5 Things You Get Used To When You Go Away to College

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When I was applying to college and I told my parents I wanted to stay on campus rather than commute, they seemed appalled. Why would I want to trade in my beautiful home for a room that’s, well, just a room, share bathrooms with other people, and possibly live with a stranger?! Well, for me, I like to explore new experiences. I don’t expect everything to be glamorous, and I think it’s perfectly okay if there’s a little struggle in the process. As a writer, it seemed almost necessary for me to live at least one year away so I could capture the ‘full college experience’ and use it to my advantage in future writing because let’s be honest–I’ll never experience something quite like college ever again…

If you’re nervous about staying away at college, don’t be. But these are things nobody really warns you about (I promise, though, it gets better as time goes on and you get over your initial first week shock).

5.) It’s LOUD. – Living in a dorm room, there is constant sound. People are always awake, even when it’s 3AM and you’re trying to sleep the night before your midterm exam (visa versa, you might be the night owl keeping somebody else up until they’re banging on your wall for you to shut up). The point is: there is always some type of sound going on. Getting used to the noise is a part of accustoming to college. I come from the country where it’s literally dead silent the majority of the time, especially at night, with the exception of the sound of crickets. Transitioning into a dorm on College Ave, I have grown accustomed to the constant noise. Whether it’s people staying up talking, or sirens from ambulances going to the nearby hospitals, or people shouting outside coming back from a party, or loud music playing, I’m used to the sound.

4.) Dining hall food. – Do you miss home-cooked meals? I do all the time. Adjusting to the dining halls was hard for me at first, probably because I grew up in a really Italian family where home-cooked meals were a staple. But now, I’ve learned what to eat in the dining halls. I know how to make the best of Brower (whether it’s getting a salad or making a hot-pressed sandwich), and I know the made-to-order pasta on other campus’s dining halls is the way to go. I’ve also learned it’s worth the bus ride to get food from Livingston or Busch. The dining hall food really isn’t that bad, and eventually you’ll get used to it and figure out how to make the best of it. Who knows, maybe you’ll even learn to love it.

3.) Communal bathrooms. – Umm, yeah, it’s disgusting. But just like everything else, you’re going to learn to get used to it. That means you’re going to have to figure out how to shower in a place smaller than you’re used to, removing stuff from your shower caddy rather than your shelf that hangs over your shower head. Shaving your legs? It’s going to seem impossible at first, but then you’re going to figure it out by trying different positions. As for going to the bathroom in public–you literally stop caring by the second week. It’s a thing that happens. As for the cleanliness, not everyone is going to be as hygienic as you: be prepared to wear your flip flops, hold your breath, and try not to cry when there are clumps of hair in the sink.

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2.) Public Transportation. – There are times you will be packed on the bus like a sausage. There are times you will have to stretch your little, 4 foot 11 body to reach the high bar because all of these seats are taken and you can’t reach the nearest pole. There are times people will be breathing on you, and there are times you will be breathing on people. This is the price you pay for leaving your car at home (and as you stand there, packed next to a bunch of people in winter coats, you will longingly remember your 2007 Toyota Camry that you left back home in your driveway).

1.) ZERO Alone Time. –  As an introvert, getting used to have almost no alone time was hard for me at first. I found myself struggling to get through my day because I’d feel so physically drained by constantly being around people, putting on a show. It gets exhausting after a while, but like everything else, you get used to it. You’re with friends all the time, whether it’s your roommate or people you’re meeting. I’ve learned to do things where I can take a break from the world. I’ll either go for a walk to get a coffee or workout at the gym for an hour to have that alone time to relax. Alternatively, constantly being around people really isn’t that bad. You grow such a close bond with your friends–it’s almost like you’re a family now–and it becomes comforting.

Despite these five struggles, I do not regret dorming. In fact, I believe I’ve learned so much more by being alone and completely independent. Yes, the bathrooms can be totally gross at times (especially after a Friday/Saturday night), and yeah, the food isn’t gourmet, but the experience of dorming as a whole totally makes up for it. If a senior in high school were to ask me whether or not dorming was worth it, I would tell them that it definitely is–at least for your first year. It forces you out of your comfort zone, and you need to learn to adapt and figure things out without the help of anyone else.