Showing up to move-in day and starting college doesn’t mean you’re ready for it. Take me, for example. Let’s flashback to three years ago.
I moved into a dorm with my best friend from high school, cramming everything we possibly could into a tight and humid room. We went through the motions of our first week. We went the orientation meetings, learned all the emergency phone numbers and stuffed ourselves dining hall food. Ultimately we felt excited for what was to come.
Until I realized I wasn’t ready for it.
I signed up for the typical freshman classes that I needed for my major, education. I went to 400-person lecture halls and tried to make myself care about what the professors said.
Around the third week, I began to feel so overwhelmed and out of place. Every time I stepped foot into my Econ lecture hall I began to have a panic attack and left. I felt as though everyone around me picked up on the information the professor pumped out and knew they were belonged here.
I felt nothing but lost.
Eventually I stopped going all together. I felt foolish and naïve. I wasn’t ready for this. I didn’t even know if I liked the education major. I picked it because I loved kids and I didn’t want to go in undecided, worried I’d simply fall behind and feel more pressure to hurry up and pick something.
Every day that went by, I wished I had taken a gap year. I stayed curled up in my box of a room and rarely went out.
Eventually my parents and I sat down and had a talk. Clearly things were not going as we hoped. They asked me what I wanted to do. I cried because I had absolutely no idea. I felt guilty knowing that time ticked on and I kept on wasting their money on classes I hated and failed.
We met with my advisor in the College of Education. She was simply no help. She did nothing but keep switch my major to ones with less work loads. I’d never even heard of these majors. She wouldn’t ask if I wanted to switch. She barely explained what the majors entailed. It seemed she just wanted me in and out of her office.
My parents ultimately got fed up with her, too. One night, my mother suggested we talk to a different college at the university.
I always loved to write, but figured I couldn’t get a good enough job with just that. She convinced me to go talk to the College of Communications and explain my difficulties. Why not see what they suggested? I didn’t expect much, but anything seemed better than going back to my other advisor.
Turns out this was the best decision I’ve made in my entire college career.
As we waited anxiously in the advising office, out walks Jamey, the Assistant Dean of Academic Services in the College of Communications. My mom and I sat in his office for probably about two hours, explaining everything starting from the first day of move-in until now.
He listened to every word, visibly caring. He suggested that I switch colleges immediately and that he would take me under his wing. His presented numerous options and what each involved. We landed on a major in journalism with a focus in public relations. We split my class load into two in-person classes and two online to make the transition easier.
I cannot explain the relief I felt walking out of that office. For the the first time in a while I felt like I figured out where I was supposed to be. I didn’t feel like an outsider. For a long time, I resented Penn State. I felt like a stranger to a place I knew I should feel lucky to attend.
I finally found my place.
Looking back, I realized it’s okay to feel lost. it’s okay to not know where you belong just yet. There will always going be someone out there who can help you—someone who wants to help you. Even in the worst moments know that one day you will thank yourself for not giving up. If you need to take time off then take it. If you need to reevaluate everything then do it.
Don’t settle for a path you resent. You’re going to make it.