Going off to college means a time of complete transition, and many students may lose a sense of who they are during this process. Initially, I struggled to navigate the extremely competitive nature at Boston College. I never had trouble doing well or feeling successful as a student in high school; I always came in at the top of my class.
It seemed like that was the case with every student at Boston College.
Now needed to push myself harder than I once did and put in more effort than in high school to fit in and to excel at BC.
The spring of my freshman year, I took a class required for my communication major called Media Theory. As the only freshman in the class, I felt extremely nervous each day as I entered the classroom full of upperclassmen.
The professor used an intimidating teaching style, which only added to my anxiety and nerves. Prior to each class we prepared a discussion post relating to the readings for the upcoming lecture. The professor would refer to them when he called on students during lecture, asking them to elaborate on their posting.
I felt as if my professor called on me much more frequently than any of the other students. Each time he would ask me to elaborate on my discussion post, I would nervously offer up my opinion, feeling the stares of my classmates. Every time I spoke I could feel my face heat up and redden, escalating my embarrassment and anxiousness.
When it came time to write our first research paper, I wanted to pick a topic I actually cared about. I chose to write my article on how Disney princesses are portrayed in the media. I love all things related to Disney, and used to envision myself as Cinderella at Disneyland one day. (Honestly, I still place hope in the small chance that this could still happen.)
The fact that I chose this topic only embarrassed me more. I struggled to understand why it seemed like a good idea to me at the time.
As a nervous freshman, I might as well write a paper about princesses, right?
I spent long hours researching and writing the paper. I don’t recall ever feeling as nervous as I did when turning it in. I worried I would appear silly and stupid compared to my fellow upperclassmen classmates who all seemed to choose very professional sounding topics. I expected to receive nothing better than a B on the paper, and would feel overjoyed if I even did that well.
My anxiousness only grew and grew as I waited for my grade. When I returned to my room after an exhausting college day, I felt butterflies in my stomach when I saw an email from my Media Theory professor in my inbox.
I assumed I did something wrong. The email expressed the exact opposite. I did nothing wrong, in fact, my professor thought I did everything right. My professor asked me if he could use my paper as an example of a perfect “A” paper for the rest of the class.
This may not seem like that big of a deal, but it became a pinnacle moment of my freshman year.
This email on that one evening the spring of my freshman year not only took away my exhaustion from that day, but it also took away any discouragement I felt. I finished off my class that semester with a newfound level of confidence, and I would walk into class each day feeling slightly more confident.
I began to feel as though I truly did belong at Boston College. I may not always receive an A on papers, but the fact that I could do better than upperclassmen just this once reminded me of my high school self. When my professor recognized my love and talent for writing essays, I felt ecstatic.
Perhaps superstar students fill Boston College, but that does not mean I don’t belong at Boston College as a superstar student myself.
In the future, I will always remember this moment amidst times of failure along the way. I had not failed during my freshman year, but I had temporarily lost the sense of studious pride I felt in high school. My professor helped bring a glimpse of that pride back into my life, and I will forever have gratitude for that small but necessary push he provided me.
After receiving his email that one spring evening, I decided that I would no longer let my competitive college exhaust or discourage me. I may have seemed discouraged and nervous at the beginning of that one class, but as college has progressed I’ve done just fine.
I belong at Boston College. Even my professors recognize that.