By Marissa Carty (CAS’22)
Above: A view from the Esplanade. Just steps away from campus, the Esplanade is a great place to go for a walk and take space away from academics.
College is a thrilling time of discovery, surprise, and growth. But the transition is hard. Whether you’re moving to BU from across the world or you’re a Boston native, adapting to the academic, social, and lifestyle differences of college takes time. Here are my tips for a smooth(er) transition through your first year of college at BU.
1. Be Kind to Yourself
I was beyond excited to make the most of my every minute of college. I knew I would make friends quickly, start working on an impressive research project, and keep up a healthy routine of daily workouts on top of my heavy academic schedule and part-time job. However, my naive optimism was perfectionism in disguise. When I didn’t keep up with my workout schedule, I berated myself. When I couldn’t find time to commit to research my first semester, I felt like a failure. When I had a lonely night in, I told myself I shouldn’t be wasting time feeling down.
Over time, I learned to be compassionate toward myself and let myself make a mistake or have a bad day. The truth is, you’re going to have bad days, and that’s okay. When you do, remind yourself that the feeling won’t last forever and that you’re resilient for going through such a difficult transition. Everything is temporary, and it is alright if things are not going how you expected them to. That just means good surprises are around the corner!
2. Keep a Journal
We underestimate just how much we forget. The day I moved in, I took about twenty minutes to write in my journal before I went to sleep. I am so grateful that I did that. The days of college, especially your first year, go by in a whirlwind. You may take a lot of pictures or think that you’ll always remember the significant moments, but nothing can make up for a firsthand account in your own words of what happened. My journals are my most treasured possessions. I can read exactly what I was thinking after my first day of classes, what my first impression of the person who is now my best friend was, and how my perspective on home changed. I can also read about the day the Red Sox won the World Series and we paraded down to the Common until 2:00am. I promise, you will not regret taking a few minutes once or twice a week to write down your thoughts about college.
3. Utilize the Resources Available to You
BU has so many resources to improve the well-being of its students. Ask your advisor to chat with you about stress management. Go to events held by The Wellbeing Project. Reach out to Behavioral Medicine. Take a workshop or request a tutor at the Educational Resource Center. And remember that not all self-care has to be focused on academics or medicine! For me, taking dance classes (or other exercise classes called PDPs that students can register for), joining the meditation club (BU Zen), and signing up for a Writing of Poetry (CAS EN304) course made my first year enormously easier. Sometimes you’ll need help from the professionals, and sometimes you just need to make time for what you love.
4. Take Breaks
College moves at a fast pace. Cities move at a fast pace. New Englanders move at a fast pace. “The grind” can be self-destructive if we never give ourselves a break. When you have a massive to-do list, it can feel like you’ll never have time to take a night off of homework or go explore the city of Boston. I’m here to tell you that that’s exactly what you should do. Taking a step away from your workload restores you and helps you focus better when you return to your desk. When you feel overwhelmed, go for a walk along the Esplanade or facetime a friend from home. Not only will you be more productive when you have to get back to work, you will feel better overall. Academics are important, but they are not the only thing that deserve your time. I learned that the hard way, so hopefully my experience can help you.
Your first year of college will be challenging, but it is a challenge that you are up to. BU has so much to offer. Boston is the best city to be a student in. And you’re going to have a lot of fun. But you’re also going to have some bad days. Enjoy the good ones and keep in mind that the bad ones may be the ones that you learn and grow from the most. Good luck!