I remember the day I moved into my college dorm room. I woke up late (not typical of the early riser like me), and I laid on the sofa contemplating what life would be like away from here.
I lived in our nine-story apartment my entire life. While I would hate to admit it, I became homesick pretty easily growing up. Our home was always crowded with cats and siblings running around. I felt anxious leaving the comfort and the familiar.
My mother asked what was wrong the day of my college adventure. She could tell something was off. I said I didn’t feel good, but I’m sure she saw through that. I couldn’t back out now. We had bought hundreds of dollars worth of dormwear, and my former classmates were posting pictures on Instagram about their cute new dorm rooms. I was scared that my college experience wasn’t going to live up to that story every older person tells me: “College is the greatest time of your life! I wish I could go back!”
A few weeks after the start of school, I moved back home. My decision got a lot of flack of my siblings who spent their entire college experience at the dorms. Two years later, I look back on this decision with a smile. I am proud I stood up for my feelings and didn’t follow the status quo. It’s okay to be scared for college and moving away. I was lucky – I lived 5 minutes down the street from my university. My house was quite literally on campus, and I could easily travel back and forth from campus.
I believe we hurt the mental health of the community when we say things like “college is the best time of your life” and “enjoy it while it lasts.” While these phrases may be well-intended, for students who are experiencing depression, anxiety, and nervousness (especially those who have other socioeconomic factors in their lives), we can’t be so easy to judge. Everyone’s journey is so different, and comparing your journey to someone else’s (especially someone you know nothing about) will cause unneeded stress. I talk to many students about the fear of being labeled as “depressed” or “crazy.” Mental health awareness is fundamental to an exceptional college experience.
I admit I had privilege because my university was right near home. Perhaps this closeness made me want to come home even more. However, this entire experience made me aware of my surroundings. My university campus is my community. When someone is sad or appears scared, anxious, or overwhelmed, be the community advocate who supports them. Ask everyone how they are (authentically) and listen. The first time you are in college, you see unfamiliar faces. Become a familiar face to as many as you can.