College surprise

He dreaded the idea of leaving home for six years to live on campus at university, then he found out that home can be wherever you make it.

guy putting on socks in messy room
College will never be 'home' but a home is only what you make it.

It was when I dumped my large navy suitcase in the middle of B25 - my newly introduced college room - that I felt the emptiness. The room was so small and yet so empty. Only moments before I had taken my first steps in a new state and the university where I would be studying for the next six years and already home was a memory. I had no idea where to start - clothes, books, introducing myself to neighbours, or determining the facilities of the college...

Finding new mates

It was after I worked out where lunch was and introduced myself to thirty people (who I had already immediately forgotten the names of) that someone informed me that we had to create a skit for the 'F-factor', which stood for the 'Fresher Factor'. I had heard so many stories of 'initiation' activities. The ones I endured included not only the 'F-factor' but also a long night of learning war cries for the upcoming inter-college sports dressed in garbage bags; wearing lab coat, safety goggles and gloves to lectures; and dressing up in PJs to go to the local pub. However you've gotta remember that there is a choice to participating in such activities and that they are ultimately designed for fun bonding and shared experiences between new residents.

And funnily enough, some of those activities have helped me form strong friendships with amazing characters. People I thought seemed intimidating or indifferent proved me wrong once I made the effort to really get to know them. In fact, some of those people were the ones who pulled me through the rough patches as I was settling in. College is full of characters (many not from Australia) to learn from and accept. At first, it was challenging having to interact with strangers at breakfast, lunch, dinner and most of the day as well as learning to tolerate noisy habits. But being naturally reserved, those times forced me to be assertive and yet be friendly about my rights as a fellow resident.

Adjusting to campus life

The facilities and food too were far less exciting than was advertised. I enjoyed the battered fish, chips and mashed potatoes for a while till I realized they were staples of an unhealthy college diet. The desk chair was ergonomically impossible but it was eventually replaced. What made it worse was that I left my doona at home, opting for a sleeping bag to keep within the 20-kilo limit. So, every night I slept in my unfamiliar room, on an unfamiliar mattress, in a sleeping bag and dreamed of a better room miles away.

I found that facing the same lime-green four walls for extended periods of study were unbearable and had to find a temporary escape. The perfect outlet for these times of homesickness was table-tennis. I would ring up a fellow resident, go to the college sporting facility, lose myself in a game or two for half an hour and return refreshed. Other times I had to move to a different part of the college or just ring up a friend to talk.

Finding outlets

Finding mental and physical outlets that worked for me were crucial through those low points. Often too, the challenge is to balance academic pursuits, college involvement, a social life and individual interests. I have found that learning what you have wanted to learn and then doing whatever makes you happy is most sustainable.

College will never be 'home' but a home is only what you make it. Everywhere you go, you'll always take it with you.

Last reviewed: 20 August, 2015
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