Living up to the college experience


July 2, 2024

As I’ve been sitting here as a college graduate with very little to do this summer, I was thinking about all of the things that I wish that I had known before I started college. I’ve been thinking about how I felt that summer before I started college – I was very excited but also very nervous. Before I started college, my only exposure to what I thought college life would be like was the one summer camp I had done, any overnight school trips I had been on, as well as an endless amount of college YouTube vlogs I had watched. I remember being nervous about college because it would be my “whole life” and I had never experienced that before; what I mean by that is that in high school, once I went home, I could do whatever I wanted to and that didn’t interfere with my school life. But at college I’d be living and studying in the same place, it would be my “whole life”.

I thought that living in the dorms and being at college meant that I would have to be “on” all the time; I would have to be up to socialize and be spontaneous at any given moment or sacrifice sleep and routines just to do something fun that you can “only do in college” because that’s what the stereotypes had told me. And while I definitely did do those fun spontaneous things during college, I also found a way to enjoy college as something that worked for who I am too – as an introvert.

I feel as though there’s this negative connotation with admitting that you’re an introvert; that it somehow means that you are quiet and shy and unsociable. But what it really means is that you need time to recharge alone instead of recharging with other people. I consider myself to be quite a social person, but at the end of the day I need to wind down on my own whether it be having some time to read a book or go for a walk or even just take a long shower and let my mind quieten. I think because introverts are generally less of that crowd who share their life online, the stereotypes that make up what we think the college experience is going to be like are very extroverted. When I imagined what college would be like, I really did think that I’d have to be ready to socialize 24/7 and that I wouldn’t really find friends who wanted to stay in on a weekend night with me once in a while. In that sense, college was really not what I imagined it would be!

During my last week of college, I went on a Senior Retreat with Georgetown where we spent the weekend in a cabin in Virginia reflecting on our college experiences. It was such a wholesome and grounding experience and I found myself thinking, hey, it’s really cool that all of these people took the time to be here; to be in this cabin in the middle of nowhere talking with each other, dressed in comfy sweaters while it rains outside, sitting on the porch in blankets, and playing frisbee outside when it stopped raining. I think our retreat leader described that retreat as “a cozy night in and brunch with grandma the next morning” which I loved. It was the kind of thing that I would have never imagined myself doing at college. From what I had seen before I had started college, I would have never imagined that 100 seniors would choose to spend part of their last week having a cozy night in and brunch with grandma. 

The thing that struck me the most about retreat was that it was such a diverse group of people; retreat was filled with extroverts and people even more introverted than me, but we all chose to be there in the moment and spend our time like that. It made me think back to starting college and how I thought that I’d be lucky if I found a few friends who would understand what I like to do for fun and how I like to spend my time. But I couldn’t have been more wrong because this final full circle moment taught me that it wasn’t even about finding people “like me”, that the real college social experience is so much more diverse than labeling yourself as an introvert or an extrovert. It truly goes beyond the stereotypes of what you have to act like in order to have the real college experience. For me, I was able to do the fun wholesome things that I love to do like hosting dinner parties for my friends and having movie nights in but I also did things like getting dressed up to go to fancy Georgetown balls and pulling an all nighter before graduation with my friends. There’s no typical college experience that you have to live out and you don’t have to be living up to the stereotypes to have had a great college experience.

So when I think back to myself four years ago before starting college, I wish that she knew that she would find a way to make the college experience her own; that she didn’t have to feel nervous that the college life that she had seen online didn’t seem to fit in with what she actually enjoyed doing. So I hope that for anyone getting ready to start college or to just start a new phase of life that this can be your reminder that we do not have to stick to stereotypes and that each experience is really what we make of it.

See you next week,

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