College is a time of big changes in your life, and those changes can be both pleasant and absolutely miserable. For me, they were miserable.
I went to a small high school in Vermont, where I was the captain of the football and lacrosse teams and just an overall popular guy within the school and the community. Life was good for me; I had as many great friends as I could possibly ask for, and I was content with where I was.
When I rolled into college my freshmen year, I tried to be optimistic – for about a week – but not long after that, I started getting feelings of regret and loneliness. Castleton was the absolute last place that I wanted to be. It was hard for me to leave my life, my family, and, more importantly, my best friends, who I had been with my whole life. I spent that whole first year miserable and depressed. I went home every single weekend, trying my hardest not to leave my past life behind me.
Life since has gotten much better, all because of a few simple changes. These tips certainly will not be universally helpful, but if I can help even one person get through some hard times, I will feel better about my tough start.
So that said, here are some things I wish I knew as a freshman:
You are not too cool to participate: This was a big one for me. I roomed with a friend from high school, so when the time came to participate in orientation events or activities put on by community advisors, I turned up my nose at the idea and refused to get out and do some events. I chose to just be with the person I knew best at school. I missed out on opportunities to meet new people and make friends by not participating in campus events.
Realize that college IS a new chapter in your life: As painful as it may be, high school is over, and you’ll be better off not trying to avoid that fact. Keep your great memories and hold them close, but it is time to go out and make some new ones!
Talk to someone: Alright… to be honest, I heard this from professors all the time especially in first-year-seminar, and I neglected to listen. Don’t be like me. Talk to someone. Whether it’s a friend, or a roommate, a professor, a CA, or even someone in the Wellness Center, I promise it will feel better if someone knows how you are feeling.
Make campus your home: Going home on the weekends is great. I still do it from time to time. But for me, each time I go home, it makes it harder for me to want to come back. So try to make your dorm as comfortable and as homelike as possible, and stay on campus on weekends. It is hard to get a college dorm to replace the place where you grew up, but the more at home you can feel at school, the better.
Evaluate your options: All colleges are different, college isn’t for everyone, and that is perfectly fine. Evaluate if Castleton is the place for you, and if it isn’t, try something new.
This is by no means a one-size-fits-all solution to a happy freshmen year. But if I had done these things, my first year here could have been much better.
Take a deep breath, and just know that everything will be okay.
Isaac Ryea graduated summa cum laude from Castleton University in May 2018. Today, he is a fifth grade special education teacher in Highgate, Vermont.