This week college students unpacked their stuffed sedans and set up their dorm rooms in preparation for another year of late nights and 8 a.m. classes. Though it has been about two years since I graduated from Bluefield College, I still remember that feeling of anticipation and fear of college semesters filled with hours of reading and 10-page papers.
When I started at BC, I wasn't what you would call a typical student. As a married woman in her late 20s, I was nervous I would stand out and have trouble making friends. My husband and I both had our associates degrees and had spent years in full-time jobs. After we were married we decided we wanted to finish school and earn our bachelors degrees. We thought about going to BC when we were in high school, but never had the opportunity.
So, in August of 2010, we packed a moving truck full of furniture, dishes, clothes, Christmas decorations and everything else we owned, and divided it all between a storage unit and our furnished apartment in East River Hall on campus.
I was nervous to socialize with the other students in the days leading to the first day of class, but thankfully my husband doesn't have a problem walking over to strangers and saying hello. Thanks to him, we met a group of girls at a back-to-school cookout who would soon become part of our close circle of friends.
Though there was a bit of an age gap between my husband and me and our friends, that all dissipated when classes began. Because, at that point, we were all in the same boat, paddling through the 20-page reading assignments, papers and late nights.
Since I wasn't a typical college student my student life experience was a little different. While my friends joined sororities and spent evenings bonding over all-night movie marathons, I was usually working on campus at the coffee shop or sleeping because keeping up with work and studying was sometimes exhausting.
However, not being a typical college student worked to my benefit in some ways. While girls on campus were dating in hopes of finding their future husband, I already had mine. I didn't have to worry about whether or not someone liked me because I had a husband who loved me. It was also great having him as a roommate. Though it was difficult when we were both stressed about school assignments, I couldn't have asked for a better person to share the college journey.
As an older student I also had more discipline to complete assignments than I did when I was younger. While taking classes at a community college after high school, I have little motivation and was satisfied with skating by. As an adult who had experience in the workforce, I found it was easier for me to focus and complete assignments. My GPA at BC was better than anything I ever had at the community college.
But even though things were a little different in my day-to-day at BC, I was still able to spend time with friends who meant the most to me. I found time to spend evenings laughing over board games, taking impromptu trips to Wal-mart and watching multiple seasons of British television shows.
Through the laughs we also shared deep conversations about life and what we wanted for the future. I'd like to think I was able to help my friends talk through tough situations, but I can say with confidence that they were there when I needed to talk through mine.
When it came time for graduation I had to say goodbye to those I had spent two years getting to know. Those goodbyes came with long hugs and a lot of tears. It was difficult to know my best girlfriends would no longer be as close as a walk down the hallway or up the stairs.
But nothing can replace the relationships that were formed during my time at BC. My friends and I still keep in touch as much as we can and we manage to see each other at least a few times a year, cherishing the time we have together.
So as freshmen students walk onto college campuses around the area, I am reminded of that uncertain feeling of a new chapter filled with new friends and experiences. And even though some of those freshman may be nervous and worried about making new friends, I am confident they will soon meet some of the greatest people that will ever touch their lives.
— Jackie Puglisi is a Princeton Times reporter and columnist.