Dealing With Feelings l
A popular A student in her small
high school, Katie started college expecting
to ace her courses and be best friends with her two roommates. But things didn't
turn out that way. Psych 101 - the course she thought would be a first-semester
favorite - turned out to be a struggle. And her roommates were as different from
Katie as the cafeteria's mystery meat was from her mom's pot roast.
Katie summed up her first
semester as one of "changed expectations." Some things that she thought would be
perfect turned out to be a bumpy road, but other things turned out to be much
easier. Katie came from a close family and a small school, but she surprised
herself when she adjusted with very little homesickness. She had been worried
about being uninspired by her required economics course, but she loved how the
professor applied the material to real-life situations.
Katie's advice? Try not to have
preconceived expectations of what college will
be like. Be open to surprises.
Stress Out of College
Katie realized that the things
she'd been realistic about turned out to be the easiest to deal with. She'd
expected to find it hard living away from home, not only in terms of missing her
family but also in dealing with practical stuff like washing her own clothes.
But, because she anticipated these issues, Katie found them less stressful.
Living away from home tends to be
the toughest adjustment for first-year students. You've had a clear role within
your family all of your life: the family comedian, the mediator, maybe the
translator. Whichever role you filled at home, when you're gone, you're not sure
where you fit in. It may seem like your family is doing fine without you, and
you may feel uncomfortable or sad about these changes.
You may also feel homesick in
your first weeks and months. The first thing you should know if you're longing
for your old scene, friends, or even your bratty little siblings, is that
homesickness is very common. In fact, just about everyone experiences it at some
point in his or her life. So how do you deal with feeling lonely or left out?
Try to identify your feelings and
fears, and talk about what you're going
through. The sooner you deal with these issues, the sooner you'll feel better.
If you are homesick, it can help to call, write, or email your parents, other
family members, and friends from home to let them know how you're doing and to
tell them you miss them.
Who else can you talk to? For
starters, that person sharing the dorm room with you. Roommates can be great
built-in buddies. As first-year students themselves, they're probably
experiencing many of the same fears and worries that you're dealing with.
But what if you don't get along
with your roommate?
Roommates and Making Friends
In some cases, it can be a good
thing if you and your roommate aren't much alike. A different perspective on
things may be helpful. But it's probably wise not to expect that you'll be best
friends with your roommate because it can set you up for disappointment. Katie
came to college expecting to be best buddies
with her roomies. But over time it felt like the two of them made her the third
wheel. With a switch in roommates and a change in attitude about what to expect,
she ended up having a blast.
Not everyone can switch
roommates, though. That's why it helps to start with the idea that you'll
respect your differences no matter what.
If you and your roomie don't get
along, it can help to find someone you do feel understands you - which should be
easy on a campus with plenty of people. Giving new students an opportunity to
meet is one idea behind freshman orientation. And many schools have student
organization nights where all of the campus clubs gather and promote their
organizations, so you can meet people with the same interests as you. You'll
also meet tons of people in class or in your dorm.
If you're really having roommate
or friendship troubles, make a stop at the school counseling center. All
universities have one, and first-year fears are something the counselors know
well. The counselors will either talk to you one-on-one or if there is a peer
group for students who are feeling like you, you can choose to join it. Talking
to others who are in the same situation can be comforting. You can also talk to
your RA about any adjustment or roommate problems.
Some students turn to alcohol,
heavy partying, excessive sleeping, smoking, or drugs to deal with their
first-year problems. Unfortunately, students who resort to getting wasted all
the time to cope with their new situation often find that too much partying
brings lots more problems, like interfering with their ability to keep up with
assignments, papers, and exams. In the worst case, it may mean getting in
trouble with the college judicial department.
Away From Home
Sore throats, sprained ankles,
and wisdom teeth that act up are as common among
college students as homesickness. It's very easy, especially in a dorm
environment, to catch bugs like the flu. People come in and out of your room all
the time, and some of those who are sick may pass it on. And who has time to go
home to the doctor when they get sick?
With this in mind, universities
have created health centers staffed with doctors, nurses, dentists - even
nutritionists and counselors - ready to tend to your needs. Check out your
student orientation packet or your school's website to find out more information
about the health center and where it's located.
Some schools require all students
to have non-emergency health care insurance. In these cases, the school usually
offers a low-cost insurance plan that can be paid for at the time of
registration and used worldwide. These plans often cover basic health care and
injuries sustained in intercollegiate or club sports as well.
