With every new school year, I feel I should have things under control. I mean, I’m a senior. I’m starting my fourth year on campus. You won’t see me wandering around with my phone open to Google Maps. I know what time the bus comes. I know every student and faculty member in my major. I have a great group of friends.
So why did the start of the school year still suck this time around?
Surprise! Coming to college can pose a huge challenge. But shouldn’t it get easier to return to school each fall? In my experience, that answer is no. Each new homecoming brings about its own jack-in-the-box of challenges. From friendship pains, forging new identities or taking harder classes, it seems like something always puts a strain on your semester’s start. But without fail, October proves to be better, or maybe I’m only remembering Halloweekend.
Are you heading into October worried your back-to-school heartache will stick with you? Share in my misery as I walk you through the nitty gritty ways my Septembers in college have sucked, and how October surprised me.
My freshman year overflowed with setbacks, like many other new students adjusting to their first month away from home. To start, I experienced major FOMO thanks to everyone else I overheard in any context ever making plans with the friends I wished I had. Every photo of a party I didn’t get invited to still stung. Every public space felt so uncomfortable to occupy. Whether finding a spot to eat in the dining hall or walking through the student lounge in my department building, I felt so small and so confused. Campus felt massive, and I longed for the comfort of my life in high school.
But as September turned to October, I solidified my best friends and began to realize that my college experience didn’t have to match everyone else’s I saw on Snapchat. I finally went to a few of those parties I so desperately wanted a Facebook invite to. I realized that—shocker—they weren’t life-changing. A 90s costume party certainly wasn’t going to be what made my college experience fulfilling.
My sophomore year, coming back to campus felt way less scary, and I couldn’t wait to see my friends again. I lived in a single dorm, adjoined to my freshman year roommate who I really liked. But our schedules always clashed, and my other friends moved off campus. They had to drive and pick me up whenever we wanted to hang out, and I felt like a burden. I struggled to adjust to my new living situation and the responsibility of no longer being a freshman. I felt disconnected to my campus, as I found myself attending fewer campus events.
But starting my on-campus internship all about outreach and campus offerings made me feel grounded. My friends reassured me that while circumstances had changed since last year when we lived across the hall from each other, we could and would still hang out every weekend. I realized I could pull through.
My junior year, I began my semester abroad in Copenhagen. Make no mistake. That didn’t mean this September was glamorous and international. No, this September felt like the longest one yet. By the time I flipped my calendar page, I felt like I’d been away from home for a year. I couldn’t find a group of friends I clicked with in my program, and I felt so disheartened to be missing out on fall football games (and I’m not even a sports fan). I got in my own head and forgot who I was and what I could add to a conversation.
But as I moved through the rocky start, I spent a lot of time reevaluating who I wanted to be. I remembered where I was, thanked goddess above for the Danish deserts that far outshone the ice cream and waffles on my campus (sorry not sorry). I didn’t want this experience to pass me by as I wallowed about missing out on the “how was your summer?” question on the first day of class. By October, I had regained my footing and found my little group of friends that I’m so glad I stuck it out for.
Ah, senior year. Surely, I could nail this last college September! I mean, I’m living in the exact same place I did last year, meaning one less variable that could play tricks on me– or so I thought. I’m living with my best friends, in an apartment right downtown, and I feel totally confident in who I am. But if you’ve caught onto the theme, back to school still sucked. This time, I felt like I couldn’t quite get anything right. When I thought I could do something well or finally achieve a goal, it moved farther away from me. And I need to accept that it isn’t always September’s fault. Sometimes it’s on me.
Each October is a chance to push forward as classes pick up and life gets busier. Each October is a chance to reevaluate my attitude and the circumstances of the school year to prep myself for success throughout the year.
This time next year, I’ll be taking my college-graduate-self across the country. I can’t even imagine the loneliness that might befall me. But if the past four Septembers have given me anything besides a blemish on four otherwise good years, it’s the surety that with a little bit of persistence and perspective, some day September will end. By next October, I hope I’m looking forward to the rest of the year.