A couple days before I started my freshman year at Florida State University, I got a text from a good friend of mine. I probably should’ve been packing but instead I was deep in procrastination, sitting at home watching a documentary about storm chasers — something I’m honestly not even interested in. My friend sent me a picture of a door with my name on it. “I’m up at school already and I found your new college dorm room! So excited for you to get up here.”
I don’t think it really hit me until that moment that I was about to leave home for college. There was quite literally a place prepared for me somewhere I’d never been before. I was so pumped that, if I were actually packed and ready to go like I was supposed to be, I would have jumped in my car and headed out to college that night. I couldn’t wait any longer.
The first week of college is filled with a ton of different moving pieces and opportunities all happening at once. There’s so much greatness that, if you blink, you’ll probably miss something. So as someone who realized way too late in the game that they were about to make a major step into some serious awesomeness, here’s some of the ways that I learned (mostly the hard way) on how you can make the most out of your first week of college:
Have a Blast
The first week of college is set up for you to have a good time while adjusting to your new school. This should be a fun time in your life!
If you don’t know anyone at your school, social events are cool opportunities to mix, mingle, and meet people with similar interests. Free food is overflowing and everywhere. There are a million different things going on the first week of school with different clubs and events if you know where to look for them. Your schedule the first week of college is going to be wide open. In fact it’s probably the most open it’s been in the last four years. So be bold and try something new.
Easy Does it
I remember sitting with a group of mutual friends the first night of school trying to map out what we wanted to go and do. Is it too much to play laser tag, go kayaking, see a movie, and get into the competitive lip sync scene all in one day?
Know that it’s totally cool to take a deep breath and slow it down. Rest and don’t cram everything in. It’s ok to sleep in and enjoy your freedom. Life is about to hit fast with new schoolwork. So in balancing out what you want to do, be realistic in commitments and priorities. And if you find yourself stressing out at any point, just remember that what’s new to you is also new to everyone around you
Often times, when I find myself in a new situation or surrounded by people I don’t really know, the temptation is to be what I think others would like me to be rather than myself.
A lot of times it feels like college needs to be a time to reinvent yourself or build a persona of what you think others might find appealing. But the truth is as I went through my first week of school, I encountered a lot of people that were equally as nervous to be thrown in a new setting with all new people as I was. No one was really expecting me to know everything, have all the answers, or come in with a ton of life experience. But a lot of times this was the lie I found me telling myself. Just remember that authenticity to self is ultimately what creates authenticity in friendships. In personality, emotions, and in our identity as Catholics, be yourself!
Walk in Faith
There is so much readily available at your fingertips the first week of college. Like any other new chapter in your life, you will be faced with temptations. Don’t fear temptation. My first week of school, invitations to things, both good and bad, flew at me in ways I didn’t expect as people desired to build communities in ways they thought college demanded. Drugs, drinking, and parties I knew I shouldn’t be at were definitely things I could’ve pursued while at school. Still, my conscious nagged at me.
It was in college that I realized I had done more to form my conscious than I gave myself credit for and even realized up to this point. Even in confusion and temptation, know that pursuit of God ultimately strengthens us against temptation. This awesome quote from St. John of the Cross is a great encouragement: “faith is like the feet wherewith the soul journeys to God, and love is the guide that directs it.” Always walk in faith and be guided by love for God.
The Long Run
Be excited for your first week of college! It’ll be a blast if you are open to the new opportunity. In the midst of all the passing chances, remember to pursue consistency in your life. If you don’t know anyone at your school, Catholic Student centers are a great place to find people. The common ground of faith is such a great starting point for making friends. Moving past your first week of school, remember that faith thrives in community. In community we are challenged to go deeper through accountability.
I found the most authentic friends through the Catholic Student Union at FSU. Now that I’ve graduated school, friendships I made through the Catholic Student Union are what remain and stick out in my memory. These are friendships built on Christ.
As college goes on, circumstances change, distance grows, and the shallow foundation of some of my college friends has crumbled. But in building friendships on something deeper than just the temporary commonality of college has really set me up well for success in the long run. Find your community at school and invite Christ into your friendships. If you can do these things, your first week of college will be something that’ll be a great memory rather than a regret of decisions or missed opportunities.