Before I came to Oberlin, I had probably made my bed a total of ten times throughout the first 18 years of my life. Now, I make my bed every day. I used to have papers scattered all over my desk and in my backpack and on my piano and who knows where else. Now, I have everything organized into folders and compartments. I used to be late for everything. Now, I'm always (mostly) on time.
"I hope you aren't this disorganized in college," my mom told me on repeated occasions. Well, I hope you're proud, Mom!
So, how?? What is my secret to this change in lifestyle? Independence. I'm pretty sure it's the freedom and autonomy I was now allowed, being away from home, that caused me to realize that I had this chance to start new and create better habits. In high school, it was a lot easier to lean on my parents for things or slack off on assignments that I didn't feel really mattered to my future. But now that I'm immersed into classes that I always feel are fully relevant to me and my future, I feel that I have an increased sense of responsibility.
On the other hand, I've seen many people who have claimed that their habits have deteriorated since they've gotten to college. The freedom can be overwhelming, and it's easy to fall into the trap of not knowing what to do with it.
I like to think of it as an opportunity. College is a place to start fresh. You only have a tiny half of a dorm room to take care of and a handful of classes spread out throughout the day. You start to figure out what your schedule can and cannot handle and get a sense of how to balance your responsibilities with your social life. There are a lot of adult responsibilities you don't have to worry about quite yet. Instead, you're taking gradual steps up the staircase to being a fully independent adult, and so building a good foundation early will make it a lot easier to make your way up.
Other things that have changed since leaving home:
- I value my family more. I'll admit, I call my family every other day or so. I feel that being away from home has actually made me value my family more and I look forward to the breaks when I get to go home and see them, while still enjoying every moment that I'm in Oberlin.
- I actively schedule every moment in my day. In high school, I woke up, went to school, had after-school activities, came home from school, practiced piano, did homework, went to sleep, and then got up the next day to repeat. College allows so much more flexibility in terms of how you want to schedule your day and with what you use your time doing.
- I've learned a lot about myself. When you're actively choosing what to dedicate your time to, rather than being told what to do with it, it forces you to really think about who you want to be and what kind of future you want to have. As my piano teacher told me, what you are giving most of your time to should be what you love to do. College is a balancing game, and what you decide to do with your time essentially shapes who you are and who you become.
- I've been exposed to new ideas. I've met so many people who are different from myself, and from so many different places whether it be China or New York City, and I think it's had an amazingly positive impact. I've gained so many new perspectives from the people around me, and so many of the new experiences and new ideas I've been exposed to have helped me to understand myself better.
- I've become more curious about the world around me. The independence in being away from home has also motivated me to learn more about the world around me and have a better understanding of what I believe in, whether it be politically, religiously, or just my values as a person.
- I've been eating a lot more ice cream. Okay, the soft serve ice cream machine in Stevie is a dangerous, dangerous machine. So are the dessert tables and the ice cream bar in Lord/Saunders. Beware.
Leaving home and going to college is an adjustment for many, but I think it has the potential to be positive for all, so long as you start to figure out how to handle the freedom.