I’m going to be real with you, folks: college has been hard. I’ve had to face new challenges living away from home, adapting to college academic expectations, and most importantly, redefining my own happiness in a new environment. There were definitely times when I questioned whether I belonged at Pomona, and whether I would be able to call it my new home. Though I have come a long way, there’s still a lot about college life at Pomona I need to get used to. I would like to share a few things I have learned this semester, and I hope that no matter which stage you are at life, it will provide some comfort and reflection for you as well.
1. Comparing yourself to others
You face a lot of peer pressure in college. You’re surrounded by incredibly smart and accomplished people. Yes, this can exercise a lot of academic pressure on you, but for me, it was a lot harder to acclimated to constantly being around others. I always felt the pressure to socialize, even though as an introvert, I really value time alone. I would hear my spiblings (slang for sponsor group siblings) socializing with each other in the hallway, and chastise myself for not just “going out there” and doing the same.
However, as I’m sure you all know, comparing myself to my peers so harshly was a very harmful practice. Firstly, the only parts of other people’s lives I am going to see is when they are socializing – of course, it would be silly to deny that my peers never spend time alone in their rooms, enjoying self company and maybe even worrying about the same things as me. Though I may be painting a picture of myself as a hermit in my room, I was in fact reaching out to meet new people. I had joined new clubs and organizations like the 5C Field Hockey Team and the 5C Mental Health Alliance, and it wasn’t like I didn’t go out and socialize with my spiblings as well.
Secondly, I will never be satisfied with my life if my criteria for happiness is based on the lives of other people. It might seem like others are having more fun than you, are fitting in more smoothly, are making more friends than you. But everybody faces challenges when they start college, be it academic, social, cultural, etc. I’m not saying that you can’t compare yourself to others – we are all naturally inclined to do this. It’s just important to always put things in perspective and remember that you seek confidence within yourself and not base your happiness off of what others are seemingly experiencing.
I had difficulty grappling with the fact that I no longer had the deep friendships I once had been surrounded by in high school. I missed the comfort and joy my high school friends gave me; indeed, I still do. It was frustrating to not have that comfort bubble around me, and there were times when I felt quite lonely. But I realized that my personality, one which has much to give but is very guarded, requires time to form these connections.
College isn’t like high school in that you are always with the same people in your classes, at lunch, in after school activities – everybody has their own schedules and priorities. I have realized that it is very unrealistic to expect such close knit bonds within the first few weeks, let alone the first semester, of college. I have already made great friends, and I am confident that we will continue to become closer. If you, like me, worry about ever forming close friendships, please trust that everything will fall into place with time! The most you can do is just be yourself and find happiness in not just relationships, but also your intellectual interests, your family, your hobbies and yourself.
3. Missing home
I did not realize how much I would miss my home. This sounds silly in retrospect, but before I arrived in Pomona, it really didn’t hit me that maybe Hong Kong is a more exciting place to be than Claremont. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Village – but I miss my city, its culture, and the comfort it provided me. I think this is something most international students will relate to especially — America is so different from our homes, and it takes a long time to become comfortable with a new culture. When I first arrived, the novelty of Targets and Trader Joe’s soon wore off, and I was hit by waves of nostalgia. Although there is not necessarily a way to stop missing home, I am returning back to Hong Kong with a whole new appreciation for it. My first year has taught me a lesson of conscious gratitude, and though I am so excited to see my home again, I will definitely miss Pomona.