So orientation is imminent and the world is filled with first year Obies either:
a) eagerly awaiting the awesomeness that college is about to entail,
or, b) in a state of sheer terror over how much their life is about to change.
I'm going to be the hundredth million person to say this is completely normal. At this time two years ago, I'll admit I was feeling all kinds of emotions I didn't even know I had. As much as I would like to shower you with all my opinions concerning freshman year, I believe that no matter how much anyone "prepares you," realization will occur as a result of your own experiences. Therefore instead of giving you the "dos and don'ts," I'll just share some of my own points of realization.
On being forever away from home
Confession: There was a point in my life where I hated Florida. Now I know that I actually just detested high school and was not about to attend a Florida state school with the same people I suffered through high school with. Pretty much from the moment I decided Oberlin was the real deal, I allotted myself no other options (I stopped filling out applications. I hope none of you did this, it was dumb). I got through the last months of senior year, sprinted across the stage at graduation, did cartwheels all summer, made it through a 19-hour road trip to Ohio with my entire family, and right before my parents left me for good I burst into tears. That's not even a good way to describe it. Pretty much I was sobbing like my life was ending, while simultaneously begging my parents not to leave me. Not my best look, I'm aware.
At the time, the fact that I felt like I was dying came as a huge shock to me. Now I know that if the idea of leaving familiarity for a totally new place, in a totally different state, didn't weird me out a little bit, I'd pretty much be a wack job. Change is hard, but at the end of it all you grow so much as a person. Also, I now think Florida is absolutely the bomb-diggity.
On aspiring to make a long distance relationship work
I think this is a sensitive subject for everyone, including myself. From my personal long distance relationship experience and from the stories about long distance relationships I've heard from friends, I've concluded two things:
1) Of the couples who attempt LDRs, some will make it (My friend Melissa graduated from Oberlin this year, just moved into an apartment with her high school sweetheart, and they both have careers and everythingggg!).
2) Most will not make it (i.e. me).
That being said, even though my friends tried, there's nothing anyone could have said at the time to keep me from doing what I wanted to do. It sucks, but this is one of those things everyone has got to learn on their own (I mean you have to get your heart broken for the first time, sometime). However, after all the heartache, you'll be older, wiser, single, and ready to mingle. Also a very high percentage of Obies marry other Obies (e.g. Ben Jones!). Just saying, you could meet your soul mate in the next four years (i.e. me).
If you do make it, waHOOOOO! Invite me to your wedding. I love weddings.
On attending class
If your parents are anything like my parents, skipping school was never an option. As much as I hated it, I think something about their attendance doctrine stuck firmly in my mind upon starting classes at Oberlin (my parents brainwashed me, no big deal). So I have this problem where if I miss a class, I absolutely lose it. I'm telling you it makes me crazy. On the opposite end of the spectrum, my best friend Taylor is a professional at "selectively attending class" and still making stellar grades (Momma Hayes I know you're reading this, I'm totally exaggerating. Really).
It mostly depends on what classes you're taking, but try to find a happy medium. I found second semester my freshman year that I had so much scheduled class time that I was struggling to find time to study the material outside of lecture. With science classes it's hard to give up a class when you're pretty much learning something new every day, so I don't recommend doing this more than once (or twice if you're DESPERATE) per class. Really though, if you're absolutely drowning, skipping class and having a solid day of work could be the best thing for you to get your footing (DO NOT skip class and play Call of Duty, that's NOT solving the problem).
On eating well
Okay. The freshman fifteen is real. No matter where you go to school. Actually though, I managed to avoid the 'teen due to volleyball season fall of my freshman year, but maybe a month after season ended I looked in the mirror one day and did a double take. Okay don't freak out. You're not going to get fat, I didn't get fat. But I did do a serious double take, I'm just saying.
After being home for winter break/Winter Term, I returned for spring semester, ate whatever I wanted to eat for a month, and then had a very shallow, Mean Girls-style, "Omg, it's Saturday night and I don't fit into my favorite jeans!" moment. Cue meltdown (Does anybody remember when Gap came out with these pants? Those are the pants. Meltdown warranted, right?!).
After my small (we're talking miniscule) meltdown, I got my head right and got smart about eating in CDS. I don't know about co-ops, but it's super easy to lose yourself in Stevie. Just remember there's a huge salad bar for a reason, stay away from excessive amounts of chocolate milk, and STOP EATING WHEN YOU'RE FULL. In addition to that, go to the gym, run around Wilder Bowl, i.e. BE ACTIVE, and you'll be fine. Promise. (I fit into those pants again. And you bet I put them on and dance to AC/DC just like Audrey Hepburn. You get what you pay for with Gap products.)
Unlike long distance girlfriends and boyfriends, long distance best friends don't get jealous when you make new friends and don't mind that you don't talk to them every hour of every day. Pretty much, I love all my LDBFs in an unrealistic type of way. It's such a comfort to know that I can call them up no matter where they are, no matter how long it's been since we last spoke, and have someone get me in a way my Oberlin friends may not.
Don't get me wrong, the friends you make in college are friends you're probably going to have for the rest of your life. They are the friends you learn to become an adult with and sometimes depend on like family, because we're all trying to exist away from home. However, it's important to remember that sometimes you need to get stuff done and as much as you don't want to say no, you've got to say no. Also, sometimes our friends do really stupid stuff and as elementary as this sounds, SAY NO TO PEER PRESSURE. Really, though, you'll probably learn this the hard way. Just make good decisions because your parents aren't around to pick up your slack. And I digress.
On figuring yourself out
I like to think college is all about figuring yourself out. Four years of independent living will definitely turn you on to what you like, as well as unveil what just doesn't work for you personally. You're going to feel happy, sad, invincible, vulnerable, EVERYTHING at some point/probably all at the same time. Be strong, but also be open to everything that's happening to you and around you. And don't worry about how much time it takes. I feel like I just started really figuring out who I am this year and I still have a long way to go. You'll get there, we all will. In the meantime, I'm being serious about the chocolate milk in Stevie. Moderation.
Welcome to the world as we know it, Oberlin 2015! I'll see you at orientationnnnn.