Our son returned home from Williams College for Christmas break a very happy young man. His first semester at college in Massachusetts was far more challenging than he expected. It was also more fun and exhilarating than he expected. Even after the grueling course load, he was anxious to get back to Williams College and start the winter study program in early January.
Freshman year can be brutal
Neither the new student nor the parents know how the college freshman will react, cope, and survive traveling across the country to attend college. The parental anxiety for our child’s mental health was only heightened by the several emails we received from the college about how to gage and talk to a college freshman. It’s a good thing that the college administration communicates with the parents about the stresses such as being home sick, social isolation, and the rigorous coursework the freshmen are facing.
Fortunately for us, our son seems to be relishing the challenges presented to him. He didn’t ease into college classes. He started off with advanced calculus, inorganic chemistry, economics and a history course his first semester. To insure he had no free time he participated in cross country traveling to several races throughout the northeast and running 75 miles per week. On top of that, he had to work several hours at one of the college cafes and participate in dorm activities.
Not as much free time as expected
His one observation about the way all colleges market themselves to prospective students was that there is far less leisure time than what is depicted in college brochures. He said it is impossible to participate in a sport, maintain your studies, and also be active in a music or theatre program for fun.
Our son has never expressed any particular concern about competing with other students. He tends to compete against himself. Similar to running, he is not so concerned about the other runner’s times; he places more emphasis on if he is improving his race time.
From the little formation he shares about his social life, he acknowledges the range of different personalities and backgrounds of people in his dorm and classes. It sounds as if he has really found his tribe with the cross country crew. He even spent Thanksgiving at the home of a fellow runner in Concord, MA.
He said the best weekend of his life so far was the road trip back to Oshkosh Wisconsin to cheer on the William’s runners competing at the NCAA Championship Cross Country Race. Traveling in a caravan of cars, they all took turns driving while the other passengers either slept of studied. There was an impromptu detour to see Niagara Falls at night and he wasn’t even bothered by sharing motel beds.
If he wanted freedom and independence, he has found it as a college freshman. And he really seems to be enjoying college adulthood. He is already strategizing on how he can get a summer internship with a chemistry professor so he can spend summer in Massachusetts. Of course, he said he would come home for at least a week when school ends so he could have his wisdom teeth pulled. Well, I guess parents are good for something after all.
I suppose we, as parents, should be happy that our son wants to get back to school rather than hang around with mom and dad. Although, I do wish he would share more pictures and stories with us. But if he is happy, I’m not sure I can ask for much more. Happiness is relative. In the spring semester he’ll be taking organic chemistry and statistics. We’ll see how happy he is after those classes.