I’d be lying if I said these past four years at UNH did not have ups and downs. I’d be lying if I said I did not learn anything from my time in Durham, N.H. I’d be lying if I said I did not grow as a person and meet new people while here. I’d be lying if I said I regretted not being closer to home.
People always ask me why UNH? Why choose to go to a school that is thousands of miles from home? So I tell them: I picked UNH because I did not want to be close to home. I wanted to be independent; I wanted to go on a life changing adventure. I wanted to experience the seasons. I wanted to see the leaves change in the fall. I wanted to walk in the snow. I wanted a college campus that was small and homey. I wanted the brick buildings that Rory Gilmore sought in Gilmore Girls, my favorite television series as a teen. I wanted to get away from all the false personas and exaggerated egos of high school. I wanted to strike out on my own and say, “Hello world! Here I am.”
And I don’t regret a single moment; not even those little lapses in sanity near finals. I don’t regret a single second of my college career because I feel I have made the most out of it and have become a newer and better version of myself.
The first day I got to campus, I knew this was it. That was my moment to conquer some fears. The first one was saying goodbye to my parents. The second was acclimating to college life. As to the latter, well, that took some work. I had to be open and I had to allow my personality to shine through. I could not be scared when making friends. So I took my first step to by joining my hall council and becoming active within my hall. In hall council, I made friends with fellow freshman and upper class-men, as well as the Residence and hall director. I helped plan social ventures within the hall and learned about a lot of the resources the UNH campus had to offer. By taking baby steps and gradually acquainting myself to the college life style, I was less overwhelmed. My anxiety decreased and I learned that there were people like my RA who I could talk to if I ever had a question or simply needed a friend. College classes were not like the AP classes I took in high school. They were bigger and scarier. But after my first week of classes, I started to look around and notice that everyone else was in the same boat; my fellow peers were just as nervous and anxious as I was, which made me feel less out of place and more grounded. I realized that I was not alone, although sometimes it felt like it.
I did it! I made it! With baby steps and doubting thoughts, and many I-am-so-nervous-what-if-I-do-not-do-well moments, I made it through the first weeks of the semester.
Of course, I missed my parents. I could not forget the two people who I had spent my entire life with and I could not forget the comfort of home. But I had to learn to live with my decisions and hope for the best. After a while, being so far from home seemed to matter less and less. It eventually became routine to go home for the holidays and summer, and spend the rest of the year up in New Hampshire. It made my time spent at home all the more precious. It was a choice and one that I was more than prepared to live with.
Freshman year was a game-changer.
It was a transition period, where I learned how to live on my own without being in the same physical proximity as my parents. Being in a built-up triple for freshman year was interesting to say the least. Never having roomed with anyone but myself was quite an adjustment, but it was the college experience, being in a room made for a double but made into a built-up triple, having to use a communal bathroom, having to go to the dining hall every day for all my meals because there was no kitchen in my current residence, and taking the bus to get to places like Portsmouth and Newington because I did not have a car.
I did not know my roommates at first. Their basic information was given by housing., but I didn’t know what to expect. What did they look like? What were their sleeping habits? (That was really important because I liked going to bed early. Later it wouldn’t matter as much because I started to sleep through anything.) Did they like the same movies? TV shows? These things were extremely important considering I was going to spend a good chunk of my time with these strangers. So, I took a second leap (at least I think it was me, it might have been one of my roommates to be completely honest), FACEBOOK MESSAGING. I know! That is a huge deal (or at least it was when I sat staring at the computer wondering what I should say and how the conversation would go). What I remember from those first few conversations is that one of my roommates was local and the other had a fish. This information doesn’t seem too reassuring right now, but trust me, a conversation definitely sparked from these two facts. After I had met my roommates and moved in to my dorm room, I became reassured. And that first day of classes – when school was curtailed (Best thing ever!) – my roommates and I bonded by having a movie day including the film “10 Things I Hate About You”. It was an interesting first semester. It was an adjustment learning how to communicate with two other girls, it was an adjustment to figure out sleep schedules and class schedules. But for the most part my roommates and I had a really good first semester getting to know one another.
HOWEVER, all of those things do not compare to my first real winter.
I grew up in Philadelphia, and as a little girl I used to love the snow. I would go sledding in my back yard and have snow ball fights with neighbors. But I had not experienced real snow or a real snow storm since I was ten years old. Needless to say my wish was granted my freshman year by a Nor’easter right around my birthday.
