I could not have been more excited to come to Vanderbilt. My brother, cousins, and older friends loved their experiences, and this was MY TIME. Everyone seemed certain I was going to love everything about school, so it never occurred to me that this might not be the case. Unfortunately, my first semester at Vanderbilt did not go according to plan.
The reality of “Vandyland” did not meet my expectations. At first, I couldn’t put it into words, but the excitement I thought I should be feeling was replaced with a feeling of emptiness. I kept telling myself that more new friends, a particular meeting or sports practice, or another football game would make the emptiness disappear. Instead, when these events didn’t bring this turnaround, I became more and more discouraged. Even worse, everyone else seemed to be having the time of their lives. Not wanting my parents to worry, I tried not to mention it. But by Family Weekend, I said to my mom for the first time: “I hate this school.” Although it was difficult to explain why, there were a few things I was able to verbalize.
I did not know how to deal with the shallowness that I felt dominated student culture. Whereas I had been passionate about my role as an athlete in high school, here I couldn’t find anything I truly cared about. Worst of all, I wasn’t myself. Not that I was being fake to make other people happy, but rather I felt as if a part of me was missing. Usually a happy, outgoing, and relatively funny person, I was so miserable that I actually noticed the few instances I smiled. The fear of losing myself drove me to apply to transfer for second semester, which was one of the best decisions I ever made. The moment I sent the application a weight lifted off my chest. With a way out, I saw my situation with fresh eyes.
Towards the end of the semester, things began to turn around. I talked to upperclass students who had gone through similar experiences, developed relationships with a couple of professors and with two people who are now my best friends, and I committed to two student organizations. Suddenly I didn’t feel so alone. I wasn’t the only one who had struggled on this campus. With more interest in my work, more laughter in my life, and an outlet for my energy, I told my family over winter break that I would stay at Vanderbilt, if a few more things fell into place second semester.
Everything has fallen into place. Reaching out to other students and faculty and furthering my engagement with campus has connected me with so many fantastic people. My advice: no matter how many times you feel like things are not going your way, put yourself out there and keep trying.