Exploring the Expectations of College

The other day I was asked a simple question—“Is college better than you expected, as you expected, or worse than you expected?” After hearing the question, I opened my mouth to speak, but no words came out. I had no idea how to answer this straightforward question that only required a short response.

After a few awkward moments of silence, I finally uttered the words, “I don’t really know.” Despite my inability to give an adequate answer, the question stuck around in my head. As I look back on the school year as it begins to wind down, the question has made me reflect on my first year as a Boston College student.

So let’s start with some positives. Before coming to BC, I was under the impression that spending time in the city of Boston would be a rare occurrence. But I regularly venture into town to satisfy my food cravings and de-stress with a bit of retail therapy. I never thought I would get to visit the North End whenever I felt like a decadent cannoli or a little taste of Italy.

Prior to leaving for Boston, I saw the movie Brooklyn, the story of a young girl who leaves Ireland for New York City. Eilis—played by Saoirse Ronan—struggles with homesickness as she adjusts to her new life in America.

I worried that I would suffer from homesickness like Eilis. Even before finishing high school, I was anxious about the idea of moving to a new city and dreaded leaving the comforts of home. Thankfully, I never felt the agony of being separated from home like the film depicted. My mom insisted I didn’t get homesick because of all the praying she had been doing. While that may be the case, it seemed like I was ready to leave home.

But my first year of college wasn’t always easy. Academically, I struggled to adjust to the rigor of BC classes and underestimated the workload. In the first semester, I foolishly signed up for a science class that I thought would be a breeze. I ended up spending hours at a time studying elaborate terms and concepts that I could never memorize. Eventually I had to throw in the towel and take an L.

I had high expectations for the food at BC. Upperclassmen I knew said it was “world-class” and “superb.” I had heard about the renowned steak and cheese sub that the New York Times called “an excellent sandwich.” After a few weeks of eating at Mac and Eagle’s every day, however, I longed for a home-cooked meal. While the food at BC may be good compared to other schools, the dining halls constantly serve the same dishes.

In many ways, college has been what I expected. I was well aware of the dorming situations for freshmen at BC, and had mentally prepared myself for the communal bathrooms. While it’s been far from an ideal situation, it only took me a few months to get used to sharing a bathroom with the dozens of other guys on my hall. Unlike with suite bathrooms that never get cleaned, the showers and toilets in freshman dorms are usually spotless and pristine.

Whenever I told someone I was going to college in Boston, they would always warn me about the cold. So it came as no surprise when temperatures slid below 10 degrees and snowstorms cancelled classes. While the winter did seem a bit longer than I had expected, I was prepared for the extremely low temperatures.

While I did have to overcome many hurdles this past year, I would sum up my freshmen year at BC as rewarding and humbling. So the next time I’m asked, “Is college better than you expected, as you expected, or worse than you expected?” my answer will be that is was all of the above.

Featured Image by William Batchelor / Heights Editor