I have survived my second week of college. If you had asked me last month if that was something I thought myself capable of doing, I would’ve given you a rambling answer that ultimately meant “not really”.
I was always one to enshroud change in fantasy and mystique, diving in headfirst in hopes that there was at least some element of truth to my romanticisms. However, I found this particular advancement to be enveloped in something else: fear.
For the first time in my entire life, I was forced to enter an experience relatively unaware. With a sort of spontaneity, I pretended to find it exhilarating. However, I found it truly terrifying. In short, I was completely out of control and mostly alone.
Of course, my family would provide me with advice, when necessary, but no longer could my mother interfere if I was having trouble at school or wanted to evade the consequences of my actions. No longer could my mistakes be justified with my juvenility; no longer would my frivolousness be tolerated. “There are no more shortcuts,” warned my grandmother, and though I nodded along blandly when she said it, I felt a pang in my chest I could’ve sworn was something akin to dread.
Like many other college freshmen, my biggest issue thus far has been letting go of the high school mindset—not because I’m still giggling with friends while the teacher is trying to talk, but because I have unconsciously been operating with the expectations and ideologies of my old high school in mind. I expected subjects to be taught quick, fast, and in a hurry, with the threatening ghost of a standardized exam haunting the room as I worked, never overtly mentioned, but not entirely ignored.
I worried I would never fully grasp the material, that I would be left behind with an expensive tutor the only one to help me pick up the pieces of my broken education like I had been during my senior year. I spent my first day of college asking my professors questions about what they wouldn’t be doing as opposed to what they would. At one point, I even raised my hand and asked if I could use the restroom!
I suppose this is one of those problems that will resolve itself. After all, novice behavior from a novice is to be expected.
But as I become more comfortable with my new environment and those within it, the grasp my high school experience has on me will loosen, I hope. I will become familiar with my newfound freedom; I will grow accustomed to being in an educational facility that actually values learning over test taking. And I will act accordingly, eager to see what comes of it.
Philomena Stone is a college freshman and freelance writer based in Washington, DC