At other schools, however, health
insurance is optional and not necessary to receive treatment at the health
center. But there is a charge for medical services.
Before you go to school, look
into whether your school requires health insurance and discuss with your parents
what kind of health insurance you have, if any.
Knowing about the health
insurance you carry or the location of the health center is not all you need to
stay well, however. You might need to get a prescription filled, or you might
become injured and need emergency treatment.
When you get to school, check to
see if your health center offers 24-hour medical attention. If not, make a point
to learn how to access emergency medical care through a local emergency
department or urgent care clinic. Write this information and any important phone
numbers somewhere you can easily find them if necessary.
You should also find a pharmacy.
Although some schools offer a pharmacy on campus, other students may need to
venture off campus to find one. It's no fun to go hunting around for these
things when you're sick - being prepared can really help!
It's great to be prepared if you
get sick, but better yet, how can you prevent getting sick in the first place?
The usual measures, like washing your hands frequently, also apply at
college. But you'll also have to think about
community bathrooms, shared computer terminals, and cramped living quarters, all
of which make germs way too happy.
If you spend time in the school
computer labs, it's a good idea to carry some antibacterial hand lotion in your
backpack. When your roommate gets sick, use a germ-fighting solvent to
occasionally wipe down shared things like doorknobs, telephone receivers, and
remote controls. And don't underestimate the power of eating well and getting a
good night's sleep. As always, the best defense is a good offense.
You've landed in a buffet-style
eating universe and there's unlimited double-decker chocolate cake. Many
college campuses have lots of fast-food
restaurants within easy reach of dorms or classes. Why not have pizza for dinner
every night? Plus, you'll probably find that ordering Chinese food or cheese
bread with friends at 2 AM is a common activity after a night out.
Most students tend to binge a bit
at first, sampling everything and snacking late at night. Eventually, many gain
weight (the "freshman 15"). But is it so horrible?
Both girls and guys do more
maturing during their college years, so some
weight gain is to be expected. Unless a person gains a lot of weight, the
problem is less about the weight gain than what may happen as a result:
excessive dieting, which tends to bring about a seesaw effect of dieting and
How to avoid this roller-coaster
food ride? Eat normally and at regular intervals - usually three meals with one
or two healthy snacks - at the same times each day. That way, you'll train your
body to be hungry at those times and then you will be responding to your inner
signals. Eating when you're hungry and only eating until you're full is eating
in a natural way.
But chowing down when you're
bored, munching because your roommate has pizza (even though you've already had
dinner), or snacking on chocolate simply because you're stressed, means you are
overriding your body's natural signals. This tends to lead to more chaotic
eating and weight gain.
So now you know when to eat, but
how about what to eat? Pay attention to that new food pyramid you've been
seeing. Eating right is all about balance. You'll want to eat foods from each
group every day. If your meals include too many items from one food group, it's
at the cost of nutrients from another. Eating from many food groups doesn't just
give the body a well-rounded diet - it satisfies your mind's craving for
variety, too. So don't worry about eating a candy bar, just don't use it to
replace a well-balanced dinner.
A final note about food: It's
tempting to pull all-nighters with the aid of caffeine. Experts suggest limiting
your caffeine intake to 100 milligrams or less per day - this will help you to
prevent becoming a caffeine fiend (caffeine is addictive) and to avoid
withdrawal symptoms like headaches and irritability. Most people think caffeine
is only in coffee, but watch out for it in soft drinks, iced teas, and
Staying fit is easier than ever
at college - a good thing, because students
should aim to get 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise every day. You
don't have to go out for a sport to enjoy an hour of Frisbee in the quad, a
morning jog around campus, or a game of soccer with people in the dorm after
Get started by checking out
what's offered at your campus recreation center. Many rec centers rent equipment
and offer classes in everything from aerobics to yoga to self-defense. You'll
probably have access to a school gym, which may include exercise equipment, a
pool, or a track. If you're lucky, your school might have amenities like a
rock-climbing wall! And if indoor exercise doesn't appeal to you, some colleges
and universities offer excursions within the area like horseback riding, yoga at
sunrise, a ski/snowboard trip to a nearby mountain, or even white-water rafting.
Staying healthy isn't only about
what you put in your body, it's also about what your body puts out. That means
effort, energy, and exercise to keep you powered up during