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College Choice and Homesickness

jenny-85Everyone congratulates you when you get accepted somewhere. Yay! Great! You got in! Whoo-hoo! But no one tells you that now…you must CHOOSE. It might not be hard for some. I mean, community college…or Harvard. Or maybe you had a college you were already set on. Great.

For me, I was only concerned with UC Davis and Amherst College. At first, I thought “UC Davis all the way!” It was convenient, close to home. My cousins went there. Mom and Dad wanted me nearby. And to someone who loved family above all else, Davis was going to be my choice. All my friends from elementary school and middle school were going to be there. I had it all planned out. It was going to be great!

One night, I thought about it. Did I really want to be in a big school and be just another number? Did I want to go somewhere and explore a bit? Be more independent? Those thoughts landed me in Amherst College. When I told my dad I wanted to go to Amherst, Dad didn’t talk to me for the whole evening. He just went on about his business, lost in thought. He almost walked into the door and then looked around to see if anyone was watching. I saw, but didn’t say anything, just chuckled to myself. I felt as if I needed to grow up, and then come back as a capable, independent person so I could take care of my family. He was not going to sway me from my decision.

Later that night, he gave me his awkward one-armed hug, and said, “You can do whatever you want. It’s your choice.” Translation of awkward daddy talk: I approve.

It’s hard being away from home. Food. FOOD! I’m sorry, but even professional chefs have nothing on my mom’s home cooking. I miss my friends. I mean, these are kids I shared candy with in 3rd grade. Sometimes, I see professors and their little children running about, and I immediately think of my little nine year old brother, and how I’d give anything to hug him right then and there. And then I pretend something flew in my eye when my friends ask why I’m crying.

To all of you considering going to school far away, there’s Facebook (Yes, I know, it’s a procrastinator magnet.). There’s video chat, email, phones. There’s something called mail. I know that they’re poor substitutes for the real thing, but I’m dealing with it too. Homesickness gets better with time. Trust me, once the work settles in, WHOO, you won’t have time to SLEEP! You’ll be fine.

Soon as exams are over, I’m flying home. And then run into the kitchen and demand that Mom make me a bowl of pho.

Miss you.

leah-85“Off to college, yes you went away, straight from high school you up and left.” I think Aliayah, the famous singer, said it in her song titled Miss You.

You definitely will miss your high school friends. I do! Although we promised to connect with each other daily, we learned promises aren’t always kept. It’s hard getting in touch with my high school friends. First we are all busy with adjusting to school, but, more importantly, I realized that whenever I contacted them I neglected the friends I made at college and I feel like I’m grasping onto the past. It’s hard to transition to new types of people because you have to create a new bond and all those old insiders with your high school friends don’t apply. So, when you are laughing by yourself about a squirrel in a trash can everyone is looking at you like you are crazy.

Honestly, I am afraid of losing my high school friends. They are such special individuals and I feel like we all connect in a perfect way. They really became apart of my family. I don’t ever want college to get between us, which is why I try to keep up with facebook posts, weekly calls, and anything else in between. Some people do fade away though and some friendships sadly have expiration dates, but I don’t think that will ever happen to the relationships I have with high school buddies.

CSO Testimonial

jesse-85Jesse Sanchez shares his thoughts on CSO in this testimonial video.

Sometimes, I hate that I love college

jenny-85College is hard at times. Being away from your family. Not having mom’s pho or fried rice. Getting a fever even though you have a paper due soon. And then feeling like you had the ground pulled out from under you only to realize you just stepped on some black ice.

But along with those times, you get the good stuff. Laughing at a Facebook post with your roommate at 2 in the morning even though you’re supposed to be working on your essay. Waking up the next day with your head feeling like mush, only to see a text from a buddy telling you to meet up for breakfast. The little things that make your day seem not so bad.

Then there’s meeting people. Others that are perhaps more ambitious or smarter than you. Others that have dreams and come from different backgrounds. I would be lying if I said you’d meet nice people everywhere, but among the less sociable ones, you get friends. Then you find joy in talking with them and understanding where they come from. Maybe even sharing music tastes or book titles. I was introduced to Korean pop music.  And I am quite happy I have.

It’s these little things. Making friends and meeting people that you normally wouldn’t have a chance to. Taking a film and writing class that requires a lot of time you don’t have, but actually enjoying writing that essay because that movie was REALLY good. Or seeing a light at the end of the tunnel when your chemistry homework actually made sense. (I almost cried, but I told my roommate it was the eye drops.)

