“Autumn leaves don’t fall, they fly. They take their time and wander on this their only chance to soar.”

Delia Owens, Where the crawdad sings
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“Yes I’m Changing” by Tame Impala

So, Now You’ve Settled In…

Ahhh… smell that? The crisp air, the hot lattes, the fluffing of flannel; the signs that fall has arrived. Every year she struts into the limelight dawned in a pea coat, fluffy sweater, her favorite jeans, and some brown knee-high boots. You’ll likely see your peers walking around campus like this as well. They have their carry-all bags and PSL’s in hand on their way to class. But alas, the fall semester has been in full swing. You may find yourself feeling stressed, a mess, and ready to rest, overwhelmed with the daunting task that the college experience can be. But don’t fret, I’m here to share my secrets! Can’t find a study spot? Looking for things to do on the weekends? Struggling with a balance between your social life and academic insanity? Well, you have come to the right place, my friend, for I am here to guide you through the most emotionally tumultuous, socially draining, and academically challenging time of your life: the very first fall semester.

“Why does my brain feel like it’s melting

but I’m having the time of my life right now?”

My Roommate, fall 2019

“But I don’t know where to study!” Don’t Worry, I Got You.

Studying during my first semester seemed to be the most difficult task on Earth when I started college. I was fortunate enough to not have to study very hard in high school, but when I did I could rely on my bedroom to be my sanctuary. But when I got to college and the harsh reality that things would be hard (why did I think it wouldn’t be?) hit me like a ton of bricks, I had to find my happy spaces both on AND off campus. Sometimes it’s good to escape your room, and sometimes it’s even better to escape the home-away-from-home that you pay thousands of dollars to inhabit. Finding your sweet spots will help you focus and thrive out of the classroom, and here are my tips:

  • Find your “style” by asking yourself, what kind of learner/ studier are you?
  • Find a place that matches that energy (the most important step).
  • Trial run it, see if you can focus here. If not, keep searching!
  • Plug in your favorite playlist and tune out the world; hammer out as much as you can (make it quality over quantity though!).
  • If you’re satisfied with your results, keep returning to stake your claim! Personally, I have a table in the café on campus that I frequent and no one bothers me while I sit here.
  • Remember: it’s 100% OK to cry here. It’s college, no one will judge.
  • Don’t let your friends distract you! Make this spot YOUR spot, not the group’s.
  • Make sure food and drink are allowed, you’re going to need nourishment during your grind session. I recommend something in quick proximity to caffeine and sandwiches/ pastries!
  • Keep this spot your entire college experience; it will become your home-inside-your-home-away-from-home.

Ok, now that you have your on-campus vibe spot, you need to find your off-campus, private, unique, totally you sanctuary. This one comes with its own set of logistical issues; you may not have a car, public transportation, or a lively college town. Hey, that’s ok! There are plenty of parks, libraries, community centers, and other establishments in your reach; using Google Maps is a GREAT way to find your way around your new home town! For me, I find a busy coffee shop, friendly baristas, and a handy pair of noise cancelling headphones an excellent atmosphere for me to study when I’m out on the town. My location of choice is Matilda Kitchen and Coffee House located in downtown Rochester, NY. *Cue Stefan from SNL impression* This place has EVERYTHING: friendly baristas in fashion forward outfits, purple LED lights, local art installations, honey lavender lattes, caprese sandwiches with extra pesto, up-to-date indie music, and a vibe so immaculate that you become lost in a void of time and work flow. Finding your off-campus zen space is much easier than on-campus because you don’t have to worry about friends interrupting you or rushing to class after getting lost in the sauce of homework. There aren’t any good tips to help you find your spot because that’s the thing: it’s YOUR spot! DO some research of your area and find something that checks all your personal boxes! The world is now your oyster, take the time to explore it and find some pearls!

Fond Memories and Balancing a Crazy Life

College will come with the absolute best memories on planet Earth. You’re going to meet so many people, do so many things, and laugh so much your abs are sore the next day. But, how do you get to that point? Well, it’s easy! My biggest tip is to go to events on campus; even if you don’t want to go or they don’t sound interesting, you’re going to meet people and foster connections here. Also, 9 times out of 10, you’re going to get something free (t-shirt, mug, sticker, etc.), so why would you miss out on that? Some of my best memories from college are from the events I went to. On campus at my college, there is an event called “Jam and Java” where the Student Activities Board brings in coffee to a performance space and people are allowed to come up and perform, read poetry, tell jokes, or just vibe. The energy is always IMMACULATE, and I have made some amazing friends from attending this. Another great place I’ve made friends and memories is my acapella group. We spend an incredible amount of time together; we rehearse, we hang out off campus, we get meals together, and we perform! There have been many nights with this group that I know I will remember for the rest of my life. Finding my “niche” on campus was the absolute most important step for me to make memories and connection on campus. It’s easier than you think it is and there are plenty of resources out there to help you find your place.

The most difficult thing after finding your place is that balance between a social life, academics, and your personal time. My number one tip that works for me is to treat your academics like a 9-5 job. That means you are in the zone all day and working on your homework, but as soon as 5pm hits, that’s the time for you and your extracurriculars. You can always adjust this schedule to however you’d like; I know people who have an 11-7, 8-3, or even just 12-4. It’s totally customizable, but as long as you get set in that pattern of behavior, you’ll find yourself to be more efficient! Next tip is to not let your clubs and activities monopolize your time. NEVER, under any circumstances, should you spread yourself too thin. You will start to feel that your outlets and things you do for fun are part-time jobs which is a sign that you need to take time for yourself. And that is the most important thing of all: take time for YOU! Whether it be a face mask, a bath, going for a run, screaming to music while you drive, or crying with your favorite Squishmallow, you can take care of yourself amidst the chaos and confusion of confusion. The key to setting up for success in college is to establish these good habits early on. That way, you can continue to practice your habits as the years go on, and they will eventually become routine, healthy practices in your adult life.

Yes, You’re Changing

As you’re welcomed to the most formative time in your life, remember some key things:

  • You are your biggest cheerleader, so keep a PMA (Positive Mental Attitude).
  • Take care of yourself. Like literally do it it’s so easy.
  • Don’t be afraid of who you are, and better yet, don’t be afraid to explore who you are!
  • Naps are lovely, take many.
  • Befriend your professors! It’ll come in handy in the future.
  • Go to things, all the things. Free stuff, a good time, and new friends! Woo!
  • And lastly, just find a routine that works for YOU!

College is about exploration, academic challenge, finding what you love, and making memories to last a lifetime. If you remember that, you’re going to be set for success in every facet of your life. Remember to be kind to yourself, be kind to others, and drink lots of water; brace yourself for the most insane marathon that’s going to feel like a sprint. That’s all i have time for today, until we meet again, folks!