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Leaving The Nest
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It was the day before my first college semester started. Steve—a high school buddy—and I moved into our new room that day. Except for things like camp, it was the first time either of us lived away from home. We spent the day making our place a perfect pad for two college guys. The furniture came from thrift shops, but that did not matter. It was our place. He did not have to put up with his sisters. I no longer needed to deal with my brothers. No one—not even our parents—was telling us what to do.

We ate—ordering a pizza. That was what cool college students did. Afterwards we high-fived each other, and got ready for the next day’s classes. Then something strange happened. We realized that we did not have a clue about what to do next.

Those siblings and parents that were such a pain? They were not there. But they were part of our lives—until then. Suddenly they were not. Our routines were out of joint. He could not call me about coming over. He was over. He was home. So was I. It became the weirdest evening of our lives.

Other differences soon became apparent. He liked acid rock. I loathed it. I listened to country. He hated it. I did my homework—then partied. He partied first, and partied hard (while I was studying—in the other room, if I did not give up and go to the school library). He got down to schoolwork in the early hours of the morning—often waking me to get an answer about something he was stuck on.

You Get to Make the Rules

Getting ready to go away to college? Your experiences will differ from mine, or Steve’s, but they will be similar, too. You will have to get use to a new place with new people, with lots of new rules. The good news? You get to make a lot of those rules. The bad news? You get to make the rules. It is fun to be in charge, but make bad choices, and you live with the consequences.

College is different from high school. One big difference is that the school is no longer your parent. Most colleges do not watch to see that you go to your classes. In a dorm or apartment, no one checks to see that you are eating properly or going to bed on time.

That is fun—but it is also work. You have to set goals, build and stick to a budget, and keep track of classes and assignments. You have to set your study hours. While doing that, you have to get used to living with someone who may not share your tastes, attitudes, or habits.

Steve and I survived our first semester together, and finished the school year before making new arrangements in our sophomore year. That year was worth it. Your freshman year will be too, if you embrace the change it brings.

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Written by Mark N. Lardas. Portions reprinted with permission from Listen, 2006. Copyright © 2013 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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