College is big enough to be scary and fun

Wow. I can’t believe I did it.I’ve made it through my first year of college. The rest of the high school graduating class of ’06 joins me as they take a long, slow breath of relief – releasing the air they inhaled on the first day of college classes. However, that air gets sucked back in quickly because something was forgotten.

There are still at least three more years.The freshman experience was hated and enjoyed – it was everything I dreamed and everything I dreaded. Yes, I took incredibly hard classes unnecessarily. Yes, I changed my major. Yes, I procrastinated to the point of absurdity. Yes, I made amazing friends, and yes, I met some people I could really live without. Amid the highs and lows, USF proved true, and I will be coming back in the fall.

I moved away from home to come to school here. The move was not as drastic as some, but it taught me the terrors of distance. It is assumed that all relationships can outlast barriers, but it simply isn’t true. When moving away, it’s guaranteed that relationships – even great relationships – will become bleak and burdensome over the course of a few extra miles. The term “out of sight, out of mind” never meant anything until this year.

When traveling around the country – with the circus, let’s say – it is different because there’s the notion of coming home. That notion doesn’t exist anymore; Tampa, slowly but surely, is becoming my new home. With the circus, I was at play; I was at my other home – a bipolar vacation home. USF is not another town I didn’t stay in for more than a week or another state that I didn’t stay in for more than a month. It’s not a beach house in Maui. It’s the apartment you move off campus for because campus housing is too expensive. It’s the dorm you inhabit because you know if you’re not within walking distance of that 8 a.m. class, you won’t go. Tampa is becoming home, and it’s a little intimidating.

College is scary, different and new. However, college should not be feared. A change of scenery, people, and attitude will do a person good. It’s a middle step into the real world, but it’s big enough. For the first time, freshmen are given true responsibility. It comes in many forms: grades, rent, jobs, money.

There is not a guidance counselor anymore to instruct what grades and classes are needed to get into college. There is not an obligation to go to class anymore. Mommy and Daddy are no longer here to say that the room needs to be cleaned, the bed to be made, to eat healthy and to stop running up the electric bill. College is the first taste of the real world and – for the freshmen that join me as sophomores in the fall – it is force-fed with a big, wooden spoon.

Don’t fret. College doesn’t guarantee that all your friends from high school will be lost, your morals abandoned and all of your inclinations of personal health and hygiene forgotten. It is simply a new experience and a life adjustment. Relationships from high school that are meant to last will last. Morals that are truly important will be kept (but a little experimentation here and there won’t hurt). A shower and an apple now and then won’t hurt either. Regardless, a new environment won’t change who you are, but it will broaden who you’ll become.

Embrace the college experience. We only have three more years until the real world.

Amy Mariani is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.