Picture this—a weird sleep-away camp where 12-page papers and exams make up 50 percent of your grade. No matter how many all-nighters you pull or how small your hieroglyphics look on your cheat sheet, you are never as prepared as you should be. Your life is in shambles and more often than not you don’t get enough sleep and you can’t seem to quench your hunger. Through this twisted madness of the ‘college experience,’ however, you make some really cool friends. Of course, the stress of having to be a responsible adult kicks in and you question whether or not you’re prepared for this, but you love the madness anyways—it’s what college is all about.
Growing up in your hometown, your family and friends knew you as one person because, well, that’s who you’ve been all your life.
You grew up with these people and they know you based on a neat category they believe you fit into. They know you as the scholar athlete, the artist on the debate team, the pothead musician or the “mom” of the group. You have embodied this role for so long, and whatever your category, it defines you. Leaving home, you are so sure of who you are meant to be only to figure out you’re completely wrong.
You arrive at college and everything changes.
You’re stripped of the very things that made you the person you were back home. It sounds corny, but this new place and these new people are a clean slate. It’s confusing but somehow you have to figure out how to readjust. Will you create a new role by adapting to these new tendencies, beliefs and routines? Or will you will you hold onto the things that are comfortable? Who are you now and what do you stand for? Throughout the college experience, these questions become increasingly relevant.
I realize this phenomenon doesn’t happen to everyone. Some people simply become an enhanced version of who they were back home and their roles don’t change much. However, majority of students experience some kind of identity crisis, pushing them out of their comfort zone and challenging them to question everything they thought they knew.
After a few months, you’ve somewhat adjusted.
You’re in a new setting, but you still have the same morals, history and passions. Maybe now you’re on the intramural volleyball team when you’ve never played volleyball in your life. Maybe you become really interested in politics and intern at a local political organization. Whatever the case may be, you’ve changed, or are changing. You are finally adapting to this new role, with new people, in a new place.
When fall break comes around, your new self and old self meet face-to-face. You panic a little, unsure of how to introduce this new and improved version of yourself to your childhood friends. At first, it’s hard. At times you find your old tendencies peeking through, and you try to push them away to let your new self shine. It becomes increasingly harder as your old routine becomes comfortable again. Just as things start feeling familiar, it’s time to go back to school.
This cycle can be incredibly confusing at first. It was scary when I realized a lot of the things that shaped me started to melt away. I fell into new routines, did things I never would’ve imagined I’d do and made some unlikely friends.
I’m still me, but I’m just a different version.
It took me a while to maintain who I am in both places. To be honest, even as a junior I’m still adjusting. I’m thankful for the person college has made me, and I think high school me would be proud—for the most part. Sure, I still struggle with this, as I feel so many of us do.
Hometown me, meet college me—I think you two will make good friends.