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Embarking on my first day of college, I felt a mix of excitement and nerves, grateful for my mom’s comforting presence and my dog’s reassuring companionship. This pivotal moment did not just mark a transition into higher education but also highlighted the importance of a strong support system as I faced new challenges. Throughout my college journey, I learned that independence doesn’t mean going it alone — it’s about building a network of support, whether it’s family, friends or even pets, to help navigate life’s ups and downs.

My mom drove me to campus at 6:00 a.m., and my nerves built up as we got closer to the school and I anxiously hugged my dog. We arrived at the school, and despite feeling scared to be away from home, I also felt a bit of excitement since I had visited the school a few times before.

As I left the car, I waved goodbye to my mom but then ran back to hug her and my dog. Shakily, I walked to my first-ever college class. When I found out it was on the second floor of the CHASS Interdisciplinary South building, I was mortified — all those stairs. After what felt like climbing Mount Everest, I made my way inside the class and sat in the back. I was so nervous, but minutes passed, and the professor wasn’t there yet. So, I started talking to my other classmates next to me. Turns out the professor wasn’t there because of some room changes, so we all left early after her announcement on Canvas. After several hours, I went to my second class and that’s where the realization hit me that I was in college now, not some little kid dreaming of college.

After class, I went home with my mom. Having my mom and dog with me on that first day was comforting, reminding me of the importance of a support system. The next week, when I started forming my routine, I was a bit scared to be alone. Luckily, I had a nice roommate and my first new friends to look forward to. Adulthood’s challenges call for support, whether it’s in the form of family or friends. It doesn’t just mean independence.

Before college, my mom would handle phone calls and conversations with adults on my behalf due to my nervousness. While this may not have been ideal for developing social skills, it was a comfort at the time. However, stepping into college meant taking on these responsibilities myself, and it became more manageable with time. Independence in college goes beyond freedom from curfews; it’s about maturing and becoming self-sufficient.

I can proudly say that I can make phone calls and engage confidently with others, even when it comes to something as ordering pizza. This growth is a testament to my family’s lessons and support throughout my college journey.

Navigating college can be daunting for a first-generation student, but having an older brother who graduated from college was a tremendous advantage. He shared insights about college life that many students may not be aware of, and my mom reinforced these teachings as well. They taught me everything from practical skills like doing laundry and cooking to washing dishes to developing a strong work ethic.

Despite feeling prepared, the first few nights away from home proved to be quite challenging. One of the toughest aspects of starting college was grappling with the loneliness of being without my family, especially my twin sister, who is my best friend. It was a difficult adjustment, and honestly, it still is. And it’s okay to feel that way; what matters most is finding healthy ways to cope. For me, that meant finding comfort in rewatching “Gilmore Girls” episodes and spending time playing pool with my new friends.

Building a strong support system is crucial, especially during college. It doesn’t have to be family; it can be friends, pets or significant others. If you’re lacking that network, push yourself to reach out. Accept that it may just take some time.

College isn’t easy, and no matter how prepared you think you are. Just because it’s challenging doesn’t mean you have to face it alone. There are countless campus resources available that can provide assistance and support. If you take anything away from this article, remember that while college may present challenges, you have the resilience and a support network to overcome them.