Valentine’s Day was just same old same old. But as I walked back to my room to drop off books, I noticed something on my door knob. There were several valentines from my dorm mates hanging there. And suddenly my day didn’t seem too bad as I walked out again to another class, chocolate melting in my cheek.

I love these little things.

Better College Student

leah-85Sorry for not posting sooner. This was meant to be posted in December:

I have been in my own world lately. Papers, projects and finals were stressful that I made sure never to touch my computer because I knew Facebook would take over my life. Let’s just say I need to work on my self control.

So first semester at Swarthmore was a success. I don’t know how I made it exactly but I did. The course load was unbelievable. Every week I found myself reading two books, completing two problem sets, and writing papers. It was hard and everyday was a challenge. But, I took that challenge head on. I spent hours studying, rewriting, visiting office hours, and in the end things had a way of working out. Some days I didn’t think I would make it. I didn’t have faith in my abilities or myself. I started to doubt myself, until I realized I am not alone. Friends are great resources. Their attitude, advice, and gestures motivated me to do better and work harder. They encouraged me and taught me that working hard is not enough, you need confidence. You need to know when to ask for help, when to take a break, when to yell, and when to complain (because everyone needs to vent).

What could have possibly made my experience better? Well first off, time. I wished I had more time with everything. I wished lectures weren’t crammed in 50 minutes and I wished they days were longer so I would have more time to study. Second, a well thought out plan. Honestly, in college there are people who want to be a chemist for instance at the age of four. And, they dedicated their entire time prepping. That means taking summer classes, doing internships, or going to a high school that specialized in that field. So when it comes down it, they are exceeding expectations and things are natural and easy for them. They have preparing to do what they want to do forever. I wished I knew then or even now about my future. But, I still remain clueless. Lastly, I think what’s important is that your high school values your independent thinking and asks you to learn things on your own. It’s important to have analytical skills and think theoretically at all times.

As for me, I am happy to be going home. I can finally get eight or more hours a sleep. I am still not used to handling college. I need to work on studying, socializing, and sleeping. But, I know that I’ll get into the motion and this break I will prepare myself to be a better college student.

This Is Not High School Anymore…

irvin-85In all honestly, college seems surreal. At any point now, I am sure that this will end and I will go back home, back to high school, back to my parents and friends. This just seems like another summer program. The fact that my Facebook network reads “Dartmouth ‘14″ brings me back to reality and makes me realize that this is no summer program. This is college.

When I look at my graduation year, I realize that those four years will be full of work. The past two weeks, my first two weeks of college are characterized by immense amounts of reading, countless calculus practice problems and an intellectual satisfaction that high school could not provide.

I overheard one of my friends tell his brother back home “Dude, college classes do not play around.” The statement rings true. My intention is not to scare the college bound reader but rather it is to warn him or her about what lies ahead. College is completely different from high school and I have been able to notice the difference in just two weeks. The intensity of the classes and the material covered in them does not compare to high school. The classes require total engagement both during class and outside of the class room which translates into many hours of studying and practicing. I can honestly admit that I had never spent so much time studying outside of class until I came here. Do not get me wrong, the work is not overbearing nor is it boring. Rather, it is interesting and helpful towards the learning process. There is a feeling of accomplishment every time I understand a math concept or an idea from my Intro To Latin American Studies class.

I hope that this does not scare you. Rather, it gives you a realistic expectation of what college will be like academically. Just know that if you’ve made it this far, it is because you have been able to rise to constantly changing expectations. Do not be afraid, rather be expectant. It might seem like I have a lot of work to do, and yes, it is true but I am happy here. I am happy that I am being challenged academically. I am happy that this is not high school anymore.

READY…SET…GO!!!

lot-85

I’m on my own now. After all my college stuff has been moved into my cubicle for a room, after mom cried and dad gave me the speech on responsiblity, I began to write the first chapter in my college experience.

The first couple of hours were spent in preparation and anxious pondering about my roommate and the guys in my corridor. I pondered on the type of personalities they would have? Would they be interested in the same hobbies such as myself? Could I develop a relationship with total strangers? These are questions that roamed not only through my own mind but through the mind of every single freshman student on campus. I guess the fear of the unknown kept us at bay for those initial hours. Everyone has the perception that college is a time to be open and discover a new world, but we all came from areas in which people knew our names, backgrounds and personalities, Having to start over with new people is daunting.

