Dear 18-year-old me,
How did move-in go? Orientation? Still feeling nervous about making friends? Still constantly wondering if Boston College was the right place for you?
Well, I can answer all those questions, because I was you two years ago. You’re nervous and secretly dreading the minute your parents have to leave, because that means this is all real. You really are in college, in a city 2,000 miles away from the rest of your immediate family. You know no one and no one knows you. It’s an incredibly lonely feeling, one that is going to stick with you and peek its head out at the most inconvenient of times.
Move-in day is nothing like they make it seem in the movies; it’s chaotic and hectic and packed with parents and siblings and aunts and uncles and grandparents all trying to squeeze into a double, ensuring their new baby Eagle gets settled and likes their roommate. But you’re not in on all that fun. Going to the last orientation session has some perks in that sense. You’re moved in and anxiously waiting to meet the other 35 girls you share a floor with, not to mention the other 275 that live in your building (the same residence hall you’ll live in as an RA your junior year…but I’m getting ahead of myself).
Back to move-in day: You feel awful right now. This pit in your stomach just continues to grow. The knots twist tighter and tighter but you still sit there, smiling in the circle of girls that you’ll share a floor with for the next year. Awkwardly thinking of better “fun facts” than the person before you, you hope to be just a little bit more memorable.
The first few weeks of classes require you to repeat the same few sentences over and over again: “Hi, my name is Celina Daniel, I’m from Phoenix, Arizona and El Paso, Texas (I’ve lived in both places for 10 years of my life so I have to always include both). I am in the College of Arts & Sciences majoring in Environmental Studies.” You don’t know this yet, but that last sentence will change by early November. You’ll learn that science, although interesting, isn’t the field for you. You’ll change your major to Communications, sending all your college plans for a loop.
You feel like a failure at first, so prepare yourself. Now you’re just another one of those kids who left the sciences for an “easier” major. You will feel awkward explaining why you changed your major. Even long after people forget that you were an Environmental Studies major for all but two seconds, you’ll still feel judgment and those internal scoffs from science, math and business majors.
And, yes, you’ll get homesick. No matter how hard you try to hide it, you’re going to miss your brother and your parents. You’ll miss your high school friends. You’ll miss El Paso, Texas and you’ll wonder why you ever wanted to move so far away. Most of all, you’ll miss that sense of familiarity. You feel your high school friends drifting apart, living different lives in different states, everyone going in different directions. You’ll feel lost. You don’t want to call home because you don’t want them to worry. You don’t want to reach out to your high school friends in case they can’t relate.
But guess what? It gets easier. You will find your best friend when you least expect it, when you both get on the wrong bus after a football game (note to self: Needham and Newton are NOT the same thing). And two years later you’ll both have a friendly, although heated, argument on how you really met. She thinks you first met in class but you definitely met on the bus and then in class later that week.
You learn that a phone call to home turns your day around when things get rocky. Just a quick check-in to say hello and ask how everything is on their end. Keeping the communication helps. Call your parents when you need to reach out. Luckily, your high school friends are the kind of low-maintenance friends that all live busy lives and understand you do too. Don’t fret because whenever you reunite it’s as if no time has passed at all.
If you only take one thing away from this letter, know that you are enough. You are smart enough, you are nice enough. You don’t need to force a smile day-in and day-out. It’s okay to be homesick—I know everyone may put on a brave face, so much so that it seems like no one else feels the same way you do, with feelings of loneliness and dreaded homesickness. But plenty of people are in the same boat, but they just don’t want to admit it. Reach out to your friends and you’ll be amazed to find that they miss home too.
It’s okay to not always be okay and it helps to remember that you’re not alone in this. Everyone misses their mom when they’re sick and counts down the days until they can sleep in their own bed.
You are not alone.