This new reality of quarantine, while dreadfully boring for some people, has given me some much-needed quiet time for reflection upon my college experience. The abrupt end to my senior spring on campus has led me to think deeply about the past four years.
It has also led me to think about the summer of 2016: the summer when I graduated high school, said goodbye to my best friends and watched endless videos about college anticipating what the next four years would be like. From conversations with friends and classmates to the YouTube videos I watched, all anyone said was “college is the best four years of your life.” Well, that settled that! Being at Wake Forest was going to be the pinnacle of my life. Everything that I hadn’t been in high school, I would suddenly, magically become upon stepping foot onto Wake Forest’s campus. Nobody could convince me otherwise. Sadly, that reality quickly faded from the moment I rolled my first suitcase into my dorm room in Johnson Residence Hall.
Recently, I was on the phone with a close friend of mine. I was sharing with her that I couldn’t quite relate to the devastation expressed by my peers on Instagram about missing “Mother So Dear.” Many of my peers have seemingly entered into a state of sadness about having left Wake Forest under these unprecedented circumstances. While there are multiple spaces, places and people on campus that I will miss, overall, I’m not grieving about being away from Wake Forest. I was so relieved when she, too, felt the same way.
While there are multiple spaces, places and people on campus that I will miss, overall, I’m not grieving about being away from Wake Forest.
This was when we began to discuss a commonly shared notion that “college is the best four years of your life.” It made me realize that while I became fixated on this idea, shared with me not only by college alumni across the country but also from Wake Forest alumni, I, as a soon-to-be graduate cannot confidently express this same sentiment. I used to feel guilty about this, but I have slowly been coming to terms with what has been my true college experience. Being at Wake Forest has not been the best four years of my life. From the blatant racism and microaggressions I have consistently experienced as a Black female student, coupled with a few friendships which unexpectedly ceased to exist, it’s been a struggle.
For some, college will be the “best four years” of their life. For others like me, not so much. I am very happy for my peers who have thoroughly enjoyed Wake Forest, met their best friends for life and future bridesmaids/groomsmen and will forever sing the fight song. Their experience has largely differed from mine, and that’s okay. Both of our experiences are valid.
I am not sure where the sentiment “college is the best four years of your life” originated from, but I think we need to put a pin in it. It creates a false narrative that many prospective college students, like myself, fell and will fall prey to. It fosters pressure to have the ultimate college experience, and when that doesn’t pan out, it leaves more shame and guilt at what one’s college journey has actually been. I encourage the incoming college class of 2024 to enter into their respective institutions with an open mind, accepting their experiences however they turn out.
I should mention that Wake Forest has not been all bad for me. I am grateful for the friendships I’ve made and kept, my incredible professors who have taught me so much, my singular study spot/second home/safe space in the post office, the Women’s Center and all the Zumba classes I danced away in. I will cherish these memories forever.
I guess instead of my college experience being “the best four years of my life,” I’ll say it has been “the most transformative four years of my life.” Thankfully, I am a better person for it.