When I finished my freshman year at the University of Iowa in May, I had set this thought in my head that I was finished with change. I had completed a transition in my life. This summer, however, proved me very wrong. If anything, the change has just begun for me and I believe it’s a life lesson that everyone will learn: the only consistency you will experience in life is a lack of such.
I did not expect to feel so overwhelmed driving home from college…
Waking up in my bedroom, in a small town hours away from my home city, days of driving away from a brand new life I had just made for myself, is very overwhelming in a way that I did not expect. One thing that I’ve realized in the past year, between last summer and this, is that you must learn how to be on your own. It has been very difficult to be far in distance from people you love and places that have become your home. You also realize that you, yourself, have traveled a great distance from where you were before your freshman year of college, and you can’t really go back.
I felt a bit isolated, as if you don’t know what to do with yourself…
It’s easy to feel isolated, and totally consumed by the wish to change time so you can be in a desired moment. You just sort of have this feeling of not knowing what to do with yourself. I believe this feeling is common between all students who are going through their first summer away from college. It’s super weird. But I’m going back to Iowa City in less than two weeks now, so I feel that I can give a little advice on how to ‘do’ yourself and what you can do when the summers seem long.
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1. Make To-Do Lists.
Some people work, some people give themselves work. Don’t let university or any school setting warp your perception of productivity. It shouldn’t be stressful. If anything, this is your time for yourself and for your own goals. Embrace your creative side, do projects, earn money, take summer courses, read a dozen books that are dying to be picked from your shelf, watch thirty movies you’ve never seen before, go somewhere new, do something new. Basically, don’t create a reality in your brain where you believe there’s nothing for you to do. Don’t let yourself get bored. Explore; be distracted, productive, adventurous. Set goals! Do something fun, something you like that you’d want to tell people about once school begins again.
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2. Enjoy doing nothing in particular.
Embrace the lazy summer days (or weeks). Enjoy doing nothing of significance. Relax. Nine months of classes and assignments and crushes and bad food and good times can be exhausting. Have fun experiencing the simple pleasures. You know, like eating home-cooked meals and staying in your pajamas all day because you woke up at noon. You don’t always have to be on top of yourself. Use your summer has an actual break, if you can. Everyone needs a good vacation at some point- especially your brain. It’s a kind of self-care, which means it has to do with your health as a person. Chill out.
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3. Say “Hello again” to the familiar.
Chances are you are home for the summer. Be glad to be home! I know it’s a little odd to be with your parents again in your old bedroom with old stuff, but inhale all of that. Say hello again. You’ve probably missed certain things more than you thought while you were away, like family or routines you had. Visit places or people from your past. Reacquaint yourself with parts of your life that were before college- and are still part of you. It’s nostalgic to say, but you’d be surprised how much you’ve missed some things! While college has become a huge part of your life, it’s not your entire life.
4. Rest up.
Use this time to rest. It’s good for you. Not necessarily physical rest, like sleeping more or not being as active (which can also be a very good thing that you may need after months of stress), but just take time for you. Reflect on this past year of your life. What did you learn? What do you want sophomore year to be like? What’s new, different from how things were before college? Is this good, not so good? These are all your own answers, and I really believe these are important things to have as food for thought. Let your mind and body absorb things.
5. Stay in touch with friends from college.
Just because your college friends may be far away, doesn’t at all mean you can’t reach them. Use the wonderful gifts of technology! Remember how you used Skype and Facebook to keep up with family while you were cooped up in your dorm room? Do the same, but from your bedroom. Text, Snapchat, post photos; use the outlets of the world-wide web and social media to stay connected with the people you’ve become close to your freshman year. If you stay in touch daily or weekly, it really makes the whole distance and separation thing easier. Also, keep in mind that just because the days may feel like forever, doesn’t mean you’ll be away from what you miss for forever. Just like every other time in the year, this season will too change and pass. Temporary is the key word.
6. Travel as much as possible.
Traveling is an absolute must. I know money or a summer job may make this tricky, but travel doesn’t necessarily mean hop on a plane or in a car. Maybe check out a nearby town you’ve never really visited, go somewhere new. However, if you can afford the time and money to travel, always, always take up that opportunity. I think it’s something everyone should do. You learn things you could never learn in a lecture (or by reading an online article). Don’t forget to share that experience, too! Write about it, take pictures. It’s cool sometimes to show people what you’re up to, especially if you’re visiting a cool place.
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7. Be in your own space.
When I first came back from college, my bedroom felt weird to me. I hadn’t been in it for months, and it just didn’t really feel like me anymore because I’d been away. So, while unpacking during my first few days at home, I decided to make my room mine again. I went through all of my things, redecorated, rearranged, cleaned out spaces and items so I could make my own space for myself. I was almost reintroducing myself to the room. As with all spaces that you have, do what you can to make them feel like you and make them comfortable. My room has always been my haven, so I do my best to treat it as such.
8. Catch up with the rest of the world.
This summer has been anything but boring in terms of what’s going on in the world. Often times in college, you can easily get sucked up into this realm of school and friends; to where it becomes all you really focus on and know. Since you’re taking a break from this realm, catch up with the world. See what’s up with the news, what events and issues are being covered. This summer I really immersed myself with news on the presidential campaigns, general politics, and just where my country is at the moment. I even wrote actual letters to my representatives in the House and Senate about my own views with current issues. Doing my part for my voice to be heard was actually really fulfilling. It can all get heavy and headache-inducing, but don’t be afraid to be involved and get educated with what’s really going on around you.
9. Plan ahead.
Another thing I preoccupied myself with this summer is apartment planning. In August, I’ll be moving into my first apartment with two other girls who were in my dorm freshman year, too. It’s very exciting, but it takes a lot of planning! Paying rent, figuring out electricity services, internet services, furniture, all that jazz. Keep an eye on the upcoming school year, too. If you haven’t already, register for your classes. Start figuring out what your sophomore year schedule will be like. Any specific plans, goals you want to have? The summer gives you quite a bit of time to think about this stuff, so use it to your advantage.
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10. Embrace transition.
If you’re like me, your freshman year was a total change for you and for how you live your life. The summertime might make you really realize the full extent of that. It may scare you, but change is always scary in one way or another. Stay grounded in where you are now. Completely embrace being a new person. Look forward to what’s coming next, and enjoy where you are now. It can be funky, having what seem like pauses in your life as a college student. However, they aren’t really pauses, they’re just parts of the whole college experience. It’ll all go by faster than you anticipated in the end, anyway.
What are some other tips for students on how to survive a summer away from school during University of Iowa summer break? Comment below and share this article with friends!
Featured image source: odk.org
Becca is a 19-year-old Austinite who studies English at the University of Iowa.