Here’s a question to the new college freshmen out there: What do you think you’ll feel when you’ve moved in to your dorm room, your parents leave, and it hits you that you are actually in college? Excitement? Freedom? Relief?

I’ll tell you what I felt when my parents dropped me off at UNL my freshman year…PANIC. Instant, overwhelming panic. How can my parents leave me here? I’m clearly not ready for this! I don’t know anybody! This place is too big! I’ll never make friends! I’m going to get lost!

I believe that most incoming freshmen feel some (if not all) of these feelings when they first come to college, especially if you are also transitioning from a smaller town to a bigger city like I did. Although I can’t make the fear go away completely, I can give some advice that will help you start loving your new college life.

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  1. Get out of your dorm room! If given the opportunity, I will stay home and binge-watch Orange is the New Black on Netflix all day. But if you want to start having fun at college, you can’t hide in your room the first few weeks. Get out there and explore! Participate in the start-of-the-year activities with people on your floor (with the added bonus that you will probably get free food at some of these events), invite your roommate to wander campus with you, get to know your RA, and check out your dining hall. It may feel uncomfortable to hang out with people you barely know at first, but most of them are feeling the exact way that you are. Remember, almost everyone feels like the ‘new kid,’ and almost everyone is looking for new friends. You’ll be surprised by how fast those friendships can form! For more tips on making new friends at college, click here.

  2. Start learning your environment. Learn your campus AND your city. Obviously this will be an ongoing process, but the first weekend is a great time to find all of your class buildings, your dining halls, the bookstore, a good restaurant or two, and the nearest Walmart. If you have a smart phone and/or access to the internet, there is no excuse for being unprepared. When I first came to Lincoln, I mainly stuck around campus, but my ‘comfort zone’ (places I was confident that I could find) kept growing and growing. Keep getting out there and exploring new places throughout your college career.

  3. Find out what your new town/campus can offer you. When I was a freshman I had so many experiences that I never would have imagined doing back home. I went to my first roller derby bout, I attended several concerts, I started going to karaoke, and I went to a couple of poetry nights. Don’t be afraid to have new experiences and to expand your horizons. Think about what interests you and find ways to expand those interests. You can do this by joining a club on campus, trying a part-time job that interests you, or just going to an event that sounds fun. Getting involved on campus and in your city will also increase your ‘comfort zone’ and hopefully bring you new friends along the way!

Although freshman year was one of the more challenging times of my life, I had an amazing experience and grew a lot as a person. Before you know it, college will feel like a second home to you and you will have changed in ways you never could have imagined. So get out of your dorm room, get out on campus, and let your freshman year begin!