Caps and gowns are tucked away and the new (well, new to you) couch has been delivered to the apartment. The last embrace from family and friends for the next three months is left on your shirt and the memories of summer play out as you watch the familiar smear together outside the car window. “Time of Your Life” by Green Day suddenly plays on the radio as you make the turn down University Avenue. The parental shackles have been shed, along with the luggage once you open the door to your new home. The freedom you have only seen on sitcoms has finally come — so what next? Wear mismatched outfits because mom is not around. Eat ice cream for breakfast because you can. Go commando because you itch for all types of freedom. Then dinner time rolls around and it sets in: “I’m on my own …” You may have just left the nest, but now it’s time to build your own.
The first thing on the agenda may entail making your space your own. Remember when your mom didn’t want those posters on the wall because of the paint? Well, those band posters are your new wallpaper. Those pictures you just printed from graduation? Litter your desk with the tornado of pictures until you can’t see it anymore. Throw that extra sock that doesn’t have a match onto the lampshade, because who is going to tell you not to? Maybe the new roommate stumbles in with the same sparkle in their eye as they peer around the cubicle of a room. The last UCR banner is pinned to the wall and the only thing left to check out is the rest of your home: campus.
Going out used to mean checking for a curfew, convincing parents of safety and giving them a quick bio and license plate number of the person you’re going out with. (Or is that just my mom?) Before college, you had all those years to explore the town … before the street lights came on anyway. The freedom to explore now is endless, but where to first? The book list from the English professor is ready in the bookstore, so naturally, the only thing to do is steer clear and explore the places furthest from your studies. Now you may have felt like the big man during campus tours, but when you’re wearing your UCR shirt from orientation and stand in front of the Bell Tower in the middle of rush, you feel more like the speck of dust that floats in Life Sciences 1500. (It’s okay, you’ll learn to loathe the lecture hall like everyone else). It seems as though everyone has a bag filled with books and supplies in one hand and a coffee in the other. Questions begin to pop up: Is that last paycheck from the summer job going to cover books? Did I already miss homework? You’ll soon wonder which one is worse to check: your bank account or blackboard.
But then night falls and spirits lift. The parties and college life you have envisioned are on the mind. But where to go? Who to talk to? What to do? Hours go by, and the only thing to show for it is the dressed bed. Dinner is spent at the dining hall with all the others that buzz around in excitement.
First day of classes is here — no bell schedule, no brunch period and no campus supervisors. It’s 7 a.m. and the person next to you pulls out a Monster and pours it into their coffee muttering, “I’m gonna die.” The map says “Interdisciplinary South” but how can you tell the coordinates if you forgot to pack your compass? And the sweat mustache does not help the situation when searching for class with just ten minutes to spare. The last lecture ends and you no longer have to reiterate your name, year, major and why you’re taking the class. (You may have felt compelled yet hesitant to state “because my adviser said it’s a requirement rather than “because beginning English is fascinating.”) The anticipation of someone asking, “How was school?” lingers once you return to your room. However, only that sock on the lampshade greets you at the door. Yup, it’s official: You’re on your own.
Remember, it’s okay to feel a little scared or anxious the first few weeks of school. Those people that walk through the row of fraternities and sororities without the fear of judgment have all been in the same shoes as you. Unpack the last of your memories and make room for some new ones. This is just the beginning; the first twig to your new nest.