectations of what college will be like because it probably will be nowhere near those expectations. I came to college with a specific plan of how things would go, the type of people I was going to be friends with, and guess what? None of those things I pictures are what my current life is like, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The second is don’t compare your experience to anyone else’s. Like I talked about earlier, each person has their own experience and when you compare your own experience with toher you are making things worse for yourself. The third is to remember that freshman year is hard. Now that I am finally talking about my freshman year I am finding out that a lot of people had a very similar experience. When you think about everything that changes when you get to college it makes sense that it’s going to be hard. It’s not easy to move away from your family and everything you have known in life, but I’ll let you in on a little secret. No matter how your freshman year goes, it’s definitely worth it in the end.