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BWW Blog: Freshman Survival Guide

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College is just one huge balancing act.

BWW Blog: Freshman Survival Guide

Hello theatre students, Broadway lovers and creators around the world! Happy August! Or should I say...happy less-than-a-month-until college starts! While we are certainly living in unprecedented times, life still goes on, and so many of you are packing your cars and bags for a semester away at school! Because all my classes are online and I'm immunocompromised, I will be spending my fall performing from my living room (if you're in a similar situation- please see my last article all about it).

But since a lot of you readers are heading off to school (some of you for the first time!), I thought I'd make a "Mini Survival Guide" with the top 5 things I learned my freshman year of college! Hopefully this will help ease some fears about the upcoming semester and prepare you a little more for your journey ahead! I've also tried to include modifications for the upcoming "partially online" semester a lot of colleges are offering, although it's definitely going to be new for all of us!! Warning: Guide specifically tailored to theatre majors. Alright, let's get started!

5: A lot of the things that you think will matter A LOT at college (Ex. your wardrobe and your dorm room décor) ...actually don't.

I was really worried about having clothes for every situation and occasion at college, with a cute and themed dorm room to match. I didn't want to be ostracized for dressing (or not dressing) a certain way, missing the key clothing element/decoration EVERYONE seemed to have. But once I got to school, I realized that after the first week of classes? Nobody even looked at what you were wearing. Like at all. Except if you have an "Elle Woods at Harvard" situation going on. The college wardrobe mainly consists of big t-shirts and either leggings or sweats. ESPECIALLY now that a lot of classes are online. Focus on your classes themselves, even if through a screen, and just wear what makes you happy. And a lot of times, if you really need a piece of clothing for an occasion (ex. online theatre prom, which did happen at my school) - most people just order it from Amazon to their dorms. And dorm decorations (while they make for cute pictures) cease to matter after the first day. It's what's inside the room that matters (you!).

4: You CAN quit.

Yeah, I don't think you've ever seen that on a motivational poster. Let me explain. The beginning of freshman year comes with a lot of "Join This/That" OVERLOAD. Clubs everywhere passing (or now emailing) you fliers, getting you to (virtually) attend meetings or auditions, saying that this was the club that "changed their life freshman year." It can be incredibly overwhelming, especially when you want to hit the ground running and start finding your people! I wanted to join absolutely everything at once and began auditioning for as many things as I could. I soon realized two things about this: 1) You are not superwoman. You can't handle ninety clubs at once. 2) You may not like a few of the clubs you have joined...and want to leave...but don't know how. This happened to me. Big time. A lot of my first month was spent rushing headlong into clubs, and then figuring out how gracefully exit some of them. I felt like I was morally trapped in these clubs and had to stick them out until I could graduate. Great, I was one month in and my college life was already over. Spoiler alert- it wasn't. Bottom line? Try as many new things as you feel comfortable adding to your plate- but don't feel trapped to stay anywhere you don't want to! Everyone is different, and one club won't necessarily "change your life." This has even greater prevalence now, when the thought of an online semester already sounds like an overload. Be kind and mindful with yourself, and only invest your time in activities truly want to pursue. And know that it's okay if things don't work out.

3: Take it day by day.

As I said before, the first few weeks of freshman year can be VERY overwhelming. A lot of times, I was so worried about what would happen next in my journey (ex. What am I doing this weekend? When will I get this homework done for next week? What am I doing in December???) that I forgot to remain present and enjoy the journey happening around me. Every day in college is a new adventure, with all decisions up to YOU! Yes, even online! So, enjoy it! The way that I got through the crazy overwhelming few weeks was by repeating "one foot in front of the other, take it day by day" to myself whenever I found myself spiraling into next day, week, month, etc. Focus on the day ahead, and the decisions you have to make to ensure your happiness TODAY. Tomorrow will sort itself out. Focus on the present.

2: People (for the most part) are actually nice in college!

Even through a computer screen! And especially in theatre! I was so worried that people would be outright rude or nasty to a little freshman like me that I was practically shaking when I arrived on campus. But everyone genuinely wants to make friends- just like you! All are very open and welcoming to new people, especially the first few weeks. Everyone is in the same boat! And the older people on campus don't tend to be rude either, they really just want to help you figure it all out. A lot of upperclassmen in the theatre department served as mentors to us freshies and were a huge part of integrating me into this new theatre world.

1: College is just one huge balancing act.

This is the case even when a lot of classes and activities are online- they still will take up your time! Especially when you're a theatre student. Be prepared to spend a lot of your time prioritizing and choosing- anything from when you want to eat, to what clubs to join, to what career opportunities to pursue. As a theatre student, this balancing act was often SO difficult for me. Join that virtual play or a socially distant soccer team with your roommates? Log in to that late-night rehearsal or get takeout with your friends? Watch that football game or prepare for your online callback the next day? Making the choice isn't always easy, especially if your school doesn't prioritize theatre (mine likes sports). You want to pursue your Theatre Dreams, but also make friends and explore your life outside of the small department. It's up to you to learn how to balance these different halves of your life, making sure to explore other avenues of yourself (even repertory actors have hobbies) while remaining true to your one love: theatre. It's difficult, but definitely doable. Don't worry about making the right or wrong choice- you learn something about yourself from every choice you make. Just do your best to make mindful decisions that make you and your goals happy! And you can definitely do it. I believe in you 1000%.

If you are going to college to study theatre, then that means you're a truly special person- talented, empathetic, creative and ready to share your gifts with the world. Someone like that can handle whatever life throws at them- whether it be a big audition or a typical college Zoom-Monday. Now, go get packing! You got this.

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From This Author Student Blogger: Leah Packer