Train in VeinCollege Blues? It's Okay.Alexandra

Guess what? College wasn’t the best time of my life. I sure thought it was supposed to be, though, and that made it all the more miserable. I have been thinking about my college days a lot lately. I went to (and LOVED) the HelloGiggles “Letters To My Younger Self” show at Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, hosted by the lovely and hilarious Ingrid Haas, and this really got me thinking back. Then yesterday, I had a patient who had just started college and had left to take time off for a myriad of reasons and setbacks. I felt a real connection with her, because I just about dropped out of college myself. For many, college is truly a “golden years” time. It absolutely can be. It is an amazing time. I don’t regret my experience and I learned a lot, but I was pretty miserable. College might not be the best time ever, and that is okay.

My patient told me she had been struggling in college due to health setbacks, being away from home, going from intense physical activity to no activity, and feeling overwhelmed with the vast amounts of people. She said college guys were scary, like suddenly she wasn’t around guys she knew and trusted anymore but rather scary college men. I couldn’t have related more. I felt just as overwhelmed and lost when I started at the University. The good news? I could tell her with 100% confidence that life does indeed get better after college. College may be a blast for some, but others have a little more blooming to do.

Now, I am a sucker for movies, ideals and romance. I basically spent half my life writing screenplays for my ideal life in my head. After the usual teen angst and struggles in high school, I was poised for college to be “my time”. A new me would be born: The real me. The better me. The perfect me. No pressure; it would also be the best time of my life.

Welllll… It was not the best time of my life. I was terrified. The sheer number of people on campus was paralyzing. I was lost, and knew no one would know if I missed a class or if I were sad or if it was my birthday. I was dumbstruck by fashionable and cool girls from the East and West coasts that took over the streets of my hometown like a runway. I had no clue that I was categorically not stylish – I wore tennis shoes to bars, and suddenly in my own town I felt like a complete townie idiot. There were hot guys, or like my patient said, “men” everywhere. There was partying that I never even dreamed possible. The coursework was hard and I had to actually study for the first time in my life. I also really missed living with my family. Then I broke my elbow and I was stuck fumbling with a sling for the first several weeks. I was not off to a flying start.

My self-esteem spiraled downward. I made “cool” friends, only to feel frumpy and not skinny enough and overly studious. I studied constantly, dieted and exercised. I let my friends make me over until I hardly recognized myself. I went out, against every bit of my homebody nature, night after night. I hooked up with guys so my friends would think I was “normal”. Bit by bit my soul was vanishing, as was all of my passion. I remember one day lying on my futon, staring at my Tupac poster and listening to Janet Jackson’s The Velvet Rope on repeat, just crying for hours. My friends didn’t even like Tupac, what was I doing?

I remember hearing people outside laughing and going to bars while I built my O Chem molecular models. I remember walking home from the library at night and hearing frat guys making fun of my giant backpack. Where in the hell was my awesome sexy college life? Where was my glorious self-discovery? Why did I feel like such a poser nerd? I decided to drop all of my classes. I decided I had to do something “cool” instead. Maybe I could be a writer? A television producer? An econ major? An actress? Anything but a nerdy pre med student from Wisconsin trying to look like a cool New Yorker away for a fun college free for all in the Midwest. Well, my Dad wasn’t really having that. I agreed to take some classes in journalism and mass media. Low and behold, this did not make me “cool” or score me my fantasy college life, and back to pre-med I went.

I could go on and on. The awful guys I dated, the shame filled partying I forced myself to do, the self-hatred as I ran as fast as I could on a stupid treadmill, getting rejected by guys I had crushes on… It was an all-time low. I wish I could say it got a lot better, but it didn’t. It got a little better. I eventually had an amazing and supportive roommate who made me feel good about being studious and sort of anti-social. I had a ton of family support. I finished college and started medical school. Then I slowly started to accept who I am.

It hasn’t been an easy road, but the most important thing I did for my happiness was to become what I am. One needs to be gracious, polite, considerate and kind to people, but outside of that, the only person you really need to fit in with is yourself. Only then will you find your place in this world. There is a very happy ending – well, middle really – to my story: I am extremely happy. I have an amazing family, husband and friends. This was only possible because I finally learned to accept myself and to genuinely think I am awesome. I am. The best part of finally being so awesome? I can look a 19-year-old in the eye and tell her that everything will be okay. I wish I could have told myself, but at least I can tell others.

It will be okay. College doesn’t have to be the best time of your life. If it isn’t, your time will come.

