Days and weeks and months and years of anticipation had led up to this moment. I woke up abruptly with a lump in my chest at around 6:30 AM and my excitement was the only thing capable of overpowering my nervousness. Either way, sleep was no longer a viable option. It was time to start college. For real.
The day was off to a sweaty start as I dragged all four of my heavy suitcases down five flights of stairs. Naturally, my parents decided that an Airbnb without an elevator was our best bet—“classic New York charm,” they said. Bless their souls. By the time I got in the cab, I was ready to conk out. Observe this real-life footage of me tripping on my way down:
We pulled up in front of Brittany, my first-year residence hall, and I couldn’t help but beam. Not even the humidity could bring me down. Its location on 10th and Broadway was incredible. The world-famous Strand Bookstore was in sight and my school, Gallatin, was just a few blocks away. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect place to start my life in New York.
Checking in went smoothly, and everyone that I spoke to was friendly and inviting. We were all united by a mutual rush of adrenaline—none of us could really fathom what was happening. My roommates and their families were lovely and easy to talk to, and I spent a few hours putting up pictures and posters on my wall with my parents by my side. I was relieved because everything was going as I’d hoped it would. Or so I thought.
After a trip to Bed, Bath and Beyond for some last minute necessities and a delicious lunch at a nearby pizzeria, my parents and I walked over to the Kimmel Center for one of the university welcome events. As we walked from one vibrant booth to the next, some showcasing Study Away and others highlighting the forthcoming Clubfest, an unexpected sense of anxiety began to creep over me right as the sun was beginning to set.
I will never forget stopping in the middle of the crowded room and looking around at the endless sea of people that enveloped me. Everything was strikingly unfamiliar—each face, each wall, each window. Sure, my parents were with me, but I was acutely aware of the fact that they would be up and away within just a few hours. No amount of time could have prepared me for that visceral sensation of uncertainty. Nothing that surrounded me truly belonged to me yet, and after years of performing the same routine, I hadn’t truly comprehended that it was time to start over whether I liked it or not. My future had never felt so intangible. A million questions raced through my head. Who can I turn to for companionship? Where am I going to spend my time? What am I even going to do tomorrow/next week/next month? Am I completely crazy?
I tried so hard to shake the panic, but I just couldn’t. As we walked back to Brittany for my first floor meeting of the year, I kept up a facade, smiling as I shook new people’s hands and reassuring my parents that I was just fine. I walked into my room to find one of my roommates surrounded by a group of people that he had gotten to know at an NYU summer program the year before. My heart sank. He already had his friends. I felt as though I didn’t have anyone.
As my parents got ready to leave in front of the building, I came clean to them about my apprehension, and they did their very best to convince me that everything would turn out fine. According to them, most everyone was probably feeling the same way that I did. Everyone seemed just cheery to me, but I suppose that I probably appeared the same way to others as well. Watching them leave was significantly harder than I thought it would be. I am by no means a crier, but I held back tears. I made them promise to call every night.
I spent my entire floor meeting pondering existential dilemmas, using every fiber of my being to conceal my discomfort from my new floormates. This was not at all what I had imagined for my long awaited first day. Everyone in my life knew how elated I was to come to NYU, my absolute dream school. I was extroverted, outgoing, ambitious; it was the perfect fit! How could I possibly feel so incredibly out of place? What is wrong with me?
During a mixer that night in our recreation room, I plucked up the courage to walk up to a group of people and ask if I could join them for dinner along with one of my roommates. I was still feeling very anxious, but I knew I had to give myself a shot. They seamlessly agreed, and we headed to a dining hall and then to a mutual friend’s room in the Third North residence hall.
It turns out my parents were right. I wasn’t alone in my fears and concerns. Over a few card games and playful small talk, it became clear that each of us was in the same boat. As night turned to early morning, a sense of relief entered my consciousness as I sat with my newfound…friends?
All in all, that first day was an emotional rollercoaster to say the least. It wasn’t horrible and it wasn’t great, but it certainly kept me on my toes. Either way, I did all that I could to make sure that my initial experience didn’t discourage me.
This year has turned out to be the most important and wonderful one of my life so far. One of the people that I nervously asked to hang out with on that fateful first day remains to be one of my best friends to date. I have adored my nuanced range of classes and professors and successfully formed a group of friends that I can count on a daily basis. My extracurriculars have ranged far and wide, from an a capella choir, to a few creative writing clubs, to the incredible Ambassadors program. Essentially, all of the expectations that I had built up for my first year were indeed fulfilled during my jam-packed first year. I’m not sure why I expected them all to come to fruition on Day 1!
Your first day is just that: your first day. You don’t have to get everything right. You’re not going to be able to predict what happens, no matter how much you try. A bad first day does not translate to a bad college experience, and you are so much more than your first few hours in a new environment. People tend to place so much emphasis on the beginning of your new journey that sometimes it’s hard to remember that there’s also going to be a middle and an end. Keep your chin up! You have so much time!
Today, if I were to walk into that same room in Kimmel, I would see a mosaic of mostly familiar faces, walls and windows. My future remains to be completely tangible and it probably never will be—but I’d say I’m off to a pretty good start.