health + wellness

What No One Told You About College

by rachel funderburk

I’ve been doing some people watching as of late. I sit in a 7th floors study lounge overlooking Washington Square Park, and I watch hundreds of people momentarily taking their place in that day’s bustle. From above, it’s a dreamy scene—often appearing like slow motion—and I can’t help but feel the distant yet familiar nostalgic feeling of watching ants move through the ant farms my mom and I used to love. The park pulses: kids riding their tottering bikes circling and circling in the now-empty fountain, birds cutting through the air in great flocks, converging then thinning in an ever-flowing, ever-changing wave, and students and students and students from the surrounding NYC universities breathing their spunk and life into the Village’s crafted intersection of nature and concrete. I wonder how many of these students would say that they were happy? How many love what they’re doing? How many just do what they can? How many wonder what they should be doing at all?  

Should is a dangerous word.  

I’m a year behind—I had a year of travel and embracing out of classroom learning before beginning college this August. My friends are now ahead of me, sophomores and older, having already experienced the breakdowns and baffles of freshman year. “Oh freshman year fall—you mean the most lonely & antisocial & withdrawn time of your life?”  

Wait a minute. No one mentioned any of that before. This isn’t what college should be?

"...Wait a minute. No one mentioned any of that before. This isn’t what college should be?" 

College should be like that dumb ABC Family show Greek that my sister and I would watch as kids, desperately anticipating a life of parties and drama. College should be should be like Gossip Girl, a time of emotions and lust, and anything but academics. College should be should be should be like the hundreds of pictures and posts I scroll through on social media. Seeing duplicated lives of tailgating, frat parties, and formals—always smiling faces and funny captions. Always the best and most put together depictions.  

College should be a lot of things, but it’s not really, is it? In reality, most of the time college feels like the same monotonous routine where a nap seems like an accomplishment and every other spare moment is spent thinking about our terrible education system. In reality, college is feeling alone in a crowd, and honestly believing you’re the only one feeling that way. In reality, the depression and suicide rates among college students are higher than ever, yet we still feel the need to project an image where everything seems ok.  

The worst part, and what I’m slowly discovering, is that apparently just about everyone feels this way, but no one is putting it out there. Think about it—most of the time I learn more about my friends’ wellbeing from their finstas than from actually talking with them. We’re all so desperate for someone to reach out, yet we’ve crafted a society where real human emotions remain too guarded to be shared in real life. It’s the difference between a “how are you?” and a “no, really, how are you doing?”—a “give me a surface-level rundown” and an ever-rarer  “I’m really here for you; tell me the struggles, joys, and all the in betweens.”  

"...It’s the difference between a 'how are you?' and a 'no, really, how are you doing?'—a 'give me a surface-level rundown' and an ever-rarer:  'I’m really here for you; tell me the struggles, joys, and all the in betweens.'" 

For me, even when life didn’t make sense in the past, in comparison to now, it made sense. The lows and the highs have always maintained a manageable distance from each other, but now it’s as if one clings to the other, undistinguishable day-to-day until I’m hit full force by one or the other.  I’m recognizing these effects in the strangest ways—like listening to the same 3 albums again and again and again, clinging to some sense of consistency in an ever tumultuous life or switching between apps, refreshing and refreshing and refreshing but never finding whatever it is the flick of a thumb is supposed to bring.    

For me, I’m working on expressing these confusions and frustrations, as I’ve found one person’s openness can make others feel a lot less alone—a feeling of which we only need more.  

I think the only reason I was able to write the jumble of thoughts was because a few things have been going very right these last few days, and it’s in these high times when I must work hardest to appreciate the lows for the signs of growth they convey in order to protect myself from falling too hard when the next wave breaks.  

"Perceptions are dangerous and what we should do is start being real with each other"

The world is ever-changing, the children ever-circling, the birds ever-soaring, and I don’t know exactly what I’m trying to get at here, but I just want to put these things out there and let anyone else feeling these things know that they aren’t alone. We hide it—we all do, but we aren’t alone, with any of this. Perceptions are dangerous and what we should do is start being real with each other. We should start admitting the truths and discussing the hard times, not for the attention or affirmation admission can bring, but for all us broken people to start being able to put each other together again. We should listen, we should care, and above all, we should love—not just in this holiday season, but in every day every interaction every instance of the year. 


Author, Rachel Funderburk

Rachel is a part of the Gold Hand Journalism team

Heyo! I'm Rachel Funderburk, and I'm from Edmond, Oklahoma soon to be in New York City studying business and film at NYU. I'm all about girl power, creative vibes, and world travels, and I spend most of my time obsessing over my dogs, filling my home with plants, rewatching 80s movies, and listening to a ridiculous amount of political podcasts. 

Instagram: @rachelfundy

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