Change is always something that excited me. As much as I said I was so ready to leave and start this thing called “my future”, the unknown idea about what it actually held scared the heck out of me. As this year is coming to an end, I am pretty sure I have learned more about myself than I did about anything else (shhh don’t tell anyone).
As many of you already know, I attend Columbia College Chicago. Originally from Oswego, home is only an hour away. However, my mind was absolutely set about this time last year that I wanted to go to New York. I believe choosing Chicago was the best decision I have made so far.
Let’s just say, Columbia is not your normal University or College. My classes consist of learning how to beautifully light people in a photo studio and digitally manipulate photographs. Of course, we have your standard core classes. However, they are designed for artists. For example, my humanities class was titled “Humanities For The Visual Artist”. Attending this school is quite an experience to say the least. Aside from all the creatively enhanced courses, what I learned wasn’t who the painter was of a 1783 piece of work, it was who I really am. I believe no matter how much we think we know ourselves, there is always something that can be discovered.
Here are 10 things I learned about MYSELF in my first year of college.
Living With Strangers
Before the school year started, like most colleges, Columbia randomly assigned you to roommates based off a personality quiz. Pretty much is a glorified dating site that uses Buzz Feed quizzes to determine your living dynamic for the next 9 months. You hear all these horror stories of roommate experiences, but I got pretty lucky. In an apartment with three other girls, I was lucky enough to get my own room. This helped immensely. Having that space that was just mine really allowed me to turn it into my own sanctuary. I care about all my roommates and have developed some great connections with them all. However, I had this one roommate who pretty much became my best friend. We did absolutely everything together. There was one point we would have sleepovers in each other’s room just to stay up and talk. Unfortunately, she realized that Columbia wasn’t the right fit for her. Transferring out at the semester, she went back home to find where she belonged. She made the initial adjustment so much easier. Having someone who you can count on and go on Target runs with is something no one should ever take for granted. We never truly realize the impact people have on our lives until they leave. As she has moved on to do what is best for her, I started second semester with a whole mess of emotions. Ultimately, I learned that it is okay to go through that limbo period. We got a new roommate who is so sweet and the living dynamic continued to stay positive and friendly. Adjusting to all of them is of course hard at first. However, once that connection is made, it is something so unique that no other randomly made friend can recreate.
Cooking is HARD
Food is always at the top of my priorities. Growing up, my mom was THE BEST cook. There were times she would just stand in front of the fridge and make these amazing dishes out of the random things we had stocked in the fridge. Since I am in an apartment style dorm, we are lucky to have a full kitchen. This being said, I did not have your typical meal plan. When my sister went through school her biggest piece of advice she gave me was to meal prep. Honestly, meal prepping to me is a waste of time and I have no patience for it. If I cook something, I will eat it right then and there. I would like to think I have a decent palette for knowing what spice or sauce will pair well. However, the idea of cooking for one was something that was challenging to me. Here are a couple tips I did to make things easier for portion sizing. I usually buy grass-fed beef in 1-pound packages. However, 1-pound of meat for one person is a lot. Yes of course you can cook it and put it away for another time, but I am just stubborn and hate leftovers. After purchasing the packages, I take a knife and split the pound in half. Bagging up the two halves in freezer safe bags, I know have two meals already pre-portioned and ready to be taken out to defrost. I eat a lot of fish, like A LOT. The ultimate life saver from me has been the individually packaged wild caught fish filets from Whole Foods. From cod, tilapia, salmon and so many others, these fresh fish are amazing for quick, healthy, and almost gourmet meals! Pro tip: put some BBQ sauce on your salmon before sticking it in the oven or on the stove top for the best and EASIEST glaze ever.
Stress Baking Is A Thing
Since we are on the topic of cooking, might as well finally admit to my biggest indicator of stress…baking. Whether this habit is a good or bad thing (have not decided for myself yet), baking is found to be one of my strongest ways to relieve stress. I think of baking as a science experiment. Some things may go totally wrong and screw the whole dish up or you can construct something so heavenly right from scratch. Recently during finals, I made about 4 dozen cookies. 48 cookies. I probably could have made more but as I began to form the cookies, for some reason they grew in size as each batch was done. Having so much control over one thing is comforting to me. There is not much you can control completely like this. With everything in your hands, a sense of security is found. So, my philosophy on this is to bake, bake, and bake! However, I would share the wealth of the outcome with your friends. Freshman 15 is a thing friends.
