Before you go... (to college)
This one is for you wonderful '24s who are so very close to your fall term.
Leaving for college can feel *super* stressful. You can't just "go to college," as you'll have learned. There are last-minute appointments, a downright deluge of emails to read—flag—highlight—forward—and forget, and what can feel like an impossible sequence of goodbye-for-nows. Not just to people, either. My favorite trees all got a bittersweet pat, and I blew kisses to sunrises and sunsets.
And time before going to college is a different substance altogether than the usual calm procession of ticks and tocks which tiptoe through high-school subconscious. This stretch of time is liquid, a slipstream of minutes and hours and days and then – suddenly – you're standing on the Green, feeling vaguely as Dorothy in Oz, having tapped a pair of silver slippers.
At least, that's how it was for me.
So here are some things which made the transition from high school to college easier for me.
First, pack things from home. I know your class has been asked to bring "only as much as you can carry," so that rules out the old sentimental surfboard or favorite chair or whatever. But you can still finagle some sweet sentimental items into your bag. For my part, I sewed a little heart out of some old fraying blue fabric we've had as long as I can remember, and stuffed it full of lavender from our yard. The scent faded a little, but by the time I returned home this spring, I could still smell the Pacific Northwest lavender from the comfort of my dorm.
Which brings me to an item you can always bring with you, even if only in the form of small pixelated memories stored patiently on your phone for when you need them. That's right, guys. Pictures! My sister's been printing out several of her favorites, as have my best friends who are starting college this year, to decorate their rooms. Whichever format you prefer them in, pictures are invaluable. I took so many the August before heading to Dartmouth. There was no rhyme or reason to the subject matter—a knot of lavendar, a handsome tree, a bright flower, a brighter sunset, my sisters laughing on the floor of my grandmother's house, our small flock of chickens, my friends, any member of my family, anything remotely funny.
Everything. I tried to capture everything.
Even now, looking back, the pictures had a sort of desperate quality. I was nervous to leave, and terrified of homesickness. If you're feeling similarly, know this: you'll probably miss home, but you will be fine. Even now, I look back at last year so fondly—I was in gorgeous Hanover, studying at my dream school, with amazing fellow students, and, yes, the sunrises there are just as beautiful.
Still, it helps to make memories--even if they're reflective of your daily life at home, they're comforting things to look back on, and can serve to remind that college, too, is just another wonderful adventure. For my part, I helped my mom paint my parents' room, and learned far more about brushwork and quickly mopping stray droplets from our creaky floorboards than I ever imagined.
Of course, people are irreplaceable, so while you will absolutely meet wonderful people on campus, take some time to spend with your family or friends or whoever is in your pod and whoever's face you know so well you can recognize their smile even through a face mask.
It can be frightening to leave home, but that's part of the process. If you miss home, that means you have something you love waiting for you. And believe me, I think you're going somewhere that will tug as much on the heartstrings when you leave it. Because Dartmouth has a way of making itself home, and staying with you long after you part ways with the Big Green.
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