You don’t need me to tell you that starting college feels hard for everyone. Students often question their choice when they get to their school. They feel unsure about their classes, major, roommate, whether the school’s reputation is good enough and more. But what happens if this uncertainty comes after months of preparation and years of dreaming?
As international student, the beginning of my college career started differently. For more than three years, I’d wanted to study in an American college. I’d put in a ton of effort into the application process. I started writing my common app essays in July while I was in a hospital. Normally, students start drafting in October. By the end of September I had all required and optional essays ready. I’d studied with an SAT textbook for two hours every weekday, sitting in my boarding school’s library, highlighting every word I didn’t know and tearing up from the stress and pressure.
The hard work paid off—I received acceptances from six of the eight schools I applied to. I arrived to my college for international students orientation at the end of August, just a few days before classes were meant to start. On my first day, I met a few friendly people who I got along with very well, so I felt very confident about starting college.
The first semester flew by, and going home for Christmas felt refreshing. I got to see my friends from high school, and everyone asked me about college. As I told them about my classes, roommate and friends, I realized that I actually felt very unhappy. I didn’t really enjoy any of my classes, I didn’t get along that well with my roommate and I either stopped talking to the friends that I met during the first few weeks or the ones that I had were not as close to me as I wish they were.
But I couldn’t admit this to myself and especially not to my friends. After all, not everyone has the chance to study in a prestigious American college. How could I tell anyone, when my friends back home kept telling me they wish they were me? I couldn’t say that my first semester experience didn’t meet my expectations.
I broke down halfway through my second semester. You can say it pretty much sucked. I didn’t land top grades in my classes because I didn’t feel passionate about them, my roommate completely lost any sense of respect for me and I only had a couple of close friends I trusted. However, I could barely see them due to our different timetables. I cried all the time, and one night I called my mum in hysterics asking her to do something about it. It was the first time I admitted to someone I wasn’t loving college.
My mum couldn’t handle me being so upset, so she bought me a ticket home. I spent about a week and a half there, researching universities in other countries. I considered moving back to Russia where I am from or to the UK where my boarding school was.
I’d never questioned whether America was the place for me. In fact, I’d felt so sure that I wanted to study there so badly that I did not stop and analyze my situation like other students usually did. I didn’t know whether it was specifically my college that I felt unhappy about, or the American university system in general. I was panicking and stressing out like students normally do when they first start their freshman year. But usually students convince themselves they love it and stay, or simply transfer in January. Yet it was too late for me to transfer or apply to a new place for the next year. So I had no idea what to do and how to continue my education.
Flash forward to now, and I’m currently a sophomore, still studying happily at the same college. I realized that my unhappiness came because as soon as something negative happened, I thought all my enjoyment before was fake and only due to my friends overseas being so jealous. However, after calming down and looking at my other options, I understood that I made the right choice initially. The main point? It’s never too late or inappropriate to seek help. When you go to college, everybody tells you that you’re an adult. People take it too seriously, as if adults don’t need to ask for help. But that’s wrong. You should always talk to someone about being unhappy straight away in order to prevent any complications and breakdowns.
If you feel like your school is not for you, talk about it to someone, discuss it thoroughly and come up with a plan to change your situation. College is mentally challenging, and it can feel extremely hard to accept that you’re not having fun while everyone else is. However, keep in mind that you’re in charge of this experience. Only you can shape your future.
To the incoming class of 2021: You can bet it will be hard at first, but keep in mind that everyone goes through it.