Ever since I saw the movie House Bunny in the 7th grade, I thought I knew what college was going to be like. Between movies and pictures of older friends on Facebook, college life was portrayed as every teenager’s heaven: a haven with no parents or bedtime, school for only three hours a day, teachers who don’t assign seats, and a seemingly unlimited access to alcohol. Having grown up in California my whole life, I also had the premonition that everyone in “The South” would ride a horse to school and work on a farm on the weekends. Between these two expectations I guess I was in for quite a shock upon actually starting school in Texas.
I came to college knowing absolutely no one, so immediately my first priority was to meet people. The solution: sorority recruitment. Recruitment turned out to be the biggest blessing and curse. Approximately seven hours a day in six-inch heels and dresses in 103 degree humidity. If I had to define hell, I would start by describing recruitment. Not only was it hot as hell, but we also had to glue fake smiles below our perspiring upper lips until our cheeks were sore and cramping from grinning so much. But like my mom always told me, “nothing worthwhile ever comes easy” and that was definitely the case with recruitment. After five days of absolute misery, I had three-hundred new sisters who (although they did not all know my name) loved me so much and made sure to tell me at every possible moment. Although there may not be such thing as a “perfect recruitment,” every girl has a perfect home and I am sure I found mine.
Once school started I made the executive decision to join another extracurricular activity. I loved my sorority but telling future employers that my college life consisted mostly of me hanging out with a cluster of beautiful girls taking “candid” laughing pictures, drinking boxed wine, and wearing oversized clothing wasn’t going to cut it. I kept myself busy between a slew of clubs and organizations, a part-time job, a full school schedule, and the sorority.
I thought I would have it all under control. But starting from the very first week of actual school, I knew it was going to be tricky. I was going through initiation and already had at least one extracurricular commitment every night. This, combined with the fact that I suffer from a severe case of FOMO, was making my college career really difficult from the get-go. While balancing school, sorority, work, running errands (who the fuck knew that getting your own groceries would be such a bitch?), cooking, cleaning, and laundry, dirty rush was going on for the fraternities. Just in case you are unfamiliar with what dirty rush means: parties every night. Yes every night. Sunday through Sunday.
Because of this, my grades begin to suffer. I was sleeping as little as two to four hours a night, studying from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day uninterrupted, attending sorority meetings, mixers, socials, going from work to campus, back to work again, then attending frat parties at night. The first round of tests passed and I got grades I had never gotten before in my life. I was failing every test. I was sick, stressed, and tired. The smiley, relaxed party girl that I envisioned my college self to be was nowhere in sight. Instead, the horror movie-looking college student began to emerge. And living on my own meant that I had no one to blame but myself. I became frustrated with myself over grades. I was putting in the hours studying without seeing results. Because of my complete exhaustion, any information I was attempting to obtain could not be retained because of my disoriented state of mind.
Something had to give.
This first semester of college was a huge learning experience for me for sure. While many first-year students struggle to get involved, I struggled to step away. Although college is a fun new experience, at the end of the day we are all here to get an education. Without the grades, nothing else really matters. (Sorry that sounds like something my dad would say, but it’s true.) After giving up the everyday partying I began to appreciate what, exactly, college is. Every day we are blessed with the opportunity to listen to extraordinarily knowledgeable professors blab in hope that they can share their outrageous intellectual capacity with us so that someday we can better the world. If that’s not some serious motivation to go to class then I don’t know what is. And being able to balance that with the kick-ass drink specials? That is what turns you into an adult.
Some girls may look back on their first semester of college and “reflect about something they learned in a class” or feed bullshit to their grandparents at the family dinner table about something an organization taught them. But ultimately for me, that first semester was dedicated to learning about myself. That semester I learned that life has to be lived in balance. You can not do it all and you will not do it all. Manage your time and pick your priorities. What is going to matter most in ten years? Most of all though, I learned to take personal responsibility for my actions. Living 1,500 miles away from home is hard, and I miss my family like crazy. But it is a big step in the direction of growing up. Through my experiences that first semester I learned that I am stronger than I thought, and that with the right balance, support, and every once in a while a glass (or bottle) of wine, I can achieve my dreams..