That was when I learned that a Nor’easter is a generic name for the snow storms that hit New England (not a name that weather reporters give to a snow storm like they do hurricanes) and I learned how big winter sports were in New Hampshire and how little experience I had in any of them.
Freshman year was definitely a learning curve for someone like me, who had spent the most recent part of my life in California and Nevada, where the coldest it ever got, was maybe 53 degrees. That year I had my first viral infection from not being familiar with the cold arctic winds of the New Hampshire. It was not pretty. I coughed a lot and apologized constantly to my roommates. But eventually I got better and learned how to dress appropriately for the weather given my limited experience with it. I learned from dorm life that sometimes you can get annoyed with your roommates about little, stupid things for no reason at all, and when that happens it helps to step away, take a deep breath and try to calm down. It also helps to be honest with yourself, your roommates and your friends. It helped me to become a stronger person and a better friend.
It is hard to believe I was once a bleary-eyed freshman who did not know where buildings like James or Spaulding were located. Looking back, I remember thinking my sophomore year, I knew where everything was, but that was not true either. It was not until my junior year that I felt truly confident in giving anybody directions. As a senior, I pretty much have as large as a scope as possible of the UNH campus.
I have to say though that my years at UNH have gone by very fast. In high school, all I could think about was making it to college, getting into a good school, making it one step closer to being an adult. Now with my months in college whittling down, all I can think about is staying here a little longer and not having to face the real world so soon. It is with a heavy heart and a curious outlook that I am writing this blog entry and putting it out there, how I (and I hope other seniors) feel about our final months at UNH.
I hate to say it, because saying it or writing it down gives the phrase power, but my time at UNH is slowly coming to a close and I am starting to think of activities as the “last.” My last homecoming, my last first hockey game of the year, my last fall in New Hampshire, my last first day of classes first semester. It is sad and I never knew how much I was going to miss college life, until I reached this point in my life with the future closer than ever staring me down.
Facing the World
“Make the most out of college,” was a chant that graced my ears over and over again from older generations who had been there and knew what advice to give. It was the best piece of advice I was given. Everything I have done in my college career has made me the person I am today; whether it is the choices I have made or the clubs I have joined or even the friends I have gained. I took chances like joining the Campus Activities Board and the Red Cross Club, and those leaps of faith allowed me to meet new people, expand my creativity, reach out to my community in volunteer activities, and conduct independent research.
Since freshman year, I have grappled with college subjects I never imagined I would fear (like organic chemistry and physics), I traveled to places I never thought I would be able to reach (like Israel, England and France) and I participated in events I never imagined I could be in (like Homecoming, The Grind and the Half-Naked Whole Mile). I learned how to make myself happy and I learned that it did not matter if the people around me were not happy. I learned what it was like to extend your self and try knew things. I learned what my limits were and when I was taking on too many extra curriculars (which may have been often). I learned how to communicate with faculty (always be professional!) and develop essential research skills (which I am continuing through an Undergraduate Research Award). What mattered was doing things for me. It took me a long time to get to the place I am at today and there were plenty of blood (metaphorical) and tears (literal) shed to make it so far.
Where does my future lie?
Every day I tell myself to take one thing at time, baby steps. It worked freshman year and it continues to be one of the mantras I repeat to myself. I originally planned to apply to Medical School this past summer. But things got in the way and my plans were delayed. Yes, I was upset at first. It is frustrating when you are so set on something and then realize you cannot obtain it how you want to. So after several days of decompression, I realized it was ok to be frustrated and slightly devastated but that time was over. Of course, I didn’t realize this on my own. I talked about it; with friends, family, advisors. So I decided not to get so worked up about something that I had worked so hard for. Yes, this sounds like a difficult concept for anyone to do. How can you not get upset about something that you have wanted for a good chunk of your life? But if getting upset and hurdling that obstacle means I become a stronger person in the end, then I have to learn from it. My friends and family supported me and that meant the world to me. It meant that I could get through yet another hurdle.
I learned that it was ok to become emotional. It was ok to divert from a plan. When an old plan dies a new one is born. I learned to go with the flow and see things from a different perspective. It has made me a happier and healthier person.
So, what are my next steps? To apply to medical school this summer and find work during my gap year.
What if my plans falter? Well then I will revisit and revise.
What if I change as a person? Well…that is the best thing I could ask for.
You never know what is waiting just around the corner or what lies ahead in your future.