Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I go to a big, big school.

Here are the last questions for the College Q&A.  If you ever have a specific question, you're always welcome to ask me in the comments or send me an email at jacksfavoriteowner@yahoo.com and I'll respond within a day or two.  You don't have to wait for a Q&A day to ask me something.  However, I wish there would have been a college Q&A when I was in high school, which is why I typed this up. 
Thanks for all of your questions. :) I hope this helps you out.  If you're in college now as well or have already graduated college, feel free to add your own input or experiences.

1.) Is college easier or harder than you expected? In what ways?
College is a lot harder than I expected.  I tried to walk into it ahead of time knowing that I would be homesick and lonely at first and that the schoolwork would be different... but nothing can really prepare you for something so unknown until you're actually in the moment.  So college is harder than I expected.

I've struggled emotionally more than I ever thought I would.  To be honest, I'm not a very emotional person.  I don't get homesick very easily.  For example, I went to Europe for nearly a month when I was twelve and I never really got homesick while I was over there.  I've been gone for only three weeks and I'm extremely homesick.  I miss my family and pets and friends and house and bedroom like crazy.  And I'm lonelier than I thought I would be as well.  I tried to tell myself that it's impossible to make close friends right away, but that hasn't made it any easier when I feel like there is no one around to talk to.

Schoolwork is also a bit harder than I expected.  While I knew it would be hard, I didn't realize it would be this overwhelming.  School tends to be my thing.  I'm not athletic, but I do like to learn.  I've always done well in school and I've never had to study until now, which has probably been to my harm.  This is the first time I've really had to study... ever.  And I'm having to read, read, read more than I ever thought I would.

2.) What is your favorite part of college?
My favorite part of college would have to be the independence.  It's nice to be able to make my own decisions about issues my parents controlled before  For example, I bought a fish when my mom wouldn't let me have one at home.  I am deciding my own reading material, my own church, and when and where I will go out.  For the first time, my parents are standing back completely and letting me control my own life.  While they have given me quite a bit of independence throughout my high school years, it's neat to be able to sit back and think, "I can decide what to do with my life today" and know that it's true.

About my particular college, my favorite part would be the people.  I have never seen so many nice people in one town before.  I rarely walk into a building without someone opening the door for me.  I have had my chair pulled out for me in the cafeteria.  I've seen guys give up their seats on the bus so a lady could sit down instead.  Guys have given up their place in the lunch line so I could go first.  There are so many gentlemen who attend Texas A&M. 

But it's not only the guys who are nice.  Girls are too.  Just the other day, I was having trouble loading my groceries into my car without the cart rolling away, so a girl around my age came up and held it for me.  People are so friendly in Aggieland.  You won't go anywhere without hearing, "Howdy" or "Can I help you with anything?"  I've come to realize that Aggies will do anything for each other.  That's such a wonderful bond to see.  It warms my heart every time I go out.

3.) What is your least favorite part of college?
My least favorite part of college would be the loneliness.  I hate this part more than anything.  I'm ten hours away from most of my family.  I'm several hours away from most of my friends.  It's so lonely here.  I don't know hardly anyone yet, especially not enough to feel truly relaxed and at home around them.  I miss spending time with Rebekah and Zeek.  I miss Jack.  I miss my family.  I miss sitting in my room.

It's so hard to go to bed at night without hugging my family goodnight.  I simply go back to my dorm room, watch an episode of "Lost" or read a couple of chapters of a book, and then go to bed, alone.  I often eat in the cafeteria alone.  This weekend, I'll probably be going to church alone.  The loneliness that comes with starting college in a new place seems unbearable sometimes.  I'm hoping this will go away as I make closer friends.  I'm so tired of feeling lonely. 

4.) How did you choose the college you're going to out of so many to choose from?
I was horribly torn for the longest time about where I was going to go.  I was stuck between a tiny private university with only a few thousand students or a giant school like Texas A&M with fifty thousand students.  I was so afraid that I would pick the wrong school and not go where God wanted me to go.  For the longest time, I planned to go to Hardin-Simmons.  Interestingly enough, even though I felt fairly confident that that was where I was going to go, there was still a little part of me that was hesitant.  Something didn't feel quite right.  When people asked, I didn't feel very proud of the fact that I was going to HSU, even though it's a great school.  I felt almost a little embarrassed, like it wasn't the right one for me.  When I visited for the second time during spring of my senior year, I didn't feel at home at all. 

It was really all Texas A&M's fault, you know.  I never, never, never wanted to go there and when my dad finally asked me to visit once, I agreed just to satisfy him.  The second I stepped onto campus, a smile lit up my face.  It was the week of the big game between Texas A&M and Tech, so the whole town was full and bustling.  I got to attend a Midnight Yell.  I saw the Corps walking around with their loud spurs.  I heard everyone greet me with a friendly, "Howdy."  I fell in love.  After visiting Texas A&M in October, it took me several months to make an absolute decision, but in my heart, I knew it was where I wanted to go.

When picking a college, be sure to visit.  Take pictures, see how friendly everyone is, and try to envision yourself living there and walking around on campus.  If you can't imagine yourself living there happily, then it isn't the school for you.  If you're stuck between two or three schools like I was, make a list of pros and cons.  They'll help you out a lot. 

My cons for Texas A&M was that it was so huge and I am not used to going to a large school.  Also, Texas A&M was ten hours away from my hometown, which was much further than what I wanted.  Plus, I'd always expected I would attend a private Christian university.  After all, I was either home schooled or I attended a Christian school my entire life.  How would I fit in to a secular state school like Texas A&M? 

