Junior Year: When Your Worst Fear Becomes a Reality
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 19:04
It’s safe to say that the end of sophomore year at Smith is a defining time. The transition from sophomore year to junior year is unlike any other, in the sense that we as students are finally expected to have an idea what we are going to do with the rest of our college career, and even our lives.
With the copious number of study abroad acceptance letters rolling in, we as women and students are forced to consider the changes that we are about to endure. Those of us who will study abroad will be able to experience a completely different culture, as we are thrown into an environment that will barely resemble the warm, safe womb of our beloved Smith College. And those of us who stay at Smith will have to deal with the gnawing absence of some of our best friends, whom we have begun to think of as family throughout the years in which we have attended Smith.
This is a thought that I am grappling with now. The idea of losing a few of my closest friends to the lovely escape of studying abroad fills me with an incredible sense of dread. My best friend, the one person I could go to with anything, is leaving for an entire year of our college experience. As happy as I am that she is finally escaping from the oftentimes unbearably stifling Smith College bubble, the separation anxiety that I know will hit me the second I get comfortable during my first day back at Smith in the fall still ominously hovers over me. And I know that I am not alone.
While many of my good friends are staying here at Smith for junior year, the topic of our best friends – the people who we suffered through the obligatory traumatic first year experiences with (contracting mono, identity crises, coming out, even the first break-up) – leaving has constantly made an appearance in various dinner conversations.
“What the hell are we going to do next year?” many of us ask, as we take tentative sips of watery coffee, looks of sheer anguish plastering our faces. What are we going to do?
And this is where I tell you: we’re going to grow – separately. We’re going to realize the depths – or even superficiality – of our friendships more than ever because being separated from a loved one, especially a friend who has become a part of your own flesh and blood for the past two years, only makes you realize the profound extent of such a friendship.
Despite the negative aspects of being separated from your best friend for a semester, or even a year, there are unmistakably positive traits that will result from not being together for a distinct period of time. First off, and most important, you’ll be pushed out of your comfort zone emotionally. The person you went to for everything – the good, the bad, the ugly – will not be as readily available, or even physically available, for you to vent to. Invariably, this means that you will have no other choice but to confide in other people – other friends, or maybe even friends you have not met yet. I think a common misconception is that in college, especially halfway through, you will have a consummate group of friends that have claimed ownership of your time and space and energy. Rightfully so, of course. However, I think we all need to remember and take time to realize that we only have four years here at Smith. Four years to make as many great friends as possible and have as many diverse and incredible experiences with people we might not have chosen to seek out when we were timid little first years.
Let your junior year be a time where you are able to enjoy having too many coffee dates with people you may not have had while you were too busy spending every moment with your best friend your first two years. Go to parties you may not have gone to and start eating at different dining halls: change things up. It will benefit you in the long run.
Why? Because you’ll be taking advantage of certain resources that your friends abroad might not be able to when they return. Soak up every fantastic resource that Smith has to offer because, unfortunately, your time is limited here. Reconnect with people you lost touch with during your first two years at Smith. In the end, you will be grateful for your best friend’s absence, only because being separated from the comforting haven of each other’s companionship will help you realize yourself more than ever.