If you were to ask me when I was 14 years old or even when I was 17 years old if I was going to go to college, I would have never hesitated my “Yes!” as an answer. But boy did that change at 18. A month before I left for college I actually regretted making the decision to go. All of my sisters commuted to college, so for me to be the first one to move out was a crazy concept for us to wrap our heads around. My house was always loud and boisterous but most of that was because I was living in it. Yes, I sang every day at the top of my lungs and yes I was the loudest storyteller, so it was difficult to imagine any form of quiet in our house after I left. It was crazy how a decision I felt so certain about could become such a gray area in a matter of a few months. And really all I needed was this summer to have that effect.
It was the late-night ice cream runs, so late that we didn’t even know if the ice cream machine was still on. It was staying up to see the sunrise at Bender. It was jamming in the car to Bazzi’s new album like it was the only language that I spoke. It was the 4th of July on a balcony in California. It was singing at the warehouse with a voice that was lost but a body that could still dance. It was going to the farmers market every Saturday and forgetting to pull cash out at the ATM, every time. It was staying up ‘til 2am with that 9am shift the next day. It was losing sleep with the mentality, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”
I needed to be around my family and friends for just a few more moments to realize I have the most precious people in my life. It left me questioning, did I have to say goodbye at all? While I had the option to stay home, I was convinced I was destined to go a different route. I was way too outgoing to commute to college and looking long term I felt I wouldn’t feel fulfilled if I didn’t dorm. I am someone who loves meeting new people and impacting their lives in any way I can and I felt the only way I could achieve that was by living in the dorms.
So I did.
I can promise you that preparing for your first day of freshman year of college is unlike any other first day you have ever prepared for. You will never forget move-in day or all of the chaos that came with it. The night before the big day, I was a wreck, internally. I was SO stressed. At this point, I really wanted to stay home. It’s so crazy to want that for someone who absolutely loves change. But I came to the conclusion I like the change that I have control over and this truly felt out of my control. So I panicked. I’ve actually been such a homebody my whole life so I knew this transition would be the biggest transition of my life. I felt so satisfied in my house as I always had two loving and supportive parents and sisters who played the roles of best friends, who would want that any other way? EXACTLY, no one. Which is why I panicked. I didn’t want that part of my life to end. And for many people, it is a struggle to say goodbye to their lives at high school mainly because it’s all they have ever known. But I knew that two-hour drive up to Green Bay that Sunday morning, my life was going to change forever.
We set up my dorm and I hugged them goodbye. Just like that. I’m not going to bore you with the drive up or getting to the dorm because quite honestly those moments didn’t feel real. It felt like we set up this room but I was still going home for dinner. Until I wasn’t. My new life had officially begun and there was no rewind button on the times I wanted to replay. I was officially surrounded by strangers..and even crazier yet, I was sleeping next to one too. What I remember the most from my first encounters with my roommate was her always saying, “Ciera, you’re so funny.” And that always made me feel good because that’s exactly why I came to college, to impact people’s lives and to know I did it with a result of a smile was such a rewarding feeling.
“Go get lost and find yourself.”
A teacher told this to my friends and me when we were looking for our classes this year, and while she probably meant it in a more literal sense, it hit me a little deeper. Coming to college I feel like as freshmen, we’re all a little lost. We were so conformed to our reputation in high school and the role we played there that we struggle to leave that part of us behind. We played the role people gave us but college is so different. YOU get to dictate your role this time, not only do you get to play it as you did in high school but you get to create it. I remember I kept telling my friends, “Guys we can be whoever we want to be now. It doesn’t matter who you were in high school because that person no longer matters.”
So, I had that mentality going into school. I walked into college with a blank canvas and I was in control of the colors people painted on it. I want to paint mine in every color I can and I find those colors in people, in my friends, so each day my life is bound to be colorful.
You’re probably wondering, was it easy? Were you homesick? How long did you wait to go home? Are your classes hard? And don’t worry we are getting there.
Was it easy?
I feel like saying yes would be too shocking to believe, but it was. My friends truly made college feel like my home away from home and that’s so cliche but we do our homework together every night, talk about our past struggles and accomplishments and we even create new memories of our own to share. We get dinner together every day, we share music, we share laughter, but most of all we share love. Each of us brings the best versions of ourselves to each other and I know, for myself, that what I see in my friends is exactly what I’ve wanted in friends for so long. They provide the absolute most and then some.
Was I homesick?
Shockingly enough, not at all. I did not miss home one bit, which was SO weird to me but I was also too occupied to really sit and think by myself. My life truly felt like it started over and I honestly felt like I left my ‘old life’ behind. I also communicated with my family so much that I didn’t feel so far away from them. When I’m at college I get to focus on me and just me which is so relieving. I have an unrealistic amount of high expectations for myself and the fact that I’m in an environment where I only need to focus on those, is exactly what I needed.
How long did I wait to go home?
They say wait a month, so that’s what I did. I went home at the end of September because I wanted to get used to my new lifestyle. It was really weird sleeping in my bed again but after the first night it felt like I never left and that’s always a comforting feeling.
Are my classes hard?
Honestly, nothing is hard if you go into it thinking it’s possible to perform well. So I’m going to say no because there is nothing in life that I or anyone else can’t handle. I like a challenge and yes I have stayed up ‘til 2am doing assignments but I’d take it over going back to high school any day.
So for you high schoolers, on the edge about going to college, obviously I cannot speak for all experiences but please GO! I know money and debt are scary but it is so worth drowning in the student loans. Although you should still apply for scholarships. In high school, I was always told to apply for scholarships because shockingly people want to give you their money. Find those people who do! Applying is always free and if it’s not free then it’s a scammed scholarship. People want to help you so seek help and use your resources. Nothing is impossible and there are so many people who are willing to jump as high as you need them to for you to be successful.
Don’t let money stop you from an unforgettable experience. Even if you come and have the worst first semester, you learned something about yourself. You need to jump into things with two feet in. Every experience gains either a blessing or a lesson in your life. Notice how I said gain, yes, you are gaining something either way. Every time I leave school, I’m sad to leave my friends and every time I leave home, I’m sad to leave my family. I have two precious goodbyes in both places but it made me realize that wherever I end up, I’ll love where I’m at. And for that, I’m forever grateful. How often do you get the opportunity to love a place as much as you love home or simply call a new place, home? That could be you too!
For a girl who wasn’t excited about the change that was out of her control, I really fell in love with the opportunities that this change provided. For once in my life, I effortlessly loved the change that was out of my control. With that being said…Expand your horizons. Embark on a new journey. Don’t be afraid of adventure. Take the road less traveled. Fall in love with opportunity. Show gratitude for those around you. Laugh a lot and cry, but only cry from laughter. Let change, move you.
“When you have two good choices in life, always go with the one that scares you the most because that’s the one that’s going to help you grow.”
Ciera L’Huillier is a freshman here at UW-Green Bay currently majoring in Communications. She would love to pursue something in writing, similar to digital journalism on a social media platform. Outside of school, Ciera works with kids at a before- and after-school program and loves to sing!