to the freshman-year me

Today I start my first day of my PhD program halfway across the country — halfway from my friends, my family, my partner and best friend, and the place I called home for more than 20 years.

I came to UT, to Austin, not knowing really what to expect, but knowing that in four years, I was going to come out older, hopefully smarter, and a bit wiser. Four years later, I’m definitely older, smarter at studying, and I’d like think — a tad wiser too.

There’s so many words I want to say, as I reflect on all that’s happened to me in the last four years. And there are just as many thing I want to say, that I haven’t quite found the words for yet.

But perhaps, the easiest is just to think back to 19-year-old me, hanging Taylor Swift posters in her dorm room, and what I wish she had known. In honor of graduating as the Class of 2020, here are the 20 things I would tell my freshman year self.

  1. It’s going to be OK.
  2. Take seven deep breaths in a row every day.
  3. Go to any of the club info sessions that interest you — college is more than studying!
  4. You’re not obligated to join all of those clubs^. Pick the ones that you truly enjoy, and have fun.
  5. It’s ok to talk to the random person sitting next to you in class. They may become your best friend.
  6. Don’t be afraid to talk about how you feel, and seek professional help if necessary.
  7. You’ll meet lots of people, and you’ll make new friends. But you’re also going to lose some, and that’s ok.
  8. Don’t fixate on the drama.
  9. Go to concerts and explore the Austin music scene! (I once had the opportunity to go see Dua Lipa for $17 in Austin…and now I probably can’t because I can’t afford her tickets now.)
  10. Communicate — with yourself, with you friends, and your significant other.
  11. Call your parents — they miss you a lot.
  12. Change is OK. Even if you change your major, your career choice, junior year second semester, it can still work out.
  13. You’ll fail a few tests, or a lot. It’s OK. Grades do not determine who you are.
  14. Value your friend group — they’ll be your biggest support system.
  15. Make good decisions — ’nuff said.
  16. Study smart, not hard.
  17. Don’t procrastinate. You’re going to, you’ll regret it, you’ll probably still do it. But really, it really won’t do you any good.
  18. Get your sleep. Diamonds are formed under pressure, but your 10 page paper won’t get formed at 4 am if you’re incoherent.
  19. Love with all your heart.
  20. And finally — you’ve got this. You really do. I believe in you. 🙂

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