However, the pros outweighed the cons.  I loved the people in Aggieland.  They're all so nice and friendly and helpful.  There are a lot of Christian organizations like Impact and Campus Crusade for Christ and Breakaway and Baptist Student Ministries (and so many more) where I could plug in.  I felt proud to be an Aggie, like that's what I was supposed to be.  I saw a huge mission field in Aggieland.  Christians are a minority, even though it was a conservative school.  There were so many broken and hurting students, just like I once was.  I knew I could reach out to them and try to make a difference in their lives.  There are a lot of traveling abroad opportunities at Texas A&M.  There will be many interning opportunities as well.  And finally, I just felt like the Lord was tugging at my heart.  For some reason, He wants me at Texas A&M.  Even though I'm lonely and it's hard to be so far away from my family, I feel like I should be here.  I don't even want to be here a lot of the time--I want to be home.  But I can feel the Lord whispering to me.  This is where I need to be right now, even when it's hard. 

If you're going to college in a year or two, one of the biggest pieces of advice I have for you is to keep your mind open.  Don't just visit one kind of school, like only a private university or only a state school.  Visit a large variety and keep your heart wide open to what God might have in store for you.  I never wanted to attend a giant state school, but look where I am... and I love Texas A&M.  The Lord might want you to attend a school you never even considered until now.

5.) Is it weird going from a small school to a HUGE one?
It's been very weird.  It's the strangest feeling to have different people in every single classroom.  One weird thing is how big the campus is.  It's like a small town.  To take some classes, people have to ride bikes or take shuttles because it's too far to walk!  It's a fifteen minute walk from one of my classes to the other.  At my high school, everyone knew each other and it was only a few feet away from one class to the next.  Here, nobody knows anyone, you have to work hard to get connected, and it's probably best to bring a map everywhere you go at first. 

6a.) How is going to a secular school different from coming from a Christian high school?
At my Christian high school, there were definitely pretenders who weren't actually Christians and who probably didn't even believe in God.  There were kids who smoked and drank and slept around and even did drugs.  However, the vast majority of everyone around me was a Christian.  And the "bad" kids seemed more segregated in a little group.  I wasn't around them that much.

Here, I'm the minority.  Nearly everyone I meet cusses and drinks and sleeps around.  It's considered normal.  I'm the one who is considered weird and segregated a little from the rest.  To be honest, I think the cussing has been the worst part.  I can avoid places where people drink and party, but everyone seems to cuss, even the teachers.  And when I mention that I'm a Christian, I often get strange looks like, "...Why?"  Either that, or I get rolled eyes and grimaces.  Oh great, someone here to judge me.  I hope I can change that mindset.

I'm used to having Christian values taught in the classroom and here, they're not.  Before I dropped Psychology, the professor frequently talked about evolution and even wanted us to write a paper about it.  Most of my professors curse or talk about religion (and my political views) in derogatory ways.  I'm used to having teachers who will pray over me and minister to me.  That's been a bit of a change.

6b.) How do you like it?
In some ways, I don't like it.  It's a big change and it can be hard when I feel like one of the only Christians here.  However, I'm starting to not mind being the minority so much anymore.  What a huge mission opportunity this is!  So many people around me are lonely and hurting.  It's become a game of sorts to casually mention my faith in every conversation I have, whether or not it's talking about church or trying to find the right Bible study for me or a Christian song I listen to... I've been trying to invite some people to visit churches with me as well.  I think it's so important for Christians to keep attending state schools and not only private Christian schools.  So many people have a negative view of Christians.  We can change that.

6c.) How are you adjusting to the difference?
I'm trying to adjust myself more to the cussing.  It's not that I want to become deaf to it, but at this point, I feel myself physically cringe every time somebody swears around me.  When I was in high school, I retaught myself to hate the sound of swearing, but now I may hate it enough to let it physically affect me the more I hear it.  I need to let it go a little bit and be able to bear it more than I do now without participating in it myself, if that makes any sense.

The best way to adjust that I've found so far is to try to get involved in Christian activities.  I may be a minority in my faith here, but there are still thousands of Christians.  It isn't such a lonely feeling when I surround myself some of the time with those who believe like I do.  I'm trying hard to make some Christian friends so we can encourage each other.

7.) Overall, how do you feel about college so far?
At this moment, I'll be honest and say that I'm struggling a little.  I don't like feeling lonely and I don't like being away from my family, since we're very close.  I feel so far away from everyone I love and the schoolwork has been a little overwhelming.  I'm not making close friends as quickly as I hoped I would.  However, I keep reminding myself that even though I feel homesick, it's going to be okay.  God is in control and He's taking care of me through all of these hard feelings.  It's been hard, but I'm okay.  I'm surviving.  And I hope that after these first few weeks, I'll grow to love being on my own.

2 comments:

  1. I know just how you feel. I attend a very urban and large public university and it is hard sometimes to be a Christian. But keep your head up. I've been surrounded by non-Christians my whole life (even my family). God places us in people's lives for a reason.
    And I know that freshman year is a very hard transition, but don't give in. And always remember that every freshman you meet is going through a lot of the same stuff you are. So join together. You'll survive and try not to look at being surrounded by non-Christians as a bad thing. It's a wonderful thing. To be able to spread God's word and see other people's view points is by far the best thing in the world.
    I'll be praying for you and all the other freshmen.

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  2. Thank you posting this. I go to a public high school, and it can be a bit lonely too, when I see many of my friends going out to party, and cussing. It may sound silly, but they just sound so cool and mature.
    You remind me to shine for the Lord.
    I hope to see you at A&M next year!

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