Guest Blogger: Caroline Albro
Going into college, I had a lot of expectations. As someone who enjoys planning and was very ready to leave home, I had my entire college experience mapped out in my head. I had an idea of what my dorm would look like, who my friends would be, and how diligent of a student I would suddenly become. Sitting here, as I reflect upon my first semester at Scripps College in Claremont, California, I’m realizing that none of my expectations were truly met. My dorm was not as Pinterest-worthy as I envisioned, at times I felt like I didn’t have any friends, and, let’s face it, I did not magically become a perfect student. In my first few weeks at college, the toxic expectations that had clouded my head since discovering my acceptance last December were restricting me from enjoying experiences outside of the perfect world I had created. For instance, when I entered my dorm room on that first day of orientation, the linoleum flooring, cinderblock walls, and fluorescent lighting crushed my Pinterest board dreams. The RAs made it clear that the safety protocol strictly prohibited the use of string lights and candles that I wanted to line on my windowsill. Meanwhile, my two roommates had no interest in cultivating a hygge-inspired space. With that out the door, I was left to put sheets on my plastic twin-size mattress and curate a wall of my favorite photos and artwork. Today, that little wall is the best part of my room. The rest of the room is definitely not the aesthetically-pleasing, spacious dream I had, but I’m still able to look out of my window into a beautiful courtyard every morning.
I also had expectations for friendships in college. While I was part of a wonderful friend group in high school, I imagined that my college friends would be even tighter. We would bond during orientation and be inseparable until graduation, switching off between fun nights at parties and more studious ones in our special library study spot. In reality, I did meet some awesome people at orientation, but no one that I completely clicked with. Instead, I made awkward small-talk in uncomfortable dining halls with people I didn’t especially like. I spent a little too much time alone, alternating between studying and working out and watching Netflix. I called my mom far too many times, explaining among sobs why I was destined to never find “my people.” Ultimately, this didn’t last. About a month into my first semester, I embarked on a trip to the farmer’s market in downtown Claremont with another group of random people, and ended up meeting two of my best friends. While we may not be as tight-knit as my high school friend group yet, we still have three and a half more years to get there. Those friends helped my get through tough classes and late nights in the library as I navigated through a challenging new academic environment.
I envisioned my liberal arts experience to be entirely engaging. I thought that the interesting classes and close relationships to professors would motivate me to devote myself to work wholeheartedly. While I dreaded writing papers in high school, I would love my college classes so much that writing papers would be fun! Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. I still procrastinated and struggled with most assignments. The number of humanities classes that I was taking in college compared to high school resulted in an unexpected amount of reading and writing. While I generally enjoy these subjects, it was a lot to take on. I learned that I need to schedule my classes around two humanities classes and two other classes, so that I wouldn’t be constantly reading dense articles and writing ten-page papers for the rest of my college career. Next semester, I’ll be taking a social science class and a writing class, but I’ll also be taking computer science and digital art. That way, I’m able to structure my academic tasks as to not overwhelm myself.
So no, my college experience was not quite how I anticipated it would be. In fact, it was really different. But that is not to say that it wasn’t filled with some of the most fun, adventurous, and memorable moments of my life. Once I let go of expectations, I was able to embrace the new and unusual. I was able to welcome unexpected relationships and messy dorm rooms and feeling absolutely alone. I was able to realize that a lot of other people feel the same exact way. Next semester, I’m looking forward to saying yes to any new experience. I’m excited for new academic and social challenges. I’m ready to reconnect with friends and meet new ones and try computer science and apply for leadership positions. I have the confidence that I can do all of these things because just a few months ago, I picked up my life and moved to Southern California to attend a school where I knew no one. I can say that I have successfully built a new life for myself, just as the Scripps motto, “Incipit Vita Nova” or “Here Begins New Life,” suggests.