I can distinctly recall the days leading up to my freshman year college move-in at the University of Pittsburgh. In between offering bits of laundry advice and grilling me with questions about campus safety, my mother gave me a gift. Small but incredibly meaningful, the gift was a picture frame with the phrase “bloom where you are planted” across the bottom.
Despite the endless stream of worries that my departure evoked, my immensely caring mother had faith in me to flourish in the place that was soon to become my new home.
As my first year progressed, I attempted to do just that. I studied hard, made new friends, joined clubs and stayed active. Yet, it simply did not feel right.
Just before winter break that year, I called my parents and had a conversation, which I believed, at the time, was rock bottom. I explained as best as I could that my gut instinct told me this wasn’t the college experience for me.
They offered their support, and we discussed the idea of applying to transfer schools. Throughout winter break, I submitted my applications but knew that no matter what, I was going to stick it out the full year. And for that, I am grateful.
While that spring semester brought amazing memories, it also provided me with the certainty that I needed to make the move to switch colleges.
In August 2019, I finally arrived at Lehigh. I repeated the classic experiences of randomized roommates, painful orientation icebreakers and getting lost while finding my classes on the first day.
It felt like a weird rush to get acclimated since I had already gone away to college before. I was eager to not waste a second of the mere three years I would have on my new college campus.
Being an older newbie, there was also the underlying pressure to avoid being mistaken for a freshman. God forbid you look or act like a freshman, right?
I initially struggled with the fact that my peers were already solidified in their social circles. In more ways than one, it felt like I had arrived late to the party. Matters were not helped by the fact that there was also such a small percentage of transfer students at Lehigh—those who would be able to relate to what I was experiencing.
I remember Facetiming one of my older brothers and expressing how difficult it was coming in as a sophomore— knowing no one and also being an outsider to Greek life at Lehigh. His response was, “Caroline, you’re normal enough, and you’re fun. Chill, it’ll all work out.”
To be fair, I must have had low standards then, but something about this mildly offensive, tough-love reaction was exactly what I needed to hear.
Although transferring was like restarting in a lot of ways, I came to realize that my character and fundamental values had remained unchanged. I just had to overcome my insecurities of being new and making mistakes.
As the years passed and I’m now a senior, thankfully far more secure and infinitely happier, I recognize the luck I’ve had. The purely random introductions that have led me to my closest friends and the unexpected opportunities I’ve had at Lehigh, which have led me to uncover new passions and so much more I have to be grateful for.
Believe me, with the outbreak of the pandemic during my second semester at Lehigh, I was just about ready to give up on most of the hopes I had for my college years.
Thankfully, I’ve had the stability of strong morals and aspirations, combined with an extreme amount of good fortune, to have wound up where I am. So, I’d say, let that serve as a reminder to ease up on the new kid and maybe take a second to show them around Lehigh.
I’ve learned that sometimes making the best of the current situation is beneficial. But other times, it’s important to recognize when a change is necessary. For me, I was meant to bloom after all. I just needed to plant myself elsewhere.