Preparing for Life Away from Home While in College

For the past 18 years, except for maybe summer camps or work trips, I had spent almost every day with my family. As I prepared to leave home for UC Davis, I realized that was not going to be the case for much longer. It was overwhelming, to say the least. Being a college freshman, some days we just want our parents to take care of us. Sometimes we really miss being home which is completely normal.

As a second year, I have had my fair share of these moments. I’ve gotten through them, though. Here are five ways I prepared myself for those tough times away from home and being on my own for the first time. I hope they can be as useful to you as they were to me.

students on cell phones

Make communicating easy

I was very nervous leaving for college, knowing I could lose touch with my friends and family.

Once my hometown friends and I knew our school schedules, we used a scheduling app to keep track of when we had class. That way whenever someone wanted to catch up, they'd know when to call.

Between classes, I would usually call whoever wasn't busy, just to talk and feel more connected to them. I would try to call home to talk with my parents and sister at least once a week, to stay in the loop with life at home. I just liked hearing the simple things, like what they had for dinner or what my sister was learning in school. It made me feel like I was right there with them.

students play games in common room of dorm

Building relationships with your roommates

If you plan to live on campus, one of the first experiences you're likely to have will be meeting your new roommates. I happened to meet one of mine at orientation, and we kept in touch from then on until move-in day.

It was a relief knowing who I'd room with before I moved in, as someone who isn't particularly outgoing. I definitely got lucky. My roommates ended up being my closest friends throughout my first year. We did everything together.

Establishing connections early opened us up to one another and helped us build strong bonds. It made being away from home softer on those rough days. I know it won't be the case with everyone, but you don’t have to be close as long as there is good communication. Simply getting along with your roommates can make your time at school a lot more enjoyable.

Bring things to remind you of home

As soon as I gained admission to Davis I began to plan how to decorate my dorm. It’s something that I did throughout the summer before school started. It gave me a lot of time to be creative.

One cheap and easy idea was compiling a folder with pictures of all my friends and family. Get those printed to hang on your wall or near your desk. I was able to print 50 pictures for under $10. Once school started, I collected all these little reminders of home. I'd buy my favorite snacks or arrange plants in my dorm because my dad loved plants in the house. It’s important to have those reminders when you can’t call someone or need a pick-me-up.

students picnic at uc davis arboretum

Learn more about campus

When I started to consider UCD, I went down a rabbit hole of websites. From YouTube videos to social media accounts, I wanted to find out about this school as much as I could. These are great resources because they often come from real student perspectives. Older students are your best friends when trying to navigate your first year.

Actually visit campus. Living only 30 minutes from UC Davis, I was somewhat familiar with the city, but I realized I had never actually been anywhere near the school itself. If you get the chance, it’s worth it to come to see the city and take a guided tour on campus. I always feel better going into a new environment with at least a small knowledge of where I am.

global learning students discussion

Find your community

Being a small fish in a big pond can be super intimidating. I found community with the amazing UC Davis cheer team to help make the transition smoother.

The thing about Davis, though, is although it's a big school, it’s in a small town with many unique communities and organizations from all walks of life. If you have an interest there is likely a club for it, with more than 800 on campus, 39 club sports, and 29 intramural teams.

There are also several resources tailored to you as an individual like:

I receive lots of emails from the Center for African Diaspora Student Success (CADSS) offering internships, panels, tutoring, and other services for the black community here at Davis.

Being away from home for the first time in your life is not easy by any means but being at UC Davis makes it a lot easier. Take advantage of all the opportunities UCD offers us Aggies. Remember: This is a new start, a time to make new friends, try new things, pursue your passions and have fun.

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