Before I left for college, I spent many nights lying awake in my bed wondering about the strange new place that awaited me. I asked myself all of the classic freshman questions: Will I make friends? Will I be happy? Will I survive the cold? (Being from California, this was a serious concern.)
Leaving my family, friends, and home of eighteen years was by no means easy, but it also wasn't as terrifying as it seemed. I spent my last few weeks of summer deeply afraid of the future and all the changes ahead, but as soon as I got onto campus things started to fall into place, and since then it seems like I've faced a new fear every day. Everything is new here, but it's more exciting than it is scary, and I've become more and more confident in myself as I've conquered the fears that plagued me back in August. The following is a list of some of the fears I have conquered thus far:
1. Fear of Not Making Friends
I spent pretty much all of high school moving between groups, trying to find a place where I could belong. I jumped from group to group, searching for the friends who would really get me. At times things were really hard, and it took me until my senior year to find the people who really made me happy. By the time I graduated I was very content with my friend situation, and not very pleased with the prospect of repeating the same social acrobatics I had been performing for the past four years. I worried that nobody in college would really get me, and that I wouldn't find people who shared my interests or sense of humor. I worried that I would spend the first few weeks or even the first few semesters feeling lonely, searching for a place to belong.
That wasn't the case at all. Within the first two days of orientation, I found a community within my dorm and especially within my hall. Because everyone is living together, sharing kitchens and bathrooms and hallways, and because dorms are usually grouped together for orientation activities, it was really easy to meet people. I live in an all-freshman dorm, so everyone else is new too, and everyone is looking for friends. Not everyone in my dorm has shared interests with me, and some of my new friends are so different from me that I'm surprised we find anything to talk about, but we do. My friends in my hall have become the people I laugh with, the people I have impromptu dorm room dance parties with, and the people I talk to when I'm feeling homesick or need to vent.
I'm also starting to make friends in my classes and extracurricular activities, and the people I'm meeting share my interests and passions, which is great, but I also love the unique and diverse community of my hall, and am so thankful to have become so close to so many people I might not have ever known otherwise. My fear of not making friends was in no way grounded in reality. Everyone has been completely welcoming and kind since I've arrived here, and if anything it can be difficult to find a moment alone.
2. Fear of Total Inadequacy
I had one thought over and over again many times before leaving for school, and I think it's a thought that a lot of incoming freshmen share. It goes something like this: "What if I get there and everyone is smarter than me, and the work is too hard, and I fail all my classes, and none of my teachers like me, and my parents are totally disappointed, and everyone wonders why I was let in in the first place?" or, in other words, "What if I'm not good enough?"
This fear is completely understandable, but also slightly irrational. We were all let in here for a reason, and it's because the admissions staff knew we had something to offer Oberlin. Of course it isn't going to be easy, but so far things have been going pretty well. I enjoy my classes, and I'm enjoying the challenge of working hard to meet expectations that are higher than they were in high school. The professors know that I just got here, and that I'm doing my best, and nobody's expectations have been unreasonable. All of my professors have been completely welcoming and supportive.
The class I was most afraid of, Intro to Computer Science, has actually turned out to be one of my favorites. I'm not a math or science person at all, but I figured I would get some distribution requirements out of the way and learn a little something about computers, which I knew nothing about. I didn't at all expect to fall in love with the class, but I completely have. I took a risk, and it was terrifying. The first day I walked into the lecture hall and wondered what I had gotten myself into, and if I could switch out, but I wasn't the only person entirely new to the subject, and we started with the basics and took things one step at a time. Nobody expects you to be an expert overnight. There are definite challenges, but facing them is exciting, and I'm completely confident that I belong at Oberlin.
3. Fear of Cold Weather
Okay, so maybe I haven't entirely conquered this one yet. The other day the temperature dropped into the forties and I pulled out my boots and my North Face and congratulated myself on surviving the cold. Being from LA, I'm not exactly prepared for a Midwest winter. During orientation week I refused to leave my dorm because I was afraid of a thunderstorm.
But just like the difficulty of classes, the winter isn't going to swoop in overnight. I can feel the weather changing, but the cold is coming slowly, and I have plenty of time to adjust. Each week I'll layer a little bit more, and brave the slightly chillier temperatures, and face my fear of any and all weather that isn't seventy-five and sunny. As winter comes, and college goes on, I'll grow more confident in my ability to brave rain, snow, five-page essays, and anything else that comes my way. There's no denying that college is scary, especially as a freshman. But facing my fears in a new environment has been an incredibly gratifying experience. Every day I'm a little bit stronger, and this terrifying, strange, and wonderful new place feels a little bit more like home.