From Our Readers
Updated Aug 24, 2015 @ 1:27 pm

This time last year, I was a recent high school grad anxiously waiting to go to college. I had a countdown to the day we’d pack up the car and drive to my future alma mater. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being home, but there was something so intriguing about starting life after the high school diploma. Heck, as I’m writing this I’ve got the episode of Gilmore Girls on where Rory goes to college.

I remember the day when I was first dropped off, after we had unloaded my mountains of things from the car, my mom came to say goodbye to me. She said, “You will never be the same person that you are right now.” I didn’t want to believe her, but here I am, an entirely different girl than the one who first unlocked my dorm room.

Freedom can be a little scary

For the past 18 years, you’ve had someone hold your hand and walk you through all of the hard parts. For the first time since, well, ever you are on your own. It’s a bigger world than you think it is, and it can be a little scary to think you are a part of it.

But being independent is really wonderful

At the same time, for the past 18 years you’ve had someone monitor most of your choices. As much as we all love our parents, it’s absolutely magical to have the ability to decide things for yourself (even if it is just deciding to have ice cream for dinner).

Cheesy as it sounds, confidence should be the one thing you never leave without

That may sound super lame, but I am 100 percent more confident than I was in high school. I’ve learned that you can “pull off” any look you want if you tell yourself you look great in it. You can do whatever you set your mind to if you actually put your all into it and (as corny as it is) believe that you can.

You get the most out of college (or really anything) when you just get out and go explore

For most of the first semester of college, I hung out with the same group of friends I met during orientation and I just went to classes and hung out with those friends. Second semester I got involved in the paper, trained to become a DJ, and several other things. While that might not be your forté, you should find what is! You never know—maybe underwater basket weaving is for you!

Dress codes do not define you

I know you’ve heard it many times before, but I won’t stop saying it until everyone truly gets it. The whole “your shoulders are distracting” mentality totally slipped away the first day that I was at college. I’ve worn dresses or tank tops that didn’t fit my high school’s strict dress code and not once did someone seem to be phased by it. All that matters is you are comfortable in your skin and are ready to learn.

You can pack all of your belongings into a 10 x 15 room

And you learn to love that tiny space. The first time I visited home I thought my room doubled in size and my bed was lowered closer to the ground. Just goes to show that home is where the heart is.

You don’t have to get along with your roommate, but they also might become one of your best friends

I actually had an amazing success with my roommate, but I’ve learned from others that ending up with a less-than-ideal roommate can give you great coexisting skills. If you are lucky enough to have a best friend for a roommate though, you’ll grow all too fond of late nights spent up making fun of your old facebook posts. It’s the little things.

No matter how good your school’s food is, dinner tastes so much better when you visit home

I’m coming from a school that’s nationally ranked for good food, so you know I must mean it.

You can have a chance to completely start over, but there’s nothing wrong with staying the same

No one from my high school went to the same college as me and I totally thought I was going to completely start over (I was even considering introducing myself by another name), but I ended up pretty much started out college the same way I left high school.

Sometimes the most fun nights are those spent watching cheesy movies with your best girl friends

Take it from someone who just recently drove three hours to spend the night with her old roommates to do just that. There’s nothing better than doing nothing with those that you love.

Most importantly, I learned that I love the person I’ve become. Leaving home for the first year, even when you know you’ll be back for the summer, offers a Robert Frost sort of diverged road. I took the road that made me an independent and confident college sophomore (wow!), and that has made all the difference.

Emma Korynta is a sophomore at James Madison University with a passion for writing and food. Coffee probably runs through her bloodstream at this point and she will never say no to a donut. In her free time she enjoys making playlists and wishing she could draw. Follow on instagram or twitter @emmalikesfood or read some of her other work here.

[Image courtesy Universal Pictures]