What I wish I knew when I came home from college for the first time

During my senior year of high school and the summer following graduation, I heard an abundance of opinions about college and how to handle the major life change quickly approaching. Plenty of people had advice all about the beginning and the end of the new chapter in my life. All that beginning advice helped as I became adapted to my new home for the next four years. By the end, I had successfully finished my freshman year of college with the help of the words of my family and friends floating through my mind. But the part of freshman year nobody warned me about hit me like a train—the feeling of coming home from college for the first time. This is what I wish I had known before heading home.

Your friend group may change

The friends you thought you would stay close with after high school may not be the people you’re calling. You might only stay connected to three of four people on your high school friendship list, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be your only friends. Don’t spend all break trying to see the friends who are constantly rescheduling plans and forgetting to call. Give yourself some space for the unexpected people to come along. The truth is, you never know who you could stay connected with from high school.

Not everyone will want to talk about college

When you’re coming home full of excitement about your awesome first year of college, it’s hard to remember not everyone had that same experience. You’ll want everyone to know about all the great adventures you had and the opportunities you took; I know I did. But for some, freshman year was horrendous. They hated college and missed high school. So when you come in full of enthusiasm, they may not want to hear all about the cool classes you took or the date you had.. They might just want the conversation to end. But that’s okay, you don’t need to talk about college with everyone you’ve ever know. Find a few friends who want to talk as much as you do and call them when you want to swap stories.

Not everyone will accept it if you’ve changed

For me, I gained a lot of self-confidence my first year of school. I learned more about my political affiliation, where I stood on religion, how I viewed the world. I grew more into the person I wanted to be, and I loved it. But when I came home, not everyone saw it as a great positive growth, but more like a change they didn’t know how to handle. I spent a lot of the summer holding onto this self I had found, determined to not lose it simply by returning home. While it made for some uncomfortable conversations, holding true to myself paid off. It reminded me that you shouldn’t compromise yourself to please the people around you. The people who love you will welcome the change and embrace you no matter what. As for the people who don’t accept it right away, don’t write them off quite yet. It may just take them more time.

Just because you changed, doesn’t mean everyone else did

One of the most difficult parts of coming home was recognizing not everyone went through the same change I did. Just because I found a new outlook on many social issues while at school, it didn’t mean everyone I know did too. In the same way I wanted people to accept my growth and change, I had to learn to accept their consistency. Not everyone is growing at the same pace, in the same environment, or even in the same way. What might be important to one person, may never be a priority for another. Part of coming home to old friends and to family, is learning how to agree to disagree, even when you don’t want to.

You aren’t alone

There are freshmen everywhere ready to be back at school. While it may look like some of your college friends are having a blast back at home, not everyone is. At some point, most people will be ready to go back, whether or not they admit to it. So remember you are not alone, despite what the 100 smiling Instagram posts might suggest.

Appreciate it while it lasts

At some point, the break will end. Don’t be too focused on the ending that you forget to enjoy the break. Soak up the time with your family and friends. Eat at all your favorite restaurants. Camp in your backyard. Take a walk in your neighborhood. Dance with your friends. Do whatever it is that reminds you of home because you’ll miss it when you’re gone.

[Image via Warner Brothers]

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