  1. You don’t have to party like everyone else
  2. It’s okay to study a lot
  3. It’s cool to study a lot and to be passionate about it
  4. There are “nerds” in every field, not just the “nerdy” ones
  5. Dress how you want to dress
  6. Obsess over being healthy, not being skinny
  7. Please don’t smoke!
  8. You don’t need to “hook up with people”
  9. You don’t need tons of friends, you need good friends
  10. When you love yourself, you will feel loved
  11. Being yourself is what makes you cool
  12. You will find your true friends
  13. Respect yourself

How is college going for you fine people? What are you looking forward to? Let’s make it a goal, no matter how good life is we will keep trying to make it better. For ourselves, and for each other. xo

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  • Shoko Mori

    Alexandra- I’ve been a huge fan of hellogiggles since it first launched, but I have to say your articles are by far my favorite. I can relate to everything you write about, and knowing that you’re so successful now really makes me motivated and inspired. College is hard, and I’m right in the middle of all my pre-med classes now (orgo pretty much kicked my ass this semester). But reading about your experiences in college, medical school, residency, and now as a doctor is really motivational and so I want to say thank you!! I really love reading your posts!

    • Alexandra

      Oh my goodness thank you!!! I just saw this, and it made my day!!! Keep at it, it’s worth it. As I recall second semester O Chem is a bit better? I recommend lots of colored pens and graph paper. It made it more tolerable for me to make a lot of charts and stuff :) Keep kicking ass!!!

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  • Sarrah Anne Crow

    Wow, I really needed this! I am struggling so bad in college. I have no friends, I am STILL being made fun of (because I have no friends…), my grades keep dropping…college is HARD. I am really hoping it gets better, and fast!

    • Alexandra

      Don’t worry… It gets better! You will find your groove!

  • Caitlin Hanchett

    Honestly, I hated college. I moved away from my giant majorly involved family. I went to a town where I knew NO ONE! I thought it’d be amazing. I thought I’d have so much fun. I’d make new friends, people like me. This, however, did NOT happen. I met no one. I was a total nerd. I realized I had no idea how to make friends. I’d had the same friends my entire life. I was miserable! I decided after two weeks, when I went home for labor day, that I was not going back. My mom wouldn’t let me stay home though. I’d lose all my scholarships. I didn’t care. I’d drop out for a semester. Take a break. Go to school back home in the spring. But no, I went back. My roommate hated me. She was terrible. I spent all my time in my room. Studying or playing around on the internet. There was a lot of farmville back them. I came home for Christmas and never went back. I now go to school in my hometown and have never been happier. Yes, I’m still friends with the same people I was friends with in middle school. I’ve met like 2 people I actually like. My boyfriend, I did not meet him at school. I’ve known him since the day I was born. I will never regret coming home. I was not ready to leave the nest. Even if I don’t live with my mom, I can still go home whenever I want. This is the happiest I have ever been in my entire life, and it has nothing to do with college, and everything to do with just loving myself as I am.

    • Alexandra


  • Jessica Wilson

    I’m really happy you posted this! My freshman year was filled with self doubt, failing a class, drama in my corridor, all sorts of things. I’m enjoying sophomore year more that I joined a sorority (not the typical sorority, very down to earth girls, that’s why I chose them :). Some of them have turned out to be my best friends, but I’m the only pre med girl so it get frustrating when they don’t understand why I isolate myself at the library studying ochem, or don’t go out on weekends. I feel at times “this is as good as it’s going to get” until after med school, but as I teared up reading your article, I realized there’s a light at the end of this black tunnel called college!

    • Alexandra Anderson Conrad

      There is!! So much light! And med school is actually really fun. Residency is a blast.

  • Lizzy Scheinkopf

    I’m assuming that you went to UW-Madison because Madison is your hometown. I am a senior at UW right now and I could not agree with you more. Thank god somebody finally put my thoughts into words. I loved this post so much!

    • Alexandra Anderson Conrad

      But how bout them BADGERS?!!!! :)
      It’s an amazing school, but MAN. A lot of people were having a better time than I was! So cool you are there!!! Please give my love to Helen C White, the Lakeshore path, The med school library, Bop, and my brother/mom/dad/brothers GF…
      So cool you are at UW! I really really miss Madison. In most ways.

  • Serena Rodriguez

    This is awesome and exactly how I felt. My undergrad experience was rough a lot of the time and I definitely didn’t accept myself – at all. It finally came with time, a few bumps in the road, picking up and moving half way around the world and exploring, picking up and moving back, and just having fun being me. Now, grad school rocks my world :)

    • Alexandra Anderson Conrad

      Thank heavens for grad school! And thank goodness for just being you!

  • Katie Monigan

    My first two years of college, I tried to be somebody I’m not, and have only recently started to figure out who I am. I’m slowly getting back the confidence I once had. Thanks so much for sharing your story – it’s nice to know that not everyone has a great time in college and that it’s completely normal not to love it! thanks :)

    • Alexandra Anderson Conrad

      Thanks for reading! It’s hard to find ones self and confidence, but we will be okay as long as we keep trying!

  • Miranda Robertson

    Agreed!! Luckily I am not the kind of person who bows to peer pressure (it just irritates me more than anything), but I definitely felt ‘left out’ so to speak because I was not the party animal that so many of my class were. I’m still not a party animal, but I don’t feel like a nerd any more. There is such a drinking culture among young people in the Western world that terrifies me. Why is getting completely off your face on a regular basis so popular?? I can’t understand it.

