Just like the children popping up on my Facebook news feed in their proud parents’ pictures that I
skip past totally love, I, too, embarked on a first day of school this week (though JB surprisingly did not feel the need to capture this moment in photo).
After five years at the same university, I was part of the energy and excitement of a fresh school year at my new employer. While students start trickling in prior to the first day, seeing a campus turn overnight from the quiet of summer to the buzz of college life is like stopping by a bar at 3 p.m. and then going back at happy hour.
There is a vibrant rebirth for sure, but there are nerves too — from freshmen, transfer students, and new professors getting ready to face a group of 150 18-year-olds with the expectation of being enlightened. And for the first time in five years, from me. I was the new kid just like everyone else, so I thought I would share some tips for me and all the others feeling a little out-of-place as they head back to school:
Don’t rush home the first chance you get. I have never felt so alone and homesick as I did the first (maybe also 2nd, 3rd, 4th….) week of college. If I hadn’t been 1,000 miles away, I’m sure my laundry and I would have been tempted to seek the security of home as much as possible. And in a new job, before you develop a sense of community, it’s easy to leave when the work is done.
But so much of college (and working at one) happens outside the office or classroom. It happens at residence hall move-in, the welcome back barbecue or the volleyball game (What? Some schools don’t have football!). And you have to be there to experience it. Besides, the washer and dryers in the residence hall now text you when your laundry is done. They TEXT you.
Remember there was a time you felt lost and confused in high school, too. But by the end of that first year, you were a pro. And eventually, you will be at college too. No one starts out Van Wilder.
At my former employer, I felt comfortable walking into any meeting and answering student questions (why yes, I do know how to get to that building). I walked across campus and the faces were familiar, if not friends. But if I really think back, I remember the first year when I never wanted to go to anything alone and was hesitant to speak up at a meeting because I didn’t trust my knowledge and ideas yet. If you give it time, freshmen students quickly become next year’s orientation leaders and freshmen employees become veterans.
Be in the moment. Finally, don’t start counting the days until winter or summer break. My wedding date has been set and it’s basically a school year away. I’m so excited, I find myself wishing it was already June. But life is way too short for that — I need to enjoy everything leading up to that time just as much.
Students take so much AP and dual credit these days in high school that by the time they get into college, they only have a couple of years left. And I totally understand this for financial and other personal reasons. But sometimes I wish they would just slow down a little and take it all in. Your “first day of school” moments are numbered.