College Compass: Entering survival mode

College Compass is a bi-weekly blog that aims to help students navigate the highs and lows of college life.

The start of October marks the first month of new beginnings for many. First-years are in the midst of a radical transformation as they shift into the next chapter of their lives. Study-abroad students are adjusting to different currencies and language barriers in foreign locations all over the world. Transfer students feel like it’s their first year all over again — except there’s not thousands of others to experience it with them. And of course, college graduates have been thrown into the “adult world” as they launch their new careers.

The first semester of my first year was nothing short of a rough — and at times painful — start to my college experience.

About a week before move-in day, my boyfriend of two years dumped me on a seven-hour car ride home. After spending the past week on vacation together, the breakup was unexpected and certainly caught me off guard.

Not only were there six hours left in the car ride, but I was the one driving. So, naturally, I got through the rest of the car ride by imagining myself partying with the friend group I met at orientation, my roommate – who I had decided was going to be my best friend – and a circle of hot college guys surrounding me.

Well, newsflash to my first-year self: the first few parties I went to were either empty or more than 100 degrees in a dirty basement. My roommate and I did not become best friends — and I made a mistake in adding her to my original friend group chat because she made another one without me in it. Oh, and the hot college guys — wherever they were — were not in a circle around me.

It’s safe to say things didn’t exactly turn out the way I had planned. By week two, I realized I had no friends, my living space had become uncomfortably silent and I was starting to miss my ex-boyfriend. So I was faced with two options: 1) Admit that I was miserable and continue to feel sorry for myself or 2) Enter survival mode and take control of my own life.

I chose option two.

For the next three months, I entered survival mode — and I mean that quite literally.

In every class, I tried to make at least one friend. This gave me something to look forward to and helped the class go by quicker — even if it was a challenging one. I added myself to the email list of every organization at the activities fair and filled every night of the week with a different club. I became secretary of my residence hall’s Hall Council, a conduct officer for the Student Conduct Board and a columnist at The Pitt News. I also booked my Friday nights at Hillel Shabbat, which helped me meet different people.

I didn’t allow myself the chance to be bored or sad. I gave myself a purpose and filled my time with an eclectic range of activities. When I wasn’t in a class or a meeting, I was visiting a professor’s office hours. When I was hungry, I would use my meal times as an opportunity to socialize and get food with a friend. At night, I would introduce myself to neighbors and ask around about people’s weekend plans.

I didn’t sustain this lifestyle or the friendships I created for the next few years, but I upheld it for that first semester when it was imperative for my survival. By taking charge of every situation, I allowed myself to have options down the line and ultimately allowed myself to pick and choose what I wanted to stick with and which people I should associate with for the rest of my college career.

The first few months of living in a new location, studying at a new school or working at a new job can feel overwhelming at the least — and that only scratches the surface of the whirlwind that can occur during periods of transition. In some instances, these experiences can give a rather bleak and disheartening glimpse into the future.

Unfortunately, the window of opportunity to establish a foundation in a new work or academic life closes quickly. If you don’t learn to fend for yourself in a relatively short amount of time, you’ll only elongate the temporary period of discomfort and create more work on yourself in the future to get out of it.

To get past this point, it’s crucial to get out of your comfort zone — and in the end, you’ll be glad that you did. If you notice you don’t have many friends or acquaintances, there’s no time to overthink each social interaction and get caught up on what seems weird. If you want to change your life, you can’t wait for someone else to do it for you.

It may be okay, and even healthy, to admit that your current life isn’t where you want it — but don’t use that as an excuse to sulk. Instead, channel your current dissatisfaction and transform it into motivation to keep trudging until you feel content about where you are.