Transition to College: I Wasn’t the Only One
Arriving on campus in the sweltering summer heightened my discomfort and anxiety about starting freshman year. I remember the distinct feeling of butterflies in my stomach. However, instead of the harmless butterflies caused by nerves, these were the kind that made me feel extremely nauseas and flustered. This uncomfortable sensation kept me on the verge of tears for my first several hours on campus. I wanted to get back into the car right away and drive back home. As I said goodbye to my parents, my mom mentioned that she could practically feel my heart beat as I hugged her. Thanks mom, I thought, because I hadn’t noticed my whole body pulsating, face flushing from adrenaline and shock that I was actually at college, and I would be here for four years.
A couple hours into freshman orientation I had already ran to the bathroom in the hope of calming myself down and, needless to say, to wash off the stress sweat that practically was dripping off my forehead. My reflection in the mirror seemed surreal. I looked at myself with embarrassment, picking out every flaw. My mind seemed to be racing at 100 miles per hour and only focusing on my insecurities about my present and future experiences in this new environment.
The truth is, I had struggled with anxiety and depression since middle school but did not get treatment until high school, when these feelings became more constant and intense. During the summer before heading off to college, I had not considered how this part of my life would translate into a different environment. The truth is, I didn’t want to address the possibility of feeling anything other than excitement the first day of college. Even though, at college, I was surrounded by over 100 incoming freshmen, I felt as if I was the only one in my shoes. I remembered none of the countless new names I heard. I didn’t allow myself to open up about how I was feeling; instead, I marched on with a smile glazed upon my face.
As time went on, I became more comfortable and familiar with my new surroundings and made some good friends. My friends and I agreed that our freshmen orientation and the start of the fall semester was one of the most awkward and overwhelming experiences we’ve ever had. I was surprised that they felt the way I did: I had been so stuck in my own head that I was not able to see that others were feeling how I felt. I had expected to be comfortable with everything and everyone, but one cannot simply jump into a completely new environment and feel comfortable – at least I can’t! It took me a while to be okay with not feeling okay. I found many similarities between my friends’ stories and mine. I found out that I was not the only one who felt confused and lonely. In retrospect, I regret not being more open with my anxiety. I know now that many people struggle with similar issues. This was proven to me when I finally opened up to my friends about my struggles with depression and anxiety. Soon, the glorified freshman experience I had seen on social media that had gotten me caught up in a whirlwind of high expectations were forgotten and replaced with confidence in my authentic freshman experience.