My first week at the Ohio State University was overwhelming, to say the least. The transition from rural Ohio to a college campus three times the size of my hometown was accompanied by a lot of mixed emotions. Ironically enough, as I walked home after convocation, surrounded by thousands of students who were just like me—intelligent, top-of-their-class, talented freshmen—I realized that I had never felt so lonely. I had gone from being one of the best athletes in my school, one of the best students in my city, one of the best musicians in my orchestra, to suddenly being just one. One student among thousands who were also used to being “the best.” That idea terrified me, not only because I did not know how to deal with being average, but also because, even with so many people like me, I had no meaningful friendships and no support system surrounding me.
I had moved in a week early to attend a program for first-generation college students called Buckeyes First. We spent three days talking about coursework, expectations, stress management, financial decisions, and leadership. Their goal was to aid in the transition to college for students and parents who had no idea what to expect. Throughout the program, they stressed one phrase repeatedly: “No matter what, you do belong here.” It wasn’t until move-in day, when welcome week began, that I realized how much those words meant.
Welcome week started and suddenly I was surrounded by 65,000 students. But, somehow, I had never felt lonelier. The idea that there were that many people, and that I knew so few of them, hit me really hard. I went to the involvement fair and found a lot of clubs that I never ended up joining. Then I went to convocation and listened as a group of extremely educated people stood up to speak. After that I started classes with students who had taken eight AP courses in high school, or whose parents both graduated from prestigious universities, or who had played five different sports in high school. And then there was me: a student from Zanesville, Ohio, from a school that barely even offered AP courses and where roughly 30% of the students attended college and even less graduated—and I wasn’t even the valedictorian there. I sat in a general chemistry class where most of the students had taken AP chemistry and I had never even been offered the choice of taking even general high school chemistry.
Thankfully, after the chaos of move-in weekend subsided and classes began, I started to settle in. I talked to teachers and other students in my classes and I finally began what I came to the Ohio State University for: to learn. Suddenly, being just one of thousands of smart students played to my advantage. We were able to cover material at a much higher rate than in high school. My classmates asked meaningful questions and we discussed applications of concepts, rather than simply memorizing facts. As the first week of classes continued, I started to see my place here at the university. It’s not just to make friends or to be “the best;” it’s to work together with other students to learn and to apply that learning. It was at that point that I began to understand what they had told us in the Buckeyes First program. “No matter what, you do belong here.” For some reason, when reading over applications, the Ohio State University had decided that I had potential and that I could contribute to the campus. I have yet to find exactly what that potential is, but I am encouraged by the idea that I have four years studying under some of the best professors and alongside some of the brightest students to discover it. I l look forward to everything that I will learn and cannot wait to find my place as a student at the Ohio State University.