The transition from high school to university is kind of wild. Everyone has a different experience— whether you continue to live at home and commute to school, or pack up and head to the other side of the country, or for many at AAU, even make a trans-continental move to Prague— you start anew.
Hopefully everyone, no matter their circumstance, can call the city they end up in their home. I will always think of Prague in that way. However, I didn’t attend AAU until I was already two years through college. My transitional experience began when I moved from Northern California to Southern California, which is a drive of about six hours. I’m very close with my family and always loved living at home, but I was bursting with excitement to start my independent lifestyle because they had prepared me so well.
Even though I was ready for college, there were definitely some facets of independence that took some getting used to before the glorious wings of freedom, and full responsibility, settled in. There are a few snags that most people have to get over at first, such as realizing just how much one week’s worth of groceries costs, or wondering how you’ll muster the energy to go make your own toast when you’re sick in bed. But, those bumps in the road become smaller and smaller as time goes on. Something that I had no trouble getting used to was managing my schedule—I love the feeling of completing everything I need to for school while still having daily or nightly plans to balance the academics with my social agenda. Taking day or weekend trips with friends, getting up early before classes to swim laps, and inserting myself into new situations, sometimes completely on a whim, are some of my favorite things to do. My freshman year, I bought myself an embossed planner to keep track of my days, and I wrote everything down; I tried to create deadlines for tasks that didn’t have explicit ones, and to stick to my goals. I liked crossing things off my to-do list, especially since I was both its master and subject.
There were also some changes that I did not foresee about leaving home. Or rather, I didn’t foresee the way that I would view them. For example, there’s a lot of freedom here. In fact, other than the literal law, which has always been a factor, nothing is off limits. Doesn’t that seem like a really fun perk? Where’s the downside, Olivia? Well, I didn’t see it either, until I realized that there is nowhere to sneak out of, no curfew to break, and no need for rambling off excuses when on the verge of being caught for something anymore, because who’s catching you? Your roommates? Highly unlikely; they instigate. Maybe I just overly enjoyed the element of scandal that motivated my friends and I in high school. My junior and senior year, I was never where I said I was, or doing what I was supposed to be doing, and it was so very irresponsible which made it equally as thrilling. I have told some of these choice stories to my parents in the years following my high school graduation, and we’ve had some great laughs; it’s not as if this piece is my confession to them from afar. I am fairly positive that they were already onto me for a few of those tales anyhow. Despite all of this, I’m definitely not saying that college doesn’t deliver benefits that heavily outweigh the mere adrenaline of high school shenanigans— they most certainly do. I’m just appalled that it’s something I actually miss, given that back then, I so longed for the days when I was fully in charge. The irony is unbearable.
I feel like I learned so much in high school, and a lot of what I learned I didn’t even fully understand until I got to college. Hindsight is so frustratingly enlightening.
Besides the thrills and revelations that entail moving to university, the biggest factor that smoothed my transition was the blind discoveries of what was out there that I didn’t yet know I loved. I’ve always been one to jump into new situations with an open mind; it’s been a bit of a pattern for me since my freshman year of high school. I like to take leaps, because I am highly impatient when it comes to my own peace of mind—this is applicable to every aspect of my life. I like to be busy, whether that denotes a set routine or a hectic week of plans that are all over the place; I don’t mind either way. I just really enjoy the feeling of productivity, and it comes with discovering answers and nurturing passions that run the gamut of my existence. I think my drive to keep uncovering things that I might end up loving, and by default, meeting new people that keep shaping my college memories, has been the most significant ease to my transition to college. I liked trying new things in high school too, but I was always surrounded by the friends I already had in those cases. It’s a different kind of leap at university, but what you gain is so much more than what you’d ever have to lose.