An Open Letter to my 18-Year-Old, Brand New College Freshman Self

Hey girl hey! (Yep, you still think it’s cool to say that. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.)

I’ve been unintentionally noticing a lot of “lasts” lately and you always seem to be on my mind when that happens. I drove back to Athens from Westerville on Easter Sunday last week, thinking that it would be my last drive back to Athens as a student, and I thought of you sitting in the back of a borrowed van in August 2012, surrounded by the belongings that would still be unloaded into your freshman dorm. I was taking a midterm in Capstone, my very last in-class exam (not just in college, but ever) since all of my finals are projects this semester, and I thought of you taking your very first college test: a stats exam on a sunny October Wednesday, the same day that President Obama visits campus and your professor won’t let anyone skip the test to go stand in line uptown. (Spoiler alert: you’ll still get a good spot.)

I’m writing to you from Week 14 of senior year and I have to say that I’ve learned a lot in between your firsts and my lasts. You and I are not the same person anymore, so I think you could learn a lot from this.

Get used to this cozy little closet of a dorm room, because you'll be squished into a much-less-cozy shoebox of a dorm room sophomore year.
Get used to this cozy little closet of a dorm room, because you’ll be squished into a much-less-cozy shoebox of a dorm room sophomore year.
  • It won’t hit you until your mom and dad leave after moving you into O’Bleness 123 and taking you out to dinner uptown and suddenly you’re standing outside the dorm building by yourself, waving after them as they drive away.
  • Living in a dorm will quickly make you realize that you don’t have the patience to share a small living space with other people. Take it as a learning experience.
  • You – yes, you! The girl who pitched a fit when Mom wouldn’t let you go to high school in sweatpants – will start to take pride in your appearance and even develop a classy and unique personal style. No, looks aren’t everything, but you’ll feel so much better about yourself when you actually put effort into your appearance rather than just rolling out of bed and upgrading from pajama bottoms to yoga pants.
  • You never have to drink anything if you don’t want to.
  • To go off of that, anyone who EVER makes you feel bad about refusing alcohol is a shitty excuse for a friend.
  • You’ll avoid the Freshman 15 and break the stereotype by not eating a single packet of sodium bricks Ramen throughout your entire college career. Good for you! Your eating habits won’t always be perfect, little miss “all my teeth are sweet teeth,” but you’ll start to get a sense of what health and nutrition mea to you and do a pretty good job of following it, for the most part.
  • Speaking of a healthy lifestyle, you’ll have to start your own workout regimen now that you don’t have cheerleading practice (and the inevitable conditioning that comes with it) several days a week. Go to Zumba and read up on strength training techniques. The weight room is not as intimidating as it looks, I promise.
  • Nunca dejes de hablar español. (Never stop speaking Spanish. But you knew that, right?)
  • You already have your heart set on a broadcast journalism major. Somewhere in between staying in the newsroom editing City Council b-roll until midnight and lugging a camera and tripod up Jeff Hill in the freezing rain, you’ll realize that you don’t really enjoy this career path enough to spend the rest of your life doing stuff like this for only $35k a year. Go to a meeting for that PRSSA group you keep hearing about and you’ll be changing your major faster than you can say “Public Relations Student Society of America.”
You with some of the best people you will meet in college.
You with some of the best people you will meet in college.
  • Turning 20 when all of your friends are already 21 feels a lot like finally scoring an invite to a really awesome party, only to show up and find out that everyone has already left and gone to an even better party that’s right down the street and you haven’t been invited yet. It’ll suck for a while and you’re going to feel like such an immature baby when you go out to dinner with your friends and they’re all ordering fun drinks and cocktails and the server looks at you with pity when you’re like “just water, please.” But your age will put you in a unique position and eventually you’ll realize that there’s so much more to college than just drinking, so it really doesn’t matter that you can’t legally do so yet. As a result, you’ll be healthier and save a lot of money, too.
  • I think I should mention that I’m still only 20 and I’ll be graduating in a little more than two weeks. You’re going to do the impossible and graduate in three years. You’ll be a college graduate before you can legally buy a bottle of bubbly to celebrate with. I’m about to spend what would be your fourth year of college living in Spain.
  • You know that bad breakup you just went through at the end of senior year, the one that resulted in you missing senior prom? Get used to the single life, because you’re about to be living it for the next three years. That looks depressing to see it written out, but I’ve learned that it’s really not bad. You’ll learn so much about yourself outside of the context of another person, do things and go places that you might not have otherwise experienced (at least as easily) if you had someone else to worry about, and become super independent as you do little everyday things for yourself (sick? Tough, looks like you’ve gotta run up to CVS and get your own medicine. Snowing? Better get your ass outside and brush off your own car). Most importantly, you’ll learn from observation what you DON’T want in a potential relationship, you’ll refuse to settle, and you’ll grow to love yourself. There’s nothing wrong with you, but there IS something wrong with a culture where so many people think “Why are you still single?” is an acceptable question to ask.
  • For the love of God, when you go to Germany next year (yup, that’s a thing you’re gonna do), DON’T waste hours walking around one of the four H&Ms in the city center just because that’s what everyone else in your group wants to do. You can go to H&M at home.
Here you are at the top of the Völkerschlachtdenkmal (you'll learn how to pronounce that word) in Leipzig.
Here you are at the top of the Völkerschlachtdenkmal (you’ll learn how to pronounce that word) in Leipzig.
  • Sometimes, people who you think are awesome will end up being the exact opposite of what you expected, and you won’t be able to distance yourself fast enough. On the flip side of that, you’ll unexpectedly spend an entire afternoon hanging out with that girl you thought was super annoying and see that she’s not that bad after all. People are funny like that.
  • Call Magie.
  • Avoid the library during finals week.
  • GET INVOLVED, GET INVOLVED, GET INVOLVED. You’ll make so many friends and experience once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, not to mention you’ll have a much easier time applying to internships and other opportunities. Just because you CAN sit on your ass watching Netflix all day doesn’t mean you SHOULD.
  • “Life is waking up an hour early to live an hour more.”
  • Keep calm and carry on. Everything will be okay. No matter how bad things may seem, you’ll get through it. I know this because otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this to you right now.

Get ready for the best three years of your life (so far). I believe in you. You’re going to do amazing things that you have no concept of just yet. You’re going to meet people and go places that you never dreamed you would have a chance to experience.

To steal Neil Patrick Harris’s recurring line from How I Met Your Mother (a show you will grow to love): wait for it.



Author: lindseyzimmerman

I'm a marketing pro, writer and cat person from Columbus, Ohio living in southern Spain since 2015. Usually drinking manzanilla, reading Lorca, or attempting to dance flamenco (not all at once).

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