By Katie Koziara, Columnist
Published April 8, 2015
Dear young, impressionable, just-turned-18-three-days-ago me,
College is a new beginning for you, and you need the change it provides. You’re nervous now but also excited to be in Ann Arbor, a place with thousands of new faces and many new freedoms.
College is going to be different. You say this in your head now, but soon you’ll understand how much truth this mantra holds. You’re going to grow apart from people you don’t currently want to lose. You’re going to grow close to people with whom you didn’t think you had anything in common initially. People and problems that seem so central to your life today will be a minor blip on your radar by senior year.
The biggest problem you’ll tackle is figuring out what to study. During Campus Day you heard about the Ford School, and you’ll end up choosing this path. It’ll be a good experience and you’ll meet some amazing people, but you’re not going to have a thing like everyone else. You won’t suddenly become passionate about saving the environment or changing the tax code or fixing labor laws. You’ll choose health policy as your focus area, mainly because you took an amazing public health class that made you change the way you view political problems.
Ultimately, though, you’ll realize health policy isn’t what will get you out of bed in the morning.
So you’ll look at possible minors to supplement your Ford School experience. You like a lot of different things, so it’s going to be hard to choose just one. One day, while you’re sitting in Rackham, you’ll stumble across the Sweetland Minor in Writing. You like writing, so you’ll decide to apply. By senior year, you will be confident that it was the best decision you made at Michigan. You’re a writer even now, sitting on your twin XL bed in your unfamiliar room, but you don’t have the courage to admit it yet. The first time you say it out loud, though, it’ll seem like you’ve gained the mental clarity for which you’ve been searching since you arrived on campus.
Your writing classes will be treasured spaces where you can be vulnerable, where you can share. You’ll want to thank each one of your peers who took the time to read your writing and give you critiques and encourage you, but it’ll be difficult to convey how much that means to you. “Hey, smart people!” your professor will write when she sends out announcements to the class. We are a group of smart people, you’ll think. I am smart.
Each year you are enrolled at Michigan is going to be different from the last. Really different, actually. Most of this is because each year you’ll spend most of your time with a different group of people. Right now you share campus with your brother, but that will end by middle of junior year when you head to Washington D.C. for a semester. You’ll miss being able to drive to Zingerman’s on a Sunday and talk about whatever is on your mind with him, but luckily, you're going to end up about an hour and a half away from each other after graduation. South Quad is a great spot for now, but next year you’ll live in the sorority house and spend a lot of time with Pledge Class 2011. You’ll spend most of junior year in D.C., living with Fordies and PoliSci majors. Senior year, you’ll live all over Ann Arbor (I’d tell you that story, too, but I signed a nondisclosure agreement which prohibits me from doing so).
You’re going to join a sorority in a few weeks, and you’ll wonder whether or not you fit into the house you got a bid from. The girls in the house are “chill.” You are most definitely not chill. Then you’ll realize chil in this context means you’re going to have fun with these people whether you’re out on a Football Saturday or lying in the Green Room on a Wednesday watching “Good Will Hunting.” Your best friend in the house will be the same kind of hyper/chill hybrid as you.
You don’t know yet, but next year, the girl you met during orientation will walk around Pike in her pajamas with you at midnight on a Friday because she knows you just had your heart ripped out of your chest by someone you thought would be in your life forever. A year later, you’ll laugh about how ridiculous you two probably looked, you sobbing down Oxford and her wearing a bright-orange shirt with “sober monitor” written on the back.
Also, an important tip for sophomore year: don’t sign up for Honors Calculus.
You’re a freshman who thinks she wants to live in New York City one day, but in two years you’re going to intern in D.C. and randomly be assigned a roommate. She’ll be the most ridiculous, spirited and entertaining friend you’ll have during your time at the University, and you will share many inside jokes that make you laugh until you can’t breathe. You’ll live together in D.C. again a few months later, and get into more trouble. You’ll also make a friend who will join in your complaints about Shake Shack changing their fries, watch kids movies on Saturday mornings while you recover from drinking one too many on Friday nights and take an entire album worth of selfies with you during your semester in Washington.
You’re struggling to make friends now, but in a few weeks, a tall girl from Midland will run into the room where you happen to be hanging with your new friends. She’ll explain how she’s currently sexiled and introduce herself, and by senior year it’ll be difficult to avoid crying with her anytime someone talks about graduation. Next year, a girl will introduce herself, saying she knows you through a friend of a friend, and senior year you’ll be there for each other when you each need a friend the most.
But you don’t know any of this currently, as you lie in bed at night and let a few tears fall down your face. You are just a homesick freshman — nervous, but also excited to see what the next four years will bring. You’re the unedited version of the person you’ll become in the next four years, the first cut of many revisions you’ll make to yourself without even realizing it. You’re going to grow and you’re going to thrive, so get ready for the next four years of your life. They’ll be over in the blink of an eye.
Katie Koziara can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.