Long before I had a dream school or even a dream major — I had a dream freshman year. I spent much of high school daydreaming of moving into my dorm and waving my parents away happily, just like in the movies. I pictured myself laughing with an influx of new friends in the library and being the mature, independent version of myself I always pined after.
It was probably when I spent the first two weeks of freshman year crying every day and begging my parents to let me come home that I realized this perfect vision may have been slightly unrealistic.
Coming to terms with these feelings of intense homesickness and lack of preparation felt like grieving some sort of loss. I would find myself scolding this “immature” behavior that didn’t fit this internal narrative of how I had thought I should be adjusting to life at college — as if there is one right way.
I told myself that I needed to grow up. That I was acting like a baby and that everyone else was doing just fine.
I didn’t know it then, but what I was feeling couldn’t have been less exclusive to me. The class of 2025 went into our freshman year headfirst, each and every one of us trying to break away from the heaviness and isolation of the two years prior.
While freshman year is a trying experience for anyone, it’s no secret that the freshman class this year had a larger adjustment to make.
According to numbers from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, the total undergraduate enrollment dropped 3.1% from the fall of 2020 to the fall of 2021. This number could be explained by different financial situations for many families due to COVID-19, or even just an uptake in trade schools or community colleges.
It could also be explained by many of us feeling stunted socially, not ready to take on all of the challenges that come with college.
We spent much of our time in the past two years by ourselves, with our families and retreated from large social gatherings. Despite this hardship, many of us grew immensely within this time period — even if it didn’t feel like it.
Whether we acquired a new hobby or enjoyed more time with family, we shouldn’t feel like the time was wasted. It was, however, likely spent more isolated and alone than we had ever been in our lives.
I reflect on this and feel for the version of myself who felt so much guilt because she didn’t feel ready to begin this new chapter of life. I reflect on this and am comforted by the idea that many more of us struggled this year than we may ever realize. Let’s be proud of ourselves and acknowledge everything that we accomplished.
I know that I felt it many times this semester when all I wanted to do was get on a flight back home. It would have been far easier, more comfortable and more familiar. I remember being on the phone with my dad with his exact words being to just “lean into it, Liv.” It’s a simple couple of words that both confused and annoyed me at the time, but almost nine months later I can’t think of advice any more helpful. Lean into it. Lean into the uncomfortable, the unknown and the scary.
If there is anything I have learned from freshman year, it would be the value and importance of these tough moments in our lives over the easy ones.
As we close in on freshman year, I realize that it has been the first big step into navigating the rest of our lives. Despite these various trials and tribulations, we began our growth into the people we are going to be. Although I wasn’t always the perfectly prepared version of myself I thought I would be, I’m even prouder of the version that I’ve become. You should be, too.
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Olivia is a freshman who has yet to declare her major. She enjoys reading, foreign films and poetry in her free time.