It Surely didn’t Start as a Fairytale – My Year Away at College

It Surely didn’t Start as a Fairytale – My Year Away at College

Last spring, prior to earning my Associates Degree in Exercise Science at a local community college, I remember being extremely excited for the new chapter in my life that would begin in just a few short months.  Although I had never lived anywhere but my small town for 20 years, I was excited to live in the beautiful mountains of Pennsylvania on a college campus. 

I had heard two years worth of “college life” stories from my high school friends who raved about living away from home – the freedom, the opportunities, the fun.  But little did they know I had freedom at home because my parents trusted me.  I had opportunities that hardly anyone can say they ever had (after all, I witnessed three national championship wins with my team – two of which I was a member of.  Not many people can say their team was #1 in the nation, right?). (Please excuse my bragging.  I’m just super proud of my team!)  And we DEFINITELY knew how to have fun.

I had made amazing friends at my community college who still ARE my best friends even after two semesters apart.  The majority of us were also making the transition to “real” college.  We never wanted to leave each other and part ways – but community colleges were intended only to last two years.  So after a summer worth of memories and late nights, runs and get-togethers, beach trips and sunshine we had to say goodbye. 

At the time, only two of us were going far away for college.  Everyone else stayed closer to home.  Saying goodbye was hard.  We were starting a new chapter in our lives without each other.  We had known nothing else for two years.  But I knew deep in my heart that we would be able to pick up right where we left off when we all got back together.  After all, that’s what friends do best.

knoebels group shot
Family weekend with my future roommate, Jill.

So the morning of move-in day I was lucky enough to have both my parents, my brother, and two of my friends help me with the move-in process.  It was both a happy and sad day.  It was a happy day because I was starting at a new school – it seemed to be a fresh start.  It was a sad day because I had to say goodbye to my dogs, to my parents, to my brother, and to my friends.  I would be lying if I said tears weren’t shed that day. 

Being a transfer student straight up SUCKS.  Imagine yourself making friends for two years, leaving them all behind, and having to start ALLLL over again in which people have already made 1, 2, or 3 years worth of friendships.  I called home and talked to my friends or family nearly every night.  And sometimes we would talk for an hour or more.  This is what truly got me through those first few months.  (So thanks for that, everyone!)

PLP iceskating
Iceskating with one of my future roommates, Toni.

Thank goodness I was part of a scholarship program where I met amazing people and one of future roommates.  I knew that the program would introduce me to people with similar work ethics and morals so I was excited to get to know everyone and enjoy all the opportunities the program had to offer.

I was also on the cross country team but I didn’t like it at all.  It wasn’t a team.  Everyone was selfish.  The majority of the team came to long runs hungover from the party they had the night before.  I would wake up on meet days and not be mentally focused.  One morning I actually almost forgot I even had a meet.  I was never excited to run anymore. The only meets I enjoyed were the ones that my old teammates were also at.  The coaches only cared about the fast runners.  There was never any time to do anything but run, study, and run some more.  I can honestly say that those few months of cross country made my first semester miserable.  I hated everything about it.  It just wasn’t fun.

But then my cross country season was over.  I was finally FREE!  FINALLY.  FREE.  I was then able to expand my social circle.  The moment my semester did a complete 180 degree turn-around was when I decided to go on a trip to a indoor trampoline park with Catholic Campus Ministry (CCM).  Yup, you read that right – an indoor trampoline park became the location of the turning point of my semester.  The people were friendly, welcoming, and just like some of my friends at home.  I don’t think I realized how important that night was at the time.  But reflecting on it now, that weekend made the last month of the fall semester the best month of the entire semester and paved the way for an amazing spring semester.  (Shoutout to all my lovely CCM friends!!! – you guys are the best!)

I met my newest best friend (that’s you, Sarah!).  She was also a transfer student so she understood the struggle.  She kept me sane that last month.  We learned a lot about each other in a very short amount of time.  People think we look like sisters but we’ve pinpointed some obvious differences.  People think we’re roommates but due to our late-developed friendship we won’t even be living with each other next year (although we’ll have plenty of sleepovers!).  We both agree we wouldn’t know what we do without each other.  A simple CCM event made us best friends.

volleyball tournament with sarah
Twins? You decide.

So the fall semester ended and I was ready to spend some time at home and catch up with family and friends.  Winter break was amazing and although I now had true friends to return to school with, I was still sad to leave home for another few months.  And it was the dead of winter – my first cold, windy, snowy winter in Pennsylvania.  Thank goodness for soup and hot chocolate!

The spring semester seemed to be a thousand times busier than the fall.  The Big Event was held on a morning that saw sub-20 temperatures.  There were multiple ice skating trips and game nights.  Relay for Life was the only all-nighter I pulled for both semesters.  I re-visited a quaint running trail with my best running buddy.  Springfest/Block Party weekend wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be considering the thousands of extra people flocking into town.  And there are too many other fun times to even list without boring people!

Classes were going well.  I met plenty of people in my major.  We kept each other sane.  We complained about this test and that quiz.  But we survived.  We made it through the semester in one piece and that’s what matters most.  I wrote a total of 6 lab reports which were usually between 10-15 pages each.  I developed a year-long exercise program that was a required project for one of my classes (that’s another 50+ pages).  I did a total of 25.5 observation hours which helped me determine what I wanted to do with my life.  And I wrote a 23 page paper on the kinematics of downhill running.  Needless to say, the library became my second home.  But I learned A LOT this semester.  The semester ended with 2 A’s, an A-, B, and a B-.  Considering the amount of class stress that I dealt with this semester, I’ll take it!

I was grateful for the weekends I returned home because that meant I got to spend time with my family and friends.  It’s always much easier to COME home then LEAVE home that’s for sure.  But I was grateful for the fact that I got to return to school and be immediately surrounded by amazing friends. 

By the last few weeks of classes, the sun was out consistently which (finally) meant warm weather.  We no longer had to carry around our winter jackets or gloves.  Finally we could sit out on the Quad and soak in some Vitamin D.  Those are the days we waited months for.  Finals week ended as quickly as it started.  And just like that it was summer!

So although my first semester started rough, I can honestly say that I’m happy I chose the school I did.  It’s a beautiful campus, a beautiful town, and is surrounded by beautiful mountain landscapes.  With the exception of the team I was on, I have met so many genuine people that I look forward to spending more time with in the fall.  This story may not seem like a fairytale from everything that happened in the first few months, but it does seem to have a happily ever after – and that’s always the most important part of a fairytale anyways!