The year is over. I’m currently attempting to unwind from my classes and yet I can’t help but feel the need to raise my hand whenever someone asks me a question. I have to say, I’ve had quite the experience at Oberlin, and while I’m extremely happy to be here, there are obviously things that I wish I knew beforehand, that maybe would have made life easier. Things such as:
You will probably lose a good amount of the friends you make at orientation, and it’s fine.
I was a weird case. I had to be at Oberlin for almost half a week before orientation because of my community service scholarship program, so I had already bonded with 14 other students that were part of the program in my year. One of the members was also a Quest Scholar that I had met back in April when we both visited campus. I knew that I was lucky that I already had a group of friends to navigate this scary and exhilarating time with, but I also wanted to branch out and make new friends. And during orientation, when no one knows each other and just saying hi can lead to a friendship, the process of making friends seemed moderately easy, even for someone who doesn’t always feel comfortable trying to make new friends like myself. The thing was, after all of that died down and we started classes and started getting into a schedule, a lot of the people I had become “friends” with at orientation, the people I sat with at different events and had lunches and dinners with, didn’t really stay friends with me. And that was for a lot of reasons, mainly just because of the process of “finding yourself” and becoming a part of different groups. Even now, I say hi to a lot of people I thought that I would be best friends with during orientation, and the fact that we aren’t really isn’t that big of a deal. I adjusted well and started finding my footing on campus. It was just shocking how quickly the friendships started and ended. Speaking of time…
Time will fly by, but you have so much of it at the same time.
I knew that college schedules were going to be different from high school, like the fact that I wouldn’t have 8 periods in a day, 5 days a week. Class-wise, during my first semester I had a first-year seminar program that met Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in the afternoon, and two religion classes that met Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I had so much time to actually do things. Plus, it wasn’t like I had to journey to school and then journey back home, which can wreak havoc on your time. I lived at school. My dorm was literally right next to the building where most of my classes were. And yet, everyday I would notice how the day would just speed by, especially when I filled my free time with my service work and my other extracurricular activities. And sometimes it was hard for me to really keep track of time. I would think that I would have free time before my next event, and so I could do my homework then, and then I’d fall asleep. And sometimes, you just have to accept that those things happen, but also, it really helped me to think about the fact that I had all of this freedom and responsibility with time, I had to take advantage of it.
How important self-care really is.
This was something that came through trial and error. I will freely admit that I took advantage of as many support systems as I possibly could. With my scholarship groups, my A Capella groups, my co-op, and student health services, I was able to learn how to take good care of myself. That’s the thing that is so scary and hard to truly realize at this point. You have to really take care of yourself. Sure, you may have people in your life that constantly call to check up on you, but it’s up to you to say “I’m feeling burnt out, I need to take a break” or “I’m feeling pretty isolated and lonely right now, I need help.” There is no shame in that, and why should there be shame in taking care of yourself? As a student at a prestigious liberal arts institution with a rigorous curriculum, I had to learn that it is very easy to get caught up in that space that constitutes the new life I am trying to make for myself. So, I have to take care of myself.
I end all of this with the reflection that these are things that I am still be figuring out how to navigate. But I’m not alone. And as potentially obvious as that might sound, it’s something that should be said a lot. You’re not alone. I take comfort in that, knowing that this nebulous space can be daunting for so many people. So, let’s take advantage of that fear, and turn it into something wonderful.
— by Tony Moaton, Quest Scholar, Oberlin ’17