    • Alexandra Anderson Conrad

      Haha. I’ve never heard “get off your face”, I like it! Yeah, college is definitely a drinking culture… Some places more than others. I feel much less pressure now- none actually!

  • Maria Andrea Hernandez-Venegas

    College was a second round through puberty for me. It was a less than happy experience. That being said I’m so happy that I went to college! I made a few really good friends and learned lots of interesting things. It just wasn’t a period where I “bloomed,” ya know? I actually feel that part of my life is starting now. So yeah, if college is miserable for you, don’t worry, it’s over before you know it!

    • Alexandra Anderson Conrad

      Agreed. Bloom on!

  • Alexandra

    Yup. We should always be aiming for “best time of my life”. There are many!!!

  • Victoria Gestner

    Love this post! College can be great, but it’s way too early to have already had the “best time of my life!” There are too many years to live for the best to be over so soon!

    • Alexandra


  • Kaela Bergquist

    Thank you so much. I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels like a college dud.

    • Alexandra

      You feel that way, but you AREN’T!!!

  • Robyn McHugh

    I’m so glad you shared this. I also remember being traumatized by the fear that “this is as good as it gets” during college. I hated it. I was a music major from a small town, suddenly thrust into a school full of really talented people who seemed to think they were God’s gift to mankind just because they spent 5 hours a day practicing the violin.

    I struggled with my confidence and sense of self-worth for my entire degree. I compared myself to the people I couldn’t stand and never felt like I belonged there, or would amount to anything in life.

    Thankfully, I managed to make some really meaningful friendships that I still have today. They got me through five long years of school. I am now teaching music in two schools, and don’t feel the need to compare myself to anyone. I learned a lot from those years, and I proved to myself that I’m capable of more than I thought. I wouldn’t take back those years or change them now.

    To those of you still enduring the hard college years, I promise there is life after college and it definitely gets better!

    • Alexandra

      Yes to all of this!!! It’s such a rite of passage, with such pressure to be “amaaaazing”. It’s hard! Sounds like you are living the good life now! I agree- It’s all worth it, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

  • Amanda Drucker

    This is exactly what I needed to hear. The last few weeks I have been extremely overwhelmed with school and feeling like I am always doing the same thing. I study, work, sleep a little, and go to class. As a nursing student I have no social life and am constantly studying. My family is continually telling me I should be getting out there and having fun. Honestly spending a night in reading a normal book or watching a movie would be just fine with me ( since i’ve said no to going out so many times people just stopped inviting me). Thanks for posting this it should help get me through the last 2 weeks of the semester :)

    • Alexandra

      Ummm… You just summarized my experience. If I had a penny for every time someone told me I needed to have more fun… My student loans would be paid off!

  • Verónica Figueiredo

    College years are not easy, and I’m n my first one, not in the major I wanted (In Portugal things are sleightly different), so imagine all that struggle you went through and add the frustration of not being in the course you wanted and having to study to retake highschool finals to finally apply to medical school.
    It’s not all butterflies and rainbows, but it will eventually get better. Thank you for sharing your story, it means a lot to me and others.

    • Alexandra

      Stressful!!! I’m excited you’re applying to med school though :)

  • Emily Huth

    Yes, exactly! All the time I’ll be trying to study or write a research paper in my University’s library and I’m surrounded by people who won’t stop talking about partying. Every second of time that I spend on campus I’m either studying or in class- how do these people get away with not doing the same?! Except I don’t feel excluded, sometimes. I’m paying to be here and to learn and not to make friends but not gonna lie, it would still be nice to be invited to go play pool with the cool kids :)

    • Alexandra

      Haha. I felt the exact same way. But keep at it!

  • Kate Ashley

    What if college was the best time? What happens after that? :(

    • Alexandra

      Win win!!! :)

  • Con Twokay

    Wow this has lifted my spirits so much. I really feel so much better about everything now, just as I was getting way too overwhelmed with typical end-of-the-semester problems, AKA finals. I can relate to a lot of this too actually, and everything you said is so comforting. And I’m a guy :O

    • Alexandra

      Haha! Cool! Thanks for writing. This is a guy and girl thing, for sure! Hang in there, finals are crazy stressful. Remember to eat and sleep :)

  • Lauren Vaughan

    Thanks for this post– I’m having a case of the college blues right now, and it helped to hear from someone else that things will all turn out fine. I had this idea of the perfect college life in my head before I moved out of my parents house, and while i love where I am now, it’s not what I expected. Working and going to school, not seeing my family as much, and making new friends, balancing studying with everything else, and getting a feel of what you like/dislike as an individual and in life is pretty tough. Thanks again for the post! :)

    • Alexandra

      You are so welcome! It’s a balancing act for sure. Thanks for the comment!

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