Heading off into college can be a truly nerve racking time, especially for those who are planning on attending college outside of their hometown. This was certainly the case for myself. I chose to attend a college out of town where I knew only two other people that would be attending and was itself rather isolated. This meant for the first time I was exposed to other young people from all over the country with backgrounds and experiences completely different to mine. I will always remember just how nervous I felt stepping onto the coach the first day not knowing what I was about to experience. Would I make friends? Would I get along with anyone? Will I be able to keep up? These were all questions going through my head for the first few weeks, everything was new, everyone was new, teachers now went by their first names, you were the one truly in charge of what you did when on site. It now seems strange to say that all the freedom that I gained at college at first made me feel so lost.
Sadly I still carried many of the issues that developed in school, especially in relation to my sexuality. Whilst happy with those around me and working hard to prove my skills through my work, there were still issues that I was suffering from as a result of coming from a school where I was the only openly gay person in the entire school and constantly had to handle bullying and abuse from others. None of which was helped by the lack of resources available such as counselling and many of the teachers not knowing what to say or do in order to help me get through it all. This only gave me more to fear when going to college as I feared it would be the same situation there and that again no one would be able to help me or much less care to.
Luckily for me, all my fears were misplaced and I had nothing to worry about. Instead of finding an imposing place full of people that I would have nothing in common with and facing the same challenges I did in school, I instead found a place that I would come to consider a second home. My class was full of like-minded peers who shared my passions and interests, who never once judged me like others had and welcomed me completely with many of them being just as nervous as I was at first. These people became the friends that I needed and for the first time, I was surrounded by people (students and teachers) that wanted to bring out only the good parts of myself. They encouraged me to do things I had never thought I would be brave enough to do. They encouraged me to take pride in myself and believe in my skills and abilities and that is exactly what I did.
Instead of being met with rejection and left to fend totally by myself, I was given an amazing support system which included access to a counsellor who I could see for one to one sessions and also drop into when needed. For the first time in a long time I felt listened to, supported and mostly importantly respected. I was finally able to live life on my terms and no one else’s.
It is always important to remember that sometimes we can be our worst enemy and make some things seem more of worry or fear than they need be, when in reality making these big moves are vital for our growth and development. At college you have control and can carve out your own path and, when you need it, find help. This is your chance to challenge yourself and also to find yourself, just like I was able to.