With it being back to college season, I thought that I’d share some stories from each of my four years at the University of New Hampshire along with some tips. Now, some of these stories will be more applicable for UNH and others will work for any college. No matter what, hopefully there is something for everyone– even if it is just laughing at my embarrassment! Lets get right into it from the beginning.
Packing, Prepping, and Saying Goodbye
The weeks before you leave for college are, honestly, some of the strangest weeks ever. It’s like closing out a social bank account in a way. There are a lot of good byes, you may be packing up your childhood (if you’re a parent reading this, hold off on converting their room into your person gym for at least a year…), and you are about to go on a life changing journey. There is a lot you need to do.
When I began packing for college, I went a little overboard. I didn’t know what I really needed and I struggled with trying to limit everything. I also was going to be living in a double and tried too coordinate what I was bringing and what she was bringing into the space (much harder said than done). On top of packing, I was working full time as a camp counselor. It was a lot in those last few weeks. When I finally moved in, I definitely had way too much stuff and all of that had to be carried up three flights of stairs. Yikes.
Tip #1: Make a list a check it twice. Write down everything you think you need and then narrow that down to just the essentials. Bring only what you need at first and you can fill in the blanks later.
Tip #2: If you have a roommate or roommates, coordinate and be honest. Don’t agree to bring more than you can handle. I did and it put us off on the wrong foot almost immediately. My family wasn’t as well off and we had just gone through burying both of my grandmothers so the fall of my freshman year was a super stressful one for myself and my family. If I had shared that earlier, things may have been different.
Once your packing is done (or mostly done), it is time to begin your trip for goodbyes. Lets be honest, when you leave for college there will most likely be a few people who you never see again. Even if they are a best friend. This could be your last goodbye. If you can, plan time for everyone who is important to you right now. Plan a day of fun with your best friends. Take your parents out to dinner. Go to that movie that your younger sibling has been begging for you to see together. Spend the day with your grandparents. Walk the dog. Even the little things add up for some nice memories to help you get through those first few weeks at college.
Tip #3: Put aside the time to see as many people as you can. Honestly, even if you’re tired after work, go see those people.
Move In Day/Week
This is relatable to Hell Week if you did theatre in high school. There are hundreds of people all trying to move into campus and no one knows where they are going. If you’re lucky, you’re going to a college where upperclassmen come in early to help the first year students move in. If not, it is all up to you and whoever is helping you. While you’re moving and, most likely, sweating to death you are also meeting the people who you are going to be living with for the next nine months. If you’re lucky, you’ll become good friends. If not, you’ll have to deal with them for a school year.
Tip #4: You are not required to be best friends with your roommates. The best advice that you can get for move in is that you should be friendly with your roommates but you don’t have to be attached at the hip. You’ll want to be at first, especially if you don’t know anyone else on campus yet. Hopefully you can be friends but don’t feel down and out if you figure out that you have nothing in common and will probably never speak to them again after this school year. Sorry, but there’s a chance that will happen.
Once you’re all moved in and your parents are gone, there will probably a be a whole bunch of activities going on to introduce you to the next four years. There are hall meetings with your RA and Hall Director, dinners, campus rec events, and anything else you can imagine.
Story Time! At UNH, the freshmen get a whole weekend to themselves on campus before the upperclassmen move in. This is known as Wildcat Days. During these days you move in, have your class picture taken, watch WildACTS (a social justice awareness troupe of upper classmen that teach you about the ins and outs of college through myths and facts), attend the dean welcomes, and fit in eight million other things. Oh, and then classes begin that Monday or Tuesday. You will be exhausted and, honestly, a little stressed out. Go to everything though. You won’t regret it. This is your chance to meet people from outside of your floor or dorm, meet people in your major, find out what opportunities are available for you, and a lot more. I, regretablly, didn’t take as much advantage of this as I should have. I was too busy trying to make friends with people who I didn’t really like and who didn’t really like me. (Tip, don’t do that). It set me up for a rough year but I learned from it and did eventually make my own friends and developed my own life on campus.
This can seem like a daunting task if you don’t know anyone on your campus. I picked a school that no one else from my high school was attending. I was starting with a completely blank canvas when I stepped onto the University of New Hampshire campus. This terrified me at first but then made me grow in ways that I never thought I would have to. The process of making new friends made me realize that it was okay to be alone and that you have to put the time in to get to know people. I also realized that you don’t need to stay friends with people. Listen to your gut on people.
Tip #5: If you realize that you don’t like someone, don’t keep being friends with them. Oh, and then don’t end up living with them the next year.
The best way to make friends in college if to join a club. Become a part of your hall council. Join an on campus club about something you enjoy doing (singing, organizing, politics, crafts, gaming, whatever it is you like to do). Get a work study job. Do something that gets you out of your room. If you’re only around your roommate or the people who live next to you, you are setting yourself up for failure.
Trying New Things
To wrap up this long post, I want to talk about trying new things. This is what college is all about. You are on your own for, probably, the first time ever. Use that to inspire you. Try everything* at least once. Never hiked before and your school is near the mountains, go hiking. Be on your own. Learn a new skill. Discover yourself.
During my first year of college, I tried as many new things as I could. I joined Humans vs. Zombies (basically campus wide tag but better) and met new people, I was in College Democrats for a little while, I started to learn to knit (it didn’t go well). If an opportunity presented itself to me, I tried to go for it. This really paid off in year two.
Want more first year of college stories? Let me know in the comments!