College offers freshmen opportunities to become active, involved

How can we make a home in a place that feels so foreign?

We’re not in Kansas anymore – and we’re certainly not in high school either.

Yes, we would be shut off and unaware, but at least we’d have a place – at least we wouldn’t feel so small.

And this is why for many freshmen, the first few weeks of college life are among their most difficult.

Stripped of our protective shells, we feel anxious, awkward and insecure.

For many, the answer is simple – make a photocopy. Turn your new life into your old life in all the ways you can. Turn your dorm room – or at least your half of it – into a shrine of your past life, with photographs of old friends, posters that hung in your home bedroom for years and stuffed animals from your childhood.

Find a group of friends and shelter yourself from the outside world.

And, if you get really lonely, go to a frat party and drink it all away.

For others, there is no answer, and it becomes too much.

Students drop out, fail out or wait around for something to happen. And when nothing does they’ll give up, curl up and long for the past.

For others still, the answer is bigger – and it isn’t even an answer, because it denies the question as a valid one.

College is not our home. It is not about finding our place in an exclusive society.

Instead, it’s about preparing to find our place in the world. It’s not about recreating our past. It’s about forging our future.

College presents opportunities, and we should consider ourselves lucky. Meet new people, try new things, travel and see the world.

Up until now, our lives have been laid out for us by teachers, parents and bosses. Now it’s our time – we can do whatever we want, take the classes we never could, study abroad in places we never knew about and meet people from all walks of life.

Talk to your professors, learn from your upperclassmen and make the most of the resources available to you.

Doors are opening all around us, and there are so many things we can do – go to an off-campus film viewing, poetry reading, seminar or discussion.

If you want to learn to defend yourself, join the Martial Arts Club. If you’ve always wanted to do something for the environment, join Water Watch or Students Acting For the Environment.

If political activism is your thing, get your friends out to vote.

Make time to try things you wouldn’t otherwise and don’t be afraid to take a few chances.

Our settings have changed, and the thing that makes it difficult is that our perspectives take longer to grow.

In times past, we saw pictures in 4-inch-by-6-inch frames – now we see poster size. Now, in fact, there is no frame. It’s just the world, and no place or thing in it is too far.

The magnitude of this is frightening – but it shouldn’t be. Our pasts are still there, and they’re not going anywhere. We’ll always take the important people, things and memories with us.

The important thing isn’t letting go, it’s expanding – removing our seals and exposing ourselves (metaphorically) to the world.

The scary part is taking the plunge, but the reward – or life waiting on the other side – makes it all worth it.

In his inaugural speech in South Africa in 1994, Nelson Mandela said: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Life is too short to waste locked up inside yourself – so come out of your cage and you’ll find that the world is a lot clearer from the outside looking in.