The best four years of your life. This is what I heard before arriving at college in 2018. When I arrived at the doorstep of my dorm building at Penn State University, I felt nervous yet overwhelmingly excited to embark on this freshman journey. I looked forward to finding my passion, discovering who I am all while having the freedom of living away from home.
Remembering back, I desperately wanted these next four years to give me some clarity as to what I wanted to do in life and really discover who I am.
I was never the star of my classes in high school, just cruising by with mediocre grades and no real sense of what I wanted to do. I never excelled at math, science or history, but I found comfort in English. This is what I thought to myself when I blindly filled in “public relations-communications” for my major at Penn State.
Freshman year unfolded, yet I still felt incredibly lost. The new friends I made seemed to have it all figured out. Around me, they talked excitedly about their interesting engineering classes or fun nursing lectures. However, I dreaded going to my own classes, sometimes just not even going at all. I really felt lost at sea with no life raft to save me. It didn’t help that I chose not to get involved in any campus activities and my GPA plummeted. By the end of freshman year, my grades looked dismal.
I didn’t maintain a high enough GPA to even continue in the public relations major I had blindly filled in prior.
After a meeting with my advisor to decide the best path for me to go down, we settled on journalism. I knew I needed to change my mindset. I dove deep into my classes going into sophomore year, really immersing myself in everything Penn State had to offer. As a result of not just showing up to class, but showing up with a purpose to learn and grow, I found my true passion with writing.
I found that I could express myself in ways that I could never do before. Most importantly, I found something that I truly loved and that I excelled at. I could finally contribute to conversations about what was exciting in my own classes or an assignment that I had received a good grade on. The cherry on top was me putting myself out there and applying for campus magazines and even College Magazine.
Not only did I land an interview, but I got a position.
However, with this amazing major and newfound passion, came some downsides. These included those “looks” I got when asked that age-old question: “What’s your major?” Those looks would then follow with a new set of questions that included, “What will you do with that major?” or “You know you probably won’t make a lot of money after graduation.” I would get bombarded by these questions from people at social gatherings or at family reunions over Thanksgiving dinner. I would always leave these encounters questioning whether or not I had made the right decision.
Looking back to the lost, confused and scared freshman year me, I wish I could tell her so many things. I want to tell her that it’s okay to feel lost. Reaching what feels like an all-time low, means the only way to go is up. Keeping an open mind and taking in everything college can offer, both good and bad, is necessary to grow as a person. Join that club you eyed, show up to that meeting even though you feel nervous. Guess what? Everyone else feels nervous too.
I want to tell her that the friends you met that one day in the freshman dorms, will stay your friends for four years down the line—as well as for the rest of your life. Surrounding yourself with people that care about you and push you to be your best self is one of the greatest things you can do for yourself. Getting to college is a gateway into discovering who you are, yet it’s so easy to lose yourself if you’re not careful. Going out every weekend (sometimes even on the weekdays) and missing class as a result, is not worth it.
Don’t let the fear of missing one drunken night out dictate your sleep schedule.
Most importantly, don’t care about what others around you think. Focus on yourself and what makes you happy! It doesn’t matter what the people around you think as long as you feel good about what you’re doing. Feel proud about that article you’re working on and feel accomplished about everything that you worked for so far.
Now, I’m a senior in college and I truly feel like I’m living my best life. I realize that staying in on a Friday night is not “lame.” Standing in a crowded sweaty mess with strobing lights and blaring music is actually not as fun as curling up in bed with a good movie or sitting on the couch with popcorn hanging out with close friends. College is about having fun, but also focusing on what matters; yourself. Listen to what your body and mind need and find that passion in life, hold onto and run with it.