“If you think high school is hard, just WAIT until you get to college.”
“The party life is amazing, you’ll have the time of your life”
“You’re on your own out there, be responsible and safe cause the results fall on you, and only YOU.”
These are some of the statements every incoming freshman has heard as they enter, what it seems to be the biggest change of their lives thus far. When I decided I would attend the Michigan State University, I knew some “basic” stories about the reputation that it withheld. Some phrases included “HUGE campus”, “great community”, “underrated education”, and most of all “party school”. This specific phrase stuck to me, not only because it sounded exciting, but because it gave me the chills of what was to come.
August 26th, 2018. I remember that day so vividly. The day I moved in. It was a hot summer day and surrounding me were stressed parents helping their kids move in and students excited to finally live their lives with freedom. Don’t get me wrong, that was me too. Living independently and growing as an individual away from my parents is a common American tradition and I was all about it. I had a great group of friends coming in with me, a well thought out schedule, and a business major I strived for. I was ready to take on my first year of college. My childhood best friend and I were roommates and I couldn’t have asked for a better college lifestyle. Despite the stress of unpacking and figuring out the campus, the only thing that kept us going was the night life. MSU knew how to party and study, and I wanted to be able to find that balance in my life. A part of me was nervous as I didn’t know the party atmosphere and we had just recently heard of the sordid nickname of the River trail, the Rape trail. It was a frequently used road to get to various locations in East Lansing but the label it had made us fearful. However, that didn’t stop us from enjoying our welcome week. We got dressed, met up with a group of friends in those cramped dorms, and headed out to our first frat party.
Slowly, however, this became a habit for us. Going to class, meeting up, and partying. Before we knew it, our academic performance was being hinged by this routine. I saw some of my closest friends becoming dependent on alcohol and drugs, thinking it would help them to concentrate on their work.
“Let me take a hit of this pen and I’ll sleep like a baby, trust me.”
The amount of times I heard this from my friends began to worry me. Sometimes it did help them and in the beginning my thought process wasn’t very helpful. It’s okay, they know their limits and sometimes it does help people! They’ll wake up in time for class, trust them! Instead of reassuring them that alcohol and drugs wasn’t necessary to help them sleep, I let them do whatever they want. It became a habit for them. Juuling, smoking, drinking, all common things for any college student. While I’ve never smoked or Juuled, I’m not completely innocent. My curiosity had gotten the best of me and I too have made some bad choices when it comes to alcohol. I skipped classes because I was tired from the night before or simply because I felt lazy. I used the excuse that “I didn’t really need to go to this lecture today” to get a few more hours of sleep. There was a simple solution to all of this. It was to make my decisions wisely and to limit the partying, but I was ignorant to that.
My first semester of college was this constant rollercoaster between choosing whether or not to party or just spend an extra hour studying or maybe getting a good night’s sleep. It was this independent living and freedom of making my own choices that distracted me from the main focus of becoming a business major and fulfilling all the other aspirations I came to MSU in the first place. My poor choices were clearly shown through some of my grades and the fear of not accomplishing any of my goals hit me like a rock. It took me all of winter break to get myself back together and realize that it’s not all fun and games. I know it’s easier said than done but believe me it is possible, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this blog post today.
I had to decide how to balance this lifestyle. I’m not going to say I didn’t party but I did it in moderation. I kept telling myself that instead of being like everyone else and drinking and smoking, why don’t you stand out and not do those things but still show them that you’re having the time of your life?!! It was hard at first, but I gradually realized that this was a simple but effective statement that changed the course of my current college experience. I began surrounding myself around friends and mentors who would push me to do that extra hour of studying and my performance slowly began improving. I helped my friends who “needed” the drugs to help them sleep at night slowly give up juuling and to this day we are all still attempting to make better choices for the bigger picture of it all.
The difference between first and second semester for me was MY choice to not let my friends or myself fall into the peer pressures of college, because at the end of the day, it’s not where you go to school, it’s what you do there that matters. Because of this motto, I was able to find my way to Workit Health and help spread the awareness for addiction. Every person who has written a blog for Workit Health is either a former addict or knows someone that is/was one. I am writing this blog from the perspective of a student and young adult who realized what they were getting themselves into and stopped before it got worse. Entering into my second year, I am more confident in what to expect and am ready to help the incoming freshman class from not repeating the same mistakes my friends and I did. As a college student, there are still so many things I have yet to experience but I am so proud of how far my friends and I have come since the first semester of college, all because it made us stronger in the end.
Every person is different and that’s what makes life interesting. Just know that you WILL find your balance and rhythm. It’s patiently waiting on the other side for you with open arms!
Lahari Vithala is a Student at Michigan State University pursuing a major in Marketing and Minor in Spanish. Lahari is passionate about working on ways to raise awareness in the Public Health space.