Safety In The City
Safety is HUGE. Trading cornfields and lakes in my backyard for skyscrapers and a prison that is about 2 blocks away from my dorm…quite a difference. You already know the basic more common-sense safety rules like don’t travel alone, keep your head up, and always let someone know where you will be. With all these rules and tips my mom instilled in me before I left truly scared the heck out of me. However, you cannot let this be a reason why you don’t go out and explore. your new surroundings. The biggest thing I learned is to always Uber after 9pm. Although as a student I get free public transit, it isn’t always the safest option. Bite the bullet and call an Uber or Lyft. If you are traveling in a group, split the fare cost and it will not seem so bad!
This is pretty straightforward. Go out and do what YOU want to do! This is the start to a new era. Get out of your comfort zone! Explore this new world and get to know who you are as a person!
Don’t Be Afraid To Say NO
It is all fun and games until you don’t feel comfortable. If you are stuck in a situation that makes you feel uneasy, it is OKAY to leave. Do not feel like you have to stay to seem “cool”. Chances are if the people you want to call your friends are pushing you in this situation, they are not the “friends” you want to surround yourself with.
Cutting Ties From Back Home
We all have those people from our hometown that were always there because frankly, that’s all we ever really knew. Something strange happens when you all leave and travel in different directions. The number one thing I found is that everyone becomes independent and grows up at a unique pace. After my first year, I moved home and realized how different I was when I was here last. It is totally okay to continue seeing your old friends, but if you like the person you turned out to be don’t take three steps back just to fit into that group again. Cutting ties is okay as well. Sadly, it just happens naturally in some instances. Whether you spent every day with them or saw them on occasion, friends come and go. DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONAL. DO NOT TRY TO FORCE IT TO WORK. After this year, I am a huge advocate for the “everything happens for a reason” phrase. If a friendship is meant to stay intact than it will…naturally.
Talking, in whatever form you prefer, is essential. We go from seeing our family and friends every day to being dropped off in an unfamiliar place surrounded with unfamiliar faces. Scary? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely. This abrupt change of environment is what catapults us as individuals to transform into the person we are meant to be. Communication is critical. Whether it is calling your mom or siblings to catch up more often than you think or simply just being upfront with how you are feeling. It is okay to feel scared, uneasy, anxious, and any other emotion you may be feeling. The best thing to do is to recognize it and communicate it to someone else. If you don’t feel comfortable talking about these feelings to your family or friends, most schools offer a free counseling center where you can sit down with a professional who will listen. Just because you are feeling these emotions does not mean you are crazy by any means. It means you are normal. It shows you are proactive and in tune with how you are feeling. I cannot stress how important this is enough.
Coming from a person who loves being around other people, alone time freaks me out. The quiet just drives me insane sometimes. Before school started, I got into some really bad habits. For example, I would ALWAYS do my homework with friends. I never touched my work when I wasn’t with someone else. Not that I didn’t have the motivation, I just lost concentration a lot quicker. Another habit I got into was listening to music. Actually, not listening, more like blasting. Guilty of that last one still, I have at least learned to turn the volume down…a little. Towards the end of the school year, I faced several changes in my personal life. The outlet I found that actually helped was taking time out of my day to prioritize myself. I made it part of my daily routine to do something for myself. Whether it was reading another chapter from a book, sketching, cooking, working out, or just sitting in the park listening to music, this time is something I learned to appreciate and value.
We ALL Need Help Sometimes
We all have this preconceived notion that once we leave for college, we are independent beings that can do EVERYTHING for themselves. Well I am here to tell you that yes, independence IS essential, but it is okay to break down and ask for help. This goes for any situation from math homework, how to cook chicken, or just something morally challenging you need to talk through. You don’t have to do everything alone. If you stuck in the middle of situation you have no absolutely no idea how to solve, call up the first person in mind you would have a few months ago. It is okay. I was never afraid of change. But, that doesn’t mean that it is not okay to be scared sometimes.