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self-reflection sunday: tips for first time college students

I'm going to start a new series on the blog entitled "Self-Reflection Sunday", where I can dole out some friendly advice about life, college, relationships, and fashion. Today's introductory post is about college! If you didn't already know, I will be a senior (time flies....!) in the Fall and I wanted to write some advice for incoming Freshman about the 'college lifestyle'. Here's a quick background on my lifestyle though-- I prefer a Netflix night-in over a house party most of the time (I am a Grandma). But I am not a total hermit all the time so I hope this information can help you out!

College is seriously an eye-opening experience. In my opinion, not one specific thing in particular can prepare you for it. Growing up I lived with my parents and Grandma. My Grandma was an amazing lady who out of the goodness of her heart wanted to be in control of the laundry, cooking, and other household duties in addition to raising my sister and I while my parents worked. Because of this I never really learned how to do laundry, cook anything, or clean properly. I was ill-prepared when I realized I had to take care of myself for the first time ever. This takes me to my first tip...

1. Learn how to load a washing machine similar to the ones on your campus! Usually you can call and ask what types of machines they have and can Google how they work beforehand. This will be very important when you need to wash your clothes after a few days. Or, if you don't like that option you can ask your RA (resident's assistant, who will be in charge of your floor/building) for help.

2. Try to learn how to cook some easy meals! I also did not have a meal plan for any of my years at school because I did not want to eat the same food every day and it was pricey, so I suggest learning how to make simple meals will help you out! I can (now!) cook chicken, pasta, mac & cheese, turkey sandwiches, sweet potatoes, sides of spinach, and soups. If you want me to make a list of my daily meals while at school I can definitely do that in the future! Learning to cook took time and I failed miserably sometimes (I burned so much bread) but I am so thankful for my roommates for teaching me how to cook! Try cooking with your friends and you will pick up some tricks and tips from them for sure. Or, attend a free cooking class if your school offers some!

3. Download the apps. Most universities have their own apps for your cell phones to help you get around. I use an app called TransLoc that shows where all the campus buses are located and what time each of them will arrive. Your school may also have a Blackboard app where it connects all your school info (classes, schedules, building locations) that can come in handy! Pay attention to where your classes are located and find them on the maps BEFORE classes begin so you are prepared!

4. Talk to someone on the first day! I know, it sounds so scary! I am thinking right now and about 4-5 of my wonderful college friends were made on that very first day of classes. Think about it this way: everyone is afraid. everyone wants to make new friends. basically everyone will be open to talking to you if you try! And if it turn into anything at least you made an honest effort!

5. Buy in bulk! If you or one of your friends has a Sam's Club or Costco card, try to schedule a good time to make a run over to one of these stores. You can buy in bulk and save a ton of money in the long run! Also, going with your friends is a good bonding experience. Any you may be able to share food/other items with them!

6. Get informed and educated! Reading up on previous college students experiences can often help ease the nervousness you may be feeling. One really helpful book that I liked was the Her Campus Guide to College. Right now it is only $12, too. It covers a lot of topics--relationships, healthy eating, fiances, classes, and how to deal with it all in safe way.

7. Talk to someone if you feel super stressed out! Something that affected my life early on in my college career was my anxiety. I had no clue what anxiety was all about until I went to the counseling center at my school. Luckily the services they provide are included in your tuition and I was able to talk to someone about my stresses, emotions, and life in general. I highly, highly recommend doing this if at any point things get tough and you want someone with a professional perspective to talk to. Your mental health is such an important part of your life and it can affect you in many ways so remember to take care of your mind, body, and soul.

8. Call your parents! It is not lame to call your Mom or Dad every day. Spoiler: when you look around and other kids are on the phone, they are most likely talking to their parents! Catching up with the people you love back home keeps you aware of why you are at school. You want to make your family proud and letting them know what's going on can tighten the bonds you share. They also may worry so it's important to fill them in on a regular basis. Make a calling time that works for both your schedules is key!

9. Try not to sleep-in too much! When I was a Freshman, I had a class twice a week that started at 2:00 pm. What did I do? Sleep until 1:30 of course! I wasted my entire morning sleeping-in instead of catching up on homework assignments, cooking meals, or hanging out with friends. I regret this so much because it threw off my routine and made me unmotivated to work hard because after my classes ended I would be hungry and working on assignments late into the early morning. I recommend sticking to a sleep schedule so your body can wake up easier. Also it is shown to make you eat healthier and life a better life if you go to sleep and wake up at the same times every day!

10. It's okay to not be okay 100% of the time. Did I lie to my friends and tell them "Life is sooo good! Everything is great! I just love it here!" for the first few months into school? Definitely. Guilty. Although I loved the freedom, nonexistent curfew, ability to eat whatever I wanted, and football games--I found myself desperately wanting to go home. I wanted to be back where everything felt right. Where I knew what back roads to take to avoid traffic. Where my Grandma would make my favorite meal as soon as I walked into the house. Those things were gone. I'm here to tell you that it is perfectly okay to not be okay. Change is so tough and I don't know how some people can handle moving hours/states/countries away from their families and be able to get their life together quickly! I truly wish I could have been that strong when I started college...but here I am now. A senior. Do I know what the future holds? Nope. But somehow I know that I have come along way (I mean I can cook somehow!? My Grandma is proud) and that although nothing is certain, I have the ability to make each day better than the last.

To all summer students (like my little grown-up Maddie!) good luck in school! Focus on your studies, but try to branch out of your comfort zone once in a while. It may be frightening at first but it could turn into the greatest of memories. Want more advice!? Let me know in the comments what you think I should cover next. Thanks for reading this looooooooong post, I hope it was worth it.

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