A Letter to My Freshman Year Self

A Letter to My Freshman Year Self

To my freshman year self,

I’ve decided to write you a letter. I know this might seem kinda strange, but I’ve had a lot on my mind recently with college graduation approaching, so I wanted to tell you all about it. I often avoid talking about my feelings when things get hard. It’s funny, because the times when I need to talk about things the most are the times when I remain silent. This is almost always because these things feel too emotionally hard to deal with. Journaling is like therapy for me. It’s hard to face what I’m really feeling, but once I write it down, I always feel so much better. I started seriously journaling my sophomore year of college when I was inspired by Taylor Swift. She shared some of her journal entries with the release of her album Lover. She talked about how rewarding and important journaling was to her, and I feel the exact same way. It has become a great place for me to reflect on my own life and think about both fun and hard things. This is all to say that this week I’ve been thinking about my last four years of college, and what I would do if I could do it all over again. So, I’ve decided to write a letter for you. Here it is.

First things first, find a group of friends that make you feel good in your own skin. This will take time, and these friends might even change over the course of your four college years. Some of the friends that I made freshman year changed quite a bit and we grew apart. Oftentimes I feel pressure to hold onto friendships, even when they don’t serve me. Sometimes friendships between women can be extra tricky, too, because women have the ability to be especially manipulative. I remember trying to convince myself time and time again that this one girl wasn’t really doing what she was doing to me. Don’t give these types of friendships any of your energy. These friends don’t deserve you or your time.

Second, try out for the sports team. In high school I danced and played soccer. I loved both for different reasons, but when I got to college I was too nervous to try out for the women’s soccer team. Even when I was given the opportunity to play soccer, I still ended up choosing the ballet classes because the dance program was smaller and less competitive. I made the less daunting choice, I chose the easier option, and, since then, I’ve always wondered “what if?” There are no words to describe how much I wish I had tried out for the soccer team freshman year. I’ve looked on from the sidelines and regretted that choice ever since. The dance department at my college has been great, but there is something about the team spirit and environment of a soccer team that cannot be replicated. 

As sports teams are often great places to make new friends, so is freshman year orientation. At my college’s orientation I quickly became close friends with three other students. There were four of us total, two guys and two girls, including myself. We hung out all the time in my dorm room, we went to the state fair together, got dinner in the dining hall, and went to sports games…anyways you get the idea, it was a really fun group dynamic. Flash forward to the end of my senior year and this group of friends is no longer as close. We have gone our separate ways and this makes me sad. I never really got the chance to tell them all (and one guy especially), how much they meant to me. I was too shy, too timid. So my advice is, you should always tell people how you truly feel, whether it be romantic love or not. As I look back now, I wish I would have taken a risk and said what I really felt at the time. Because now as I write this at the fast approaching end of my senior year, it’s too late. Take that risk and share your heart. I wish I had. 

Although I do regret not sharing my true feelings with certain people at school, one thing that I will never regret is the time that I took to travel and visit my friends from home on their college campuses. It’s really fun to get to explore other campuses, night life, and college culture. I visited one friend who goes to school in LA twice. Some highlights of these two trips included going to the beach (something I can’t do going to school in upstate New York), Disneyland, hiking around Laguna Beach, going out to campus bars, and camping in Joshua Tree. Then, I visited another friend at school in eastern Washington over summer break. Highlights of this fun adventure included going out to brunch, swimming in a beautiful freshwater lake, taking a spin bike class, and going line dancing! It was so fun to see my high school friends thriving in their college environments, and being around them also gave me a comforting sense of home. Visit other college campuses and explore while you can!

When I was not out and about exploring other college campuses on the weekends or over break, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights were the going out nights at my school. I have found that this is true of many universities, whether nightlife involves going to the college bar, a frat house, or a house party. I have found that nightlife at college is super fun, except when you feel like you don’t have plans and everyone else does. Being completely honest, there have been many Friday nights of my undergrad experience where I stayed in and watched way too many episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. And, sometimes this was because I didn’t feel like going out, but other times it was because I wasn’t invited. I cried and felt sad or not “popular” enough. In hindsight, it’s so crazy how much pressure I put on myself to feel like I needed to have super “eventful” nights out every weekend of my college life. Yes, it’s great to have fun and crazy nights out with friends, but it’s not remotely realistic to have this kind of experience every weekend. Especially after freshman year, I found that the newness of college died down and there were fewer large parties. People tended to hangout with their close group of friends, and it was harder to meet and make new friends. In summary, go out, have fun, but just know that if you have a few lonely weekend nights at home alone, that’s totally okay, and you are definitely not the only one!

Not going out every weekend can also be a great way to take care of your health and give your body a rest. Taking care of your health is super important in college. Not just to feel or look good, but also for your mental and academic health. My dance classes were so crucial for me in this aspect of my undergrad experience. Getting sweaty three to five times a week always improved my mood and made it easier for me to sit through long lectures and focus on homework. Finding a good workout routine and sticking to it, is something that I couldn’t recommend more. Also, keep a lookout for free workout classes in your school’s gym and invite a friend to be your workout buddy and hold you accountable.

Holding yourself accountable in the gym is important but it’s also (and I would argue more important) in your academic endeavors. One great way to stay motivated is through finding and taking classes with awesome professors. This means that you should do your research beforehand. Ask around on campus about what teachers are good, look them up on Rate My Professors (but take this with a grain of salt), and once you find a professor you like, take as many classes as you can with them — even if you are not super interested in the subject itself. Great professors create wonderful learning environments that cannot be replicated, and their enthusiasm for learning will definitely rub off on you. I guarantee it. 

Lastly, as you have heard, there are several things that I wish I could have changed about my undergraduate experience. However, one thing that I wouldn’t want to change at all is my study abroad experience. Going abroad is one of the best decisions you can make in college. I was super lucky that I got to go to France twice! The first time I went abroad, I went to Tours, France, for a four week language immersion program. The second time I studied abroad, I traveled to Paris for the first semester of my senior year to study photography at Paris College of Art. These experiences challenged me as both a student and individual, and I wouldn’t want to change them for the world. I will forever cherish the pictures, friendships, funny memories, new language skills, failed love interests, live music, moments of chaos, new cooking recipes, stories, and adventures that I will one day tell my future kids.

Cheers to you, freshman year me! I hope that my current senior self has passed on some useful wisdom. 

XOXO,

Hannah    

Featured image by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.