Editor’s note: Flagpole‘s office manager, Zaria Gholston, recently graduated from college and agreed to pass down some of her knowledge to the Class of 2023.
I remember four years ago when my parents and I pulled up to Georgia College and State University’s West Campus complex to move me in. I was mortified.
I came from a small town, an even smaller school and had no siblings. I didn’t know how I’d make new friends and learn my way around campus. I was anxious about how I’d perform in my classes, and last but not least, my roommates hadn’t really communicated with me all summer. I had a bad feeling about sharing an on-campus apartment with five other girls I barely knew. (Full disclosure: Yes, I Googled those girls and found their social media to see how we’d vibe. I had to know what I was getting myself into. Sorry, not sorry!)
Nervous stomach aside, my community director told me I would be fine and helped me and my parents get to my building and start unpacking my new life.
Photo Credit: Zaria Gholston
My college experience wasn’t anything wild—I’ve never been a party animal or a girl hunting for danger. In college, you were more likely to find me furiously typing away on some assignment, running around campus like a chicken with my head cut off, curled up in a blanket watching Netflix or out goofing off with my best friends. I remember nights with my girls, playing Cards Against Humanity, eating Wendy’s or some quick meal we’d delegated money to get the ingredients for, cracking jokes until 2 a.m. Sometimes, when we felt like being really grown and knew we didn’t have any next-day obligations, a little Uno Mas margarita from Walmart was purchased, resulting in all of us being a bit tipsy on the floor, cackling like crazed hens. Days were filled with hanging around campus, studying together and recounting our “crazy” nights, sharing our lamentations about classes or even the perils of interacting with awful roommates and peers. Regardless of the activity or topic, those were the moments I’d prayed for. I’d finally found my place, my people.
It was a slow process to get there, though. At the beginning, when my social life was missing, and I hadn’t caught the flow of college courses I felt I should’ve been able to manage, I was an isolated mess. I kept telling my parents that I wanted to go home, that I hadn’t made actual friends after two months, and maybe I wasn’t built for college. I thought I had made a huge mistake.
I was scared, and wrong. Once I found my groove—and got lost on campus a few times—I was happy I was away from home. I found myself spreading wings I didn’t know I had. It made my heart full to meet interesting people from around the state of Georgia and outside of it. I took pride in becoming a leader. I wouldn’t trade the growth and connections I made in college for the world.
If you set some reasonable goals and give yourself time to adjust, you’ll be fine. It may not seem like it for a while, and your plans will most likely change—maybe even your major, too!—but remember: Everyone’s got a journey, and we’re all just stumbling around trying to make it.
I wish someone had given me this advice, so I’m gonna pay it forward and leave these gems with you.
Take care of you: The transition to college can be a lot. It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle of classes, extracurriculars and friend groups, but don’t forget to take some time where you can chill by yourself and accomplish things that are personal and will build you up.
Ask for help when you need it: This will be hard, but super beneficial. You’re not a superhero—no, staring at a computer screen for 24 hours isn’t a superpower—and you can’t do everything on your own. Find and remember those you can count on, and let them know when you’re struggling, be it academically or emotionally.
For the love of God, clean up: Do not be the person who rarely or never picks up after themselves. (I’ve had roommates like that and began to detest them greatly!) Take pride in your living space and the campus around you. People will like you more for it.
Take inventory: Take it from me, you’ll want to clean out your room every so often. That way, when it’s time to move out, you don’t have four tubs of stuff to take home and sort through. If you throw out or donate the things you don’t want as you go through the year, moving out will be much smoother down the line.
Communicate: Whether it’s with professors, peers or a supervisor, letting people know what you have going on or what you may need from them makes room for a more understanding environment. Being accountable and checking in keeps everyone on the same page and lets folks know you’re reliable and not a flaker. The only flaky things we like around here are biscuits, capisce?
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