Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Transitioning to college is an opportunity for growth

Freshmen have been thrown from a comfortable environment into a world of change

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(Collegian File Photo)

(Collegian File Photo)

(Collegian File Photo)

By Maxwell Zeff, Collegian Columnist

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As we close in on our first full month of the school year, my fellow freshmen at the University of Massachusetts and I have found ourselves at a particularly interesting point in our lives. I was told many times before that college would be a time to truly find myself, a time when I might lose contact with old friends and a time to meet the people who I might keep close for the rest of my life.

I knew these were realities to most people, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized these would become my reality as well. I always figured I was different from the norm, closer with my friends than others were. I’m sure, many of my peers felt the same about their own situations. I can slowly but surely feel myself growing further from my hometown friends in New Jersey, and I am just now on the verge of making genuine connections with people up here at UMass. However, at the moment, I am left in a strange, awkward phase, where I can’t help but feel a little disconnected from the world around me.

Though this experience feels very personal, in actuality, I am surrounded by thousands of others encountering similar struggles. There is a shared sense of loneliness among the class of 2022 at the moment. I can see it in the nervous kids putting on brave faces to dance at intimidating fraternity parties, and in the subtle “what’s up” in dorm hallways that my peers try to deliver with just the right amount of poise and affability.

An entire class, lost in a sea of each other. It’s a quite understandable phenomenon, one that occurs on a yearly basis at colleges across the United States. We have all been thrown from a comfortable environment we’ve been accustomed to our entire lives into a world of change. More personal responsibility and independence are required from us than ever. Many of us have a greater academic workload than ever before, and without a solid group of friends to lean on, the stress can really build up.

Feeling lost and worried at this point is completely normal. In fact, it is a necessary rite of passage in the grand scheme of life. Though this feeling is unpleasant, and a return to normalcy probably sounds great to a lot of us, this time is truly a thing of beauty. All the changes and confusion occurring at the moment probably haven’t been this extreme since we were all just coming into high school, and even then, not to this level. A developmental psychologist would kill to have a window into our minds right now.

Though it doesn’t feel like a particularly strong base, the disoriented feeling we all share will ultimately serve as the soil from which we will emerge, blossoming on the other side as smarter, more holistic and truer versions of ourselves. The routines and normality of high school, though comforting, were not a place where most of us could truly grow as people. Although we tend to think that stress is a negative feeling that should be avoided, experts say a healthy amount of stress is actually good for us. In a 2013 article from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers found that the human stress response itself can “put the brain and body in a optimal position to perform.”

So instead of shying away from the sometimes-overwhelming college world, I encourage my peers to challenge themselves. It is very easy to fall in with what “everyone else” around seems to be doing, but now is your time to thrive. Maybe you’ve always wanted to show off how funny you are. Maybe you’ve always excelled in your required high school art classes. Maybe you want to get back in touch with the outdoors. Now is your time to take life by the horns and pursue these dreams. Explore the exterior of your comfort zone and widen your horizons.

I understand this change is a lot for many of us, but a little venturing out can make a world of difference. Obviously, I’m no expert on this, but in high school I discovered a simple love for being immersed in the wilderness and through the Outing Club here at UMass, I finally have an outlet. Do not let the daily stresses hold you down, but rather lift you up. Be the person your younger self always wanted you to be in college. Good luck everyone; I know you can do it.

Maxwell Zeff is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

2 Comments

2 Responses to “Transitioning to college is an opportunity for growth”

  1. Jo Senecal on September 29th, 2018 10:17 am

    What a beautifully written insight which is sure to help others as they experience a loneliness they might not have expected. It’s not highlighted in the shiny brochures that the Universities churn out. Thank you, Max, for your eloquent and friendly reach out to people beyond your own circle!
    Even extra fun for me to see an old photo of you and my own little one, in the comforts of pre-school in NJ, 16 years ago, knowing that you are all growing up so…in touch with reality, and not running away from the uncomfortable parts of it. Keep sharing your words and heart! Jo S

  2. Toni T Risboskin on September 30th, 2018 1:02 pm

    Well said Maxwell! Many parents may find understanding & comfort in your words as well.

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