First Year of College: Experiences & Lessons

Now that there is less than a month until I return to college, I would like to take this time to reflect on my first year — I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but haven’t gotten to it until now, so here are my thoughts!

In summary, my freshman year of college was the best and worst year of my life (this is slightly dramatized, but you get the gist). During my first year of college I had a lot of firsts: first time living on my own, first time being out of the state on my own, first time going to therapy/counseling, and many other firsts. These firsts were great, and are only experiences you could obtain from going to college and dorming. Moreover, I meet so many amazing people, made amazing connections, had many great experiences (see my ASB series here!), accomplished and grew a lot — both academically and personally — and got involved in some many amazing organizations and projects! I wouldn’t trade those ten months for the world — they helped me grow so much as a person and taught me so much about myself and for that, that time is worth more than any amount of money.

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Expanding more on counseling, taking advantage of free counseling at my university was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life! As a young child and teen battling with anxiety and depression, I never took up counseling for fear of embarrassment and people judging me — mental illness being as stigmatized as it is. As a result, I ended up battling these emotions on my own, for many years. However, college forced me to experience and fight battles I never had to fight before, and counseling was necessary in order for stay healthy and not give up on everything I had worked for, right then and there. In that first year, I was faced with a sort of depression, anxiety, and loneliness that was stronger and more powerful than any depression and anxiety I had experienced before. I started having panic attacks frequently — a sensation I hadn’t felt in years and that I had only experienced once before. If you’ve never had a panic attack before, here’s a simple description for how it feels like (at least to me because panic attacks are different for everyone): it’s the point where emotions become physical sensations — your mind takes control of your body — you feel suffocated, like you can’t breathe and at moments it feels like you actually can’t breathe; your mind can’t focus on anything, but the emotion you are feeling at that moment (not even music, which usually calms my anxieties, can stop this emotion from progressing and taking over my entire being); you feel totally out of the control of your mind and body, and the only thing you can do is accept this emotion/sensation or try to go back to your roots, your body’s natural function: breathing.

The resurrection of my panic attacks could have been due to many factors — there is no pin-pointing it. It could have been due to being away from home for a long period of time (as a self-proclaimed “home-body”), feeling out of place at a pre-dominantly white school, not feeling safe or comfortable in my dorm because of my roommates, or a combination of all of these things (which is most likely). All I know is that counseling saved me much pain and suffering, helped me to understand my emotions and better control them, and might have even saved my life at some crucial period.

I thank God for counseling, and I thank the universe for leading me to UVM. I love my school, and I can’t imagine being anywhere else (I’ve said this a million times, but I can’t stress it enough — I LOVE THE UNIVERSITY OF THE GREEN MOUNTAINS AND THE PEOPLE IN IT!). So, as the summer comes to a close, I am more than excited to be back at school in the end of August. I have so many things to look forward to, and so many opportunities to be creative and grow that I am taking up — I can’t wait to get started! As always, I have to remind myself of these critical reminders as I make my way back to Vermont: stay humble, be patient, be present, and most importantly, choose joy!

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-n.m

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