After surfing on facebook for way to long , my roommate arrived. We had talked briefly over the summer but it was exhilarating to hear his voice, watch his demeanor, and understand his background. We had striking differences; I am a democrat, he is a republican. He comes from a long line of college graduates. I am the first in my family to attend college. He is more reserved and introverted at first. While I am sort of loud and willing to strike up the most random conversations. With a few differences came many similarities: We both enjoyed history and politics. We both placed an emphasis on networking, academics and continued individual growth. It turns out we live well together, utilizing the skills such as cooperation, consideration and genuine compassion.

Meeting Dan for the first time put me in the welcoming mood. If nobody wanted to come out, then I would go to them. In Batman and Robin type of fashion, we both walked down the halls knocking on every door as we went by. Everyone received us with hospitality and willingness to introduce themselves. On occasion the guys we met were under the same impression as our own, they wanted to be open but didn’t know the avenues to start from. As the tour went on we found other bands of freshmen walking thorough the halls trying to obtain the same objective we had set. The story was the same all over: parents were gone, new environment, how do I meet people without coming off as weird or intrusive? In a comical way we were all in the same boat just blind to the other passengers in it.

Meeting people for the first time is one thing yet breaking through the frigid disconnect that comes with meeting someone foreign was difficult. Usually the conversation would revolve around the basics: name, origin, and major. Outside of that the conversation turned icy and some what awkward. I thought what helped bond myself with the guys in corridor was the common interest. We all considered ourselves scholars worthy of independent thought. Walk through our halls and listen in on the conversations surrounding race, socioeconomic, current politics, and even gender relations. We dine together frequently, never leaving until the gang is together. We even have similarities in television shows. On any given day around four o’ clock you can bet that at least ten guys are huddled together watching repeats of The West Wing.

Two weeks into my freshman experience I am becoming more acquainted with campus (even if I get lost sometimes) and I’m getting situated with my classes. But the most endearing step is building relationships that will stand past this year and the next. I truly feel connected and at home with my brothers.

Bye Bye Birdie

abigail-85“Wait until I’m 18; I’ll be outta here!”

Whenever I used to get into an argument with my mom it wasn’t uncommon for me to tell her those exact words and the same holds true for a lot of high school students. But the truth is that I’m not even 18 yet; I’m 17 and tonight I’ll catch a red eye flight to Boston. From there, I’ll wait to board the Dartmouth Coach which will take me to my new home, Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.

Whoopee. Don’t get me wrong; I am excited for the new people and experiences that await me, but having my mom cry about me “leaving the nest” is not pleasant and I’m not sure how thousands of freshman do it each year, especially those who are the first in their family to attend college.

So, if you find yourself not being able to console your mom or anybody else afraid of letting you go out into the world alone, start by reassuring them that this new beginning doesn’t mean that you’ll forget about those who helped you get there in the first place. Cell phones, Skype, Pictures, AIM, Facebook, etc. there are tons of ways to keep in touch; try to find one that best works for you and your loved ones. I bought my mom a webcam and now she can’t wait for me to tell her about my first day on campus.

I’ve packed up all my things but it probably won’t sink in until I’m 10,000 feet in the air. Remember, college isn’t a complete good-bye, more of a “see you later”. Have fun and make the most of it!

I’m alive!!!

duylam-85This what you should do in your summer before starting college: have a freaking blast!

And while you have a freaking blast, make sure you do all of your tedious college stuff. Like enrolling in a payment plan, getting your health insurance straight (Massachusetts has some odd requirements about student health insurance), and adding your roommates on Facebook.

Okay that last one is optional, but if you want a good transition to college, I recommend it. You could get a feel for them. However, take this advice with the caveat that the internet does not always serve as an accurate translation of who a person really is.  You can’t get a feel for a person’s tone, body language, etc.

Ambition is a great thing. Many students will be stars in their schools. And you’ll sacrifice a lot in your pursuit (but when you’re in pursuit sacrifice never seems to feel like sacrifice…it feels more like balance).

As any admissions officer will tell you about any college’s culture, it’s about the balance between work and play.

You’ll have your sleepless nights, days filled with Red Bull and Monster, and getting lost in the stacks because you slept there and woke up not knowing where you are. Seriously, the last one has happened to students everywhere. Okay not seriously, but I feel like it could happen.

Any who, enjoy the summer and maybe try something new so you can have something to tell your roommates in the fall!