Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

63° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Markus: On the ups and downs of freshman year

I was never more excited for anything then I was to start college. At the time, it seemed like my whole life was a series of days, weeks and years leading up to the moment I moved into my freshman year dorm. After all, college was supposed to be the best four years of my life, according to literally anyone I talked to about it.

When I moved in, though, I was met with what felt like insurmountable anxiety over everything. Wildcat Welcome and the weeks following it were exceedingly difficult for me, as the long days and nights made it seem like everyone had found their friend group, their people and their groove. I, on the other hand, felt like I was lagging behind.

The crazy part was that I had a friend group I loved, great classes that challenged me and a pretty robust social life. My days were filled with good things, and at times, I felt like I was really enjoying Northwestern. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing —  that this was not the best time in my life.

That was the problem. It wasn’t the best time of my life, not by a long shot. And it took me two years to come to terms with the fact that that was okay. I put so much pressure on myself to have a perfect college experience 24 hours a day, seven days a week, that I couldn’t even enjoy the amazing times I was having.

My number one piece of advice to incoming NU students is to simply enjoy the experiences you’re able to have. Though I know it’s incredibly difficult not to, don’t put pressure on yourself to exceed every other memory you have had in the past or will have in the future. At NU, you will have plenty of great times, but also plenty of hard ones. 

You also have to remember how damaging social media can be. When I spoke to friends and family from home, they always said, “You look like you’re having the best time!” To some degree, they were right. But I was also posting only the very best moments. I didn’t realize that everyone else was, too. When I saw everyone else’s social media presence, it was hard to remember that these apps are a highlight reel. It took me a while to understand (mostly from talking to them) that they were facing rough times, too.

Freshman year is supposed to be hard. Because I had done summer programs in the past, I didn’t understand why I was struggling so much being away from home. Later, I realized it’s because I was going through the most intense period of change in my life. All my friends had new friends, my sisters were moving through a school year without me, and I was living on my own. You’re bound to change through that experience. That’s okay.

When you get here and inevitably have hard moments, that’s okay too. Just remember that everyone else is going through the same thing as you. People here are kind and open to making friends. You will find your people. You will have good times. But when the bad times come, don’t be too hard on yourself like I was. If you do end up having the best four years of your life, that’s great. But if you don’t, you have your whole life ahead of you, and you’re in an amazing position to love the rest of your life simply because of your experiences at NU.

Nicole Markus is a Medill junior. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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