Shockey: Dear incoming freshmen, everything is going to be okay

A collage of Shockey's friends she has made so far at her time at college. - Photo via Sarah Shockey

As an incoming freshman in Rowan’s Martinson Honors College, I met with a group of fellow first-year honors students once a week during the first semester as a part of their mentorship program aimed at acclimating all of us to college life. 

One of the first activities we did was writing letters to our future selves. Usually, I am not one to take this sort of thing seriously, and would never admit to writing something sappy that I was feeling. But this time, I decided to be genuine.

This was one of the final lines of my letter to future me:

“I wish you nothing but the best, and just know the loneliness you feel right now will go away.”

My senior year of high school was perfect. I was finally out of my shell, had the tight-knit friend group I always wanted, and was celebrating my last year as a kid while living life to the fullest. But when summer was over and high school turned into a cherished memory, my whole world changed. 

I moved to New Jersey from Pennsylvania when I was 13. It had taken five years for me to finally feel like I was comfortable enough to be my authentic self at school. As soon as I felt like my life was perfect, everything changed. And for someone who is severely introverted, the thought of having to start all over again was the scariest thing imaginable.

My first semester of college was hard. I buried myself in my studies as a distraction from the chronic loneliness I felt. It seemed like everyone around me was finding their people and hanging out in large groups, while I did everything alone. I became even more alienated from the community that I would be in for the next four years— depriving myself of the necessary connections with my fellow classmates. I hardly talked in class, and while every other freshman was making friends, it seemed like I wasn’t.

My mental health started to decline and it began to feel like I would never find my place at Rowan. In high school I had everything. The friend group, my younger sister Grace, and my favorite teachers. Here, I had nothing. 

I didn’t like any of my classes either and never felt confident enough to talk to my peers or participate. But the one class where everything was different was News Media Literacy and it instantly became my favorite. The environment in Room 305 of 301 High Street was always lively, everyone participated, and the conversations were interesting. That class gave me a glimmer of hope when it seemed like my world was so gloomy and I owe that all to the Professor Nick DiUlio.

DiUlio was also the person who encouraged me to join The Whit and I couldn’t thank him enough for doing so.

I can still remember being so scared to raise my hand during pitches, but as the semester continued, my confidence began to grow. At one random meeting, I recall becoming curious if the Whit editors used Adobe InDesign to format their pages. I was the editor-in-chief of my high school’s newspaper and that was the platform we used, so I figured I would ask The Whit’s editor-in-chief, Victoria, if they did the same. After that question was thrown out, the rest was history.

Fast forward to today, I have found a new group of friends who show me kindness, respect, and uplift me every single day. That question I asked Victoria led to me becoming The Whit’s new productions editor for the second semester. I also was recently elected to become a co-news editor with my friend Abigail and I couldn’t be more excited to continue with The Whit for years to come.

I was able to meet all my incredible new friends through The Whit and I firmly believe my decision to join that club saved my life. I went from sitting by myself to joining all of them at High Grounds and Chickie’s and Pete’s. I don’t know what my second semester of college would have looked like if I didn’t join The Whit, but I know it wouldn’t be filled with nearly as many laughs, hot girl walks, half-priced apps, trivia Tuesdays, and lifelong memories.

The me who wrote the reflective letter at the beginning of the first semester would be proud of my growth because the loneliness I felt did in fact go away, I just needed more time. 

If incoming freshmen can take away anything from my experiences, it’s that things will always get better. While loneliness in your first year of college is normal and at times can be so draining, it’s important to stay motivated and curious because you never know where it may lead you.

Join that club, talk to new people, and make the most of your first year of college before it ends. While it may not be easy, you can’t truly grow unless you push yourself out of your comfort zone. And trust me, college becomes much more fulfilling when you get to experience it with friends.

I’m happy to say I have found my people, a supportive group of not just college peers, but true friends. I am finally living the college experience I so desperately wanted but felt I would never have, with newfound bonds I couldn’t imagine ever living without.

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