Robert Hsu | Loving and hating the college experience
The Casual Observer | The college transition is a promising and rough process
November 3, 2011, 10:57 pm · Updated November 4, 2011, 2:13 am·
The Casual Observer
Because Penn was my dream school, I thought things would be perfect when I came here. I thought my love for Penn would be enough to make the transition to college so smooth that I would see rainbows and butterflies around me. I was wrong.
I still remember arriving at Penn excited to begin a new chapter in my life, yet feeling aimlessly lost and uncertain at times. I felt like Cady Heron from Mean Girls walking into an actual school lunchroom for the first time without knowing where to sit; but, in my case, I was walking into an entirely new life for the first time not knowing who my friends would be, how to study for my classes, how to balance my life and — like Cady — where to sit in the dining halls.
It’s been more than two months since I started this new era of my life. I can confidently say that I am happy, but at the same time, I am not. There are days when I make the “walk of shame” from Huntsman Hall as the workers at Au Bon Pain are beginning to prepare for the breakfast rush, and instead of hearing “Good night!” from the security guards in the Quad, I hear “Good morning!” — which only reminds me how much I still struggle with time management and work efficiency.
The possibility of hating my new life never crossed my mind once before I came to Penn. I had waited too long and put in too much work to believe that I could be unsatisfied. I still remember my mom repeatedly asking me during New Student Orientation if I was enjoying school, and I would repeatedly tell her that everything was great without actually taking time to understand the significance of her simple question.
Two months later, I have realized that there have been moments during which I hated school. Too much work, no time to meet people, no time to hang out with friends, unintentionally giving bad first impressions, one messed-up quiz. You name the problem, and I probably had it. Well before school started, I had eagerly drawn the lines to the coloring book of my freshman year. But now, none of the events that colored my life stayed within the lines or made sense.
It’s okay to hate school sometimes. No one’s life is ever filled in perfectly.
However, it’s not okay to hate school if you allow it to consume you.
Sometimes, as I passed hundreds of students on Locust Walk with beaming smiles and saw students lying on the grass relaxing on a carefree weekend, I wondered if I were alone with my discontent.
I soon realized that I was not alone. The porcelain facades you see every day sometimes hide inner frustration and sadness that remain trapped.
Wharton freshman Eddie Cohen made an interesting comparison. “The transition is like getting a new dog,” he said. “There’s the excited, novel feeling at first, but then everything in your room starts to smell terrible. You don’t sleep, you have to go through potty training again and you have to take care of your dorm room. But after some time, you start to love it and it’s worth the discomfort.”
You should reach out to the people around you. Not only will that make you feel better, but they will also appreciate the gesture. There is a great chance that they have been waiting for someone like you to reach out to them. Our struggles are more shared than we tend to believe.
Although these initial struggles have been frustrating, I have learned more about myself and my life than I ever have in such a short period of time. Simplicity breeds complacency, but complexity brings growth. Every day, every person and every situation is a learning opportunity, even if it may seem unpleasant in the moment. With this attitude in mind, every day will get better, I promise.
I loved Penn with all my heart even before I set foot on campus this year. But as with anything that involves love, the journey is never smooth and, most importantly, it takes effort.
Robert Hsu is a College and Wharton freshman from Novi, Mich. His email address is email@example.com. The Casual Observer appears every other Friday.