College is often described as a life-changing experience that is supposed to provide you with your best friends, the freshman fifteen, lots of parties, secluded exposure to the “real world” and, oh yeah, an education.
As my freshman year comes to a close, I can’t say I have had that experience, but I’ve made a path of my own that I think is worth reflecting on. Your college experience is yours and it should look like you, and its worth taking the time to make sure you can get the most out of it. But don't be blinded by your expectations. College is different for everyone.
The summer before freshman year of college is full of planning and organizing, and in my case, reading a guide book entitled, "The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College" by Harlan Cohen. I was able to read about all the possible ways that my college experience could go, with sections about residence halls, roommates, finding friends, getting involved, dating and relationships, drinking, drugs, money laundry and cheap eats. I found the book helpful as a basic overview of tips and tricks for survival, but it obviously isn’t specific to LMU and what my experience would be.
I moved 2454.89 miles from home on the east coast to the sunny land of SoCal. From the beginning of my college search I knew I wanted to be in L.A., but moving across the country is still a major feat, even if you want to do it. It was a struggle to pack and move things, let alone survive my beautiful five-hour flight. Besides all the physical moving, people are culturally different out here. It may sound weird, but there are new slang words and cultural references to learn.
Making friends in college sounds easy in theory because, like you, everyone else is trying to make friends too. But the sad reality for a lot of people is that it can be hard to be social all the time, and making new friends can be harder than it seems. In my case, I am an extrovert, but the orientation and ice breakers can be socially draining and can make it hard to try to socialize.
Over time, through getting involved in clubs and socializing in classes, I found friends and constantly make new friends. I have a small cohort of my people. I don’t know if they’ll become the lifelong best friends that college promises, but for right now, I have them and that’s enough.
The only beverage I drink is water—sometimes the occasional smoothie or juice—but water is my drink of choice for all occasions. My choice of sobriety isn’t unique to me, but it still puts me in the minority for college students, and that comes with its challenges like everything else. I have found some of my own personal solutions to avoid awkwardness around my lack of beverage at parties, like holding a cup of water. It keeps you hydrated for dancing, and you aren’t asked unsolicited questions about your lack of drink.
The major downside that comes with soberness is your given role of caretaker for all of your less-than-sober friends. Watching out for my friends is something I am willing to do because I care about them, but I do have a breaking point where I don’t want to be their babysitter. Sometimes, they gotta pull their stuff together.
In my first semester, I switched my major from communication studies to political science. The main reason for jumping ship from comm to poli sci was that I found communications to be too theoretical, too abstract and not actionable. Political science was more interesting to me because it can be applied to the turmoil of U.S. politics today. If you were to tell me that in my first semester I would switch majors, I might have considered it and then written it off. I had not thought about political science as any sort of career path for me, but I am glad I made the switch because it is a better fit for me.
You can read as many guide-to-college books as you desire. They are helpful and give you a good insight into what college may be like, but don’t read them like a script. They are meant to be a guide, not a map. Your college experience should be uniquely your own. If it looks too much like mine or anyone else's, it’s time to reevaluate. College is a time of growth in all directions, and if you are stuck in one way of thinking or one idea of what college should be like, you might miss out on something that could be great.
This is the opinion of Sally Dean, a freshman political science major from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Tweet comments to @LAloyolan or email comments to the email@example.com.