I vividly remember the day my parents dropped me off at college for the first time. The entire month leading up, I was so busy preparing for the day I got to leave home. This included buying all of the dorm essentials, reading up on every club I could possibly join, and saying “final” goodbyes to high school friends. Once it was time for my parents to finally head home after buying all of the last-minute necessities, I burst into tears. It didn’t hit me until we started saying goodbye that the first step of adulthood for me meant venturing off on my own.

While saying goodbye was hard, waking up the next morning in the dorm room I was still unfamiliar with was harder, and coping with being away from home over the next few months was the hardest.

It wasn’t until I started becoming closer with the friends I made in the Spring semester of my Freshman year that we started sharing our experiences regarding being away from home for the first time. I was shocked to hear that we all had similar experiences.

So many of us constantly cried. So many of us retreated to our dorm rooms and shut the world away. So many of us felt like the only way to move forward was to transfer to a different college and start again.

Through all of that, we somehow persevered. Looking back on those days, it honestly felt like the end of the world. The only way we made it through was by doing things that pushed us forward. In this article, I want to highlight the things my friends and I did that brought us together and helped us have some of the best years of our lives.

Make your dorm room feel like home

Though it may seem trivial in the long run, investing in making your dorm room cozy is incredibly helpful. After a long and hard day of attending classes and studying in the library, it's always nice to come home to a space that provides a comforting feeling. One way I did this was by putting pictures of family and friends as well as posters of art I loved on the wall.

Wander around campus

Sure, you can get to know campus over time. However, the benefit of constantly walking around campus is that it will help you get to know the place a bit better. One way I did this was by setting an exploration time for myself each week. Every Friday, I would end class early and then take the long route home so I could take in my surroundings. Sometimes I would stop downtown for lunch and take my food to a special spot on campus. Having a place that felt particular to me helped me feel like I belonged.

Research and join clubs

I know it feels like everyone says to join a club, but they are truly not lying when they say that it is a great way to meet people. That’s not to say that you’re going to meet your forever friend instantly in the first club you join. I had to meander around to find the club that was right for me, and it wasn’t until the fall semester of my freshman year that I joined the club where I met my best friends.

Reach out to someone

It was important to me to have someone to confide in besides my friends. Sometimes it feels like you’re the only one feeling a certain way, and you’re not comfortable sharing that. For me, it was a friend who was an upperclassman. Confiding in her was incredible because she knew the feeling I was going through, had lived through it, and I really believed her when she told me everything was going to be okay. Other people you can talk to are RA’s, on-campus mental health professionals, TA’s, professors, etc.

Call home every Sunday

It can be tempting to call home every day or visit every weekend. My parents stopped me from doing this because they felt like it wasn’t an adequate way for me to adjust to college life - and they were right. Instead, we set aside a time each week where we would have a long call to talk about everything and anything. It really helped to have “family time” each week. Although, that didn’t stop me from texting my mom every thought that popped in my head (lol.)

Have something to look forward to each week

Having something exciting to look forward to each week helps to combat the stress and fatigue that comes with school. It doesn’t even have to be big! For me, it would be venturing to a brand-new coffee shop off-campus to do work. Placing my focus on some type of reward helped me get through especially tough weeks.

College is tough for everyone. Though it may feel like it’s overstated, no one is ever truly alone.

You’ll be okay :)

Varsha Kalakuntla

Varsha is a recent graduate of Penn State where she received a Bachelor’s in Information Science and Technology and a minor in Security and Risk Analysis. Some of her interests include business, technology and marketing.