Freshman Files is a summer-long series in which I’ll discuss the things I wish I’d known exactly a year ago when I was an incoming freshman. Whether you’re starting college at the end of the summer or are looking for some tips on how to organize or want to know how to pick out good shoes for a party, this series is for you.
Happy Friday! Our first Freshman File is one that is particularly pertinent to my life at the moment: did I choose the right college? Also, at the end of this post, I’m announcing the major development of Annie Likes Words that I’ve not-so-subtly been hinting at all week on my Instagram. Keep reading to find out what I’ve been up to!
A few weeks before the end of my second semester at Elon University, and the end of my freshman year, I had what some may call an existential crisis. All of the sudden, I realized that I didn’t love my university as much as I thought I did, and it started with me writing an essay about my dead dog.
I’ve since learned that nothing but heartache and profuse sobbing can come from writing about dead dogs, but this emotional turmoil was just what I needed to expose the feelings that I’d been harboring about my choice of college: I wasn’t totally happy at Elon. I toured, and fell in love with, another university my freshman year of high school, but chose Elon over this school because being an Honors Fellow at Elon drastically reduced my tuition. This was Elon’s main bargaining chip, but I did love the beautiful campus and well-established Creative Writing program. I still love these things but felt that something major was missing from my Elon experience.
When searching for colleges, I knew that I wanted a pretty campus and an old university. This may seem shallow and vapid, but I didn’t want to spend four years in a place where I cringed every time I walked past a building. I know myself well enough to admit that I like aesthetically pleasing spaces, so that is what I was looking for. In conjunction with a pretty campus, I wanted a sense of tradition and history. Weird pre-exam rituals and traditions like drinking from the Old Well on the first day or stealing a brick from the pathways (not that I condone brick-stealing) was what I wanted, and I thought I would get that at Elon.
But here’s the thing about Elon: we are a perpetually growing campus in both reputation and geographic expansion. The train tracks that used to be the southernmost edge of campus are soon going to mark the very middle of campus. My dorm, which has the reputation of being a serious hike from the rest of the buildings, will soon be not so far away. Elon is growing and modernizing; two-thirds of the buildings have either been built or renovated in the last four years.
For someone who was looking for a sense of grounded tradition, this was upsetting. I didn’t want my school to be up-and-coming, modernizing its identity to appeal to the generations of the future. I wanted a place that stood firmly its identity, saying this is who we are rather than adapting to please as many people as possible. We have silly traditions, but they are limited to stealing bricks, jumping in one of Elon’s several fountains, and receiving an oak sapling at graduation. This wasn’t enough for me.
And thus I was sent down a path I hate to tread: did I make the right choice? What if I had chosen the other university, the one I had loved first? Would I be living a different kind of life? Would I be taking different classes and learning different, more important, more relevant things? All these questions rattled in my brain as the gravity of my situation settled on my shoulders.
With a start, I realized that I could transfer. I’d gotten into the other university before; who’s to say I wouldn’t get in again? And the financial break we’d gotten just from one year at Elon could be enough to make transferring possible. What if what if what if?
As with all my major breakdowns, I called my mom and explained my feelings through a torrent of tears. She’s an alumna of the other university that I loved and reminded me that the other school wasn’t perfect. There were social cliques and stigmas and a dominant party culture (even more than Elon) and an English program that wasn’t what I was looking for. I might have been happy there, but she wasn’t entirely happy there either. My mom always knows exactly what to say.
So I wasn’t entirely happy with Elon. The traditions are not as prominent as they were made out to be, and I think the performing arts center isn’t that pretty, and the lake is pretty gross. So what? There is so much here that is entirely right for me and my aspirations. These pros dramatically outweigh the cons, but that doesn’t mean I have to ignore the cons. Acknowledging that cons exist doesn’t mean they become more prominent than the pros.
Here’s the thing: you made a choice about where you’re taking your life. Whether you decided to attend a university or not, you decide what comes next. That choice may look a little different than you imagined when you were a kid or even a freshman, but the important thing is that you decided to do something. Wherever you’re headed in August and beyond, the choice you made is the right choice for right now. You’re going to gain something from your experience, even if that lesson is that your university isn’t right for you.
Pros and cons, the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly are all going to emerge from your choices. Feeling the sting of the bad is just as important as feeling joy from the good. Learn what you can from the next chapter in your life, and decide what comes next: another university, a different university, no university at all. Live with the knowledge that you’ll gain from those experiences as well and you’ll be a better person from it.
And now I have an incredibly exciting announcement about Annie Likes Words…
I’m starting a YouTube channel entitled Annie Likes Vlogs, where I’ll be posting videos about my life over the summer and into the next school year, sharing everything from my summer plans to what I’m reading and all the loveliness in between.
This change has been several months in the making. Since about February, I’ve thought about several different YouTube-related things: would I be good at talking to a camera, am I good enough at editing videos to pass muster, do I know how to work a decent camera, is my phone a decent enough camera until I can buy a nicer one? Unlimited variables have presented themselves, and I’ve decided to just go for it in spite of the variables.
I’m hoping to share a little more of the personal side of my life on this channel: my daily routine, what I’m doing this summer and beyond, what each day looks like for me. If you would like to see any particular content on the channel, please drop me a comment.
Thank you for embarking on this journey with me and watching, reading, experiencing all the content I put out. It means more than you’ll ever know.
My first vlog drops soon, so head to Annie Likes Vlogs and subscribe to never miss a new vlog!
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