Wednesday, August 4, 2010

How to Survive College From One Who Knows

The first thing you should do, right from the moment you read this is to reevaluate your packing list. My older brother told me to do this and I scoffed at him. Although in my defense, he told me I would only need one towel. He is a boy and for all the girls who are worried, let me reassure you. You need at least two. But he’s basically right. The reasoning is thus—“I will be living at school for the next ____ months. I want to feel at home. I will bring ____ and that will make me feel at home.” But it won’t. Nothing will make you feel at home but time. Your books will not have sufficient shelving and they will remain unread. Your scrapbooking things will stay in their box, and your art supplies will remain untouched. So leave your four hundred page manuscript at home. This (very, very good) advice will be ignored and I accept that. But I had to try.

As far as what you do need, let me give you some practical suggestions. Bring a surge protector. Your dorm is very old and, as my mother says, was built before microwaves, refrigerators, laptops, cell phones, alarm clocks, lamps, blow dryers, and hair straighteners. As a side note, when my mother was enrolled in my current institute of higher learning, she slept in the room next to mine. Yes, I think it’s crazy, too. But that’s how old your dorm building will be. Back to the task at hand? There will not be enough plugs. Take note.

The only thing that will save you from the dread concrete block walls are posters and pictures. They hang best with those pull-to-remove-without-damaging-the-paint tabs. Invest, please. Sticky tack and hot glue are also good bets.

Curtains. For the first three weeks of school, my roommate and I fell asleep to the soporific glow of orange street lights. Then we bought some extra-thick curtains and it was better.

At least two coffee/tea mugs. You’ll want to share with your soon-to-be-but-not-yet friends and sometimes you just won’t want to wash the dirty one. These also double as bowls. Bring a plate, though. Coffee mugs don’t work well as plates.

Seriously consider investing in a rug—big enough to cover what’s already there, be it carpet or tile.

You will make friends, there’s no doubt about it. In fact, there will be nice, interesting, funny, fascinating, downright lovely people all around you 24-7! As any introvert knows, this is a recipe for disaster. Find a place you love and can go to be alone—the back corner of the library, the chapel between services, a tree, a gazebo—and make a point to go there regularly. How regularly? Once a day. Quiet time won’t happen in the dorm room and spiritual growth won’t happen without quiet time. “Elizabeth,” you scoff, “I’ll be fine. I won’t have to seek out alone time; I’ll be alone a lot. Making friends is hard.” Yes, it’s hard but you’ll do it and you’ll like it.

Let me reiterate, because it’s important: quiet time won’t happen in the dorm room. Not quiet time with God, not quiet time with your journal, not quiet time on the phone, not quiet time for sleeping. You’re living with some twenty-odd people all of whom have their own personality, schedule, and sense of what privacy means. The dorm will be loud. Very loud. Sometimes it will even be you being loud. It’s okay. But bring ear plugs, too. And don’t expect to get quiet in the dorm, not even after quiet hours. No one will enforce quiet hours, either.

Besides making time to be alone, the best thing you can do for your spiritual well-being is to find a church family. You’ve never been responsible for this choice before and it’s understandable to want to wander and explore a bit. But I wouldn’t wait too long to make a decision. Pick one and GO. Regularly—Sundays, Wednesdays, volunteer if you can, where ever you can. Nothing will make you feel more at home than having a regular church you attend. It will ground you and you’ll begin forming bonds with mature Christians. That can only be a good thing.

Coming Up Next: The Wonderful World of Academia; The Rules: What's Up With Those? and Welcome to College, Poor Little Freshman, Because it's Going to be a Long Year.

I remain, as always,

Yours,

Elizabeth :)