Transitioning into college brought with it a new set of experiences for me. Everything was new and exciting, but I also recall feeling emotionally stressed about making new friends and connections. Being an international student intensified my situation as I tried to look for something relatable in a foreign environment. Bonding with new people with similar interests made it easier, but just as quickly as I bonded and made new friends, my perceptions of people could and did change.
Still, it was a pleasant beginning to things. Every second or third person had origins from another country, which kept life interesting. I had the opportunity to meet people of different cultural backgrounds, and I got to appreciate the differences and similarities we shared. It was also a time to figure out what it felt like to live independently and to learn how best to manage myself. Once the excitement died down, I also realized that the same notion of independence could apply to people, and that some newly-formed relationships just weren’t meant to last. I had to come to terms with what I was comfortable with and what I wasn’t, even if it meant that some friendships had to break.
I tend to believe that it is human nature to avoid harming others. How do you tell someone that you’re not comfortable with certain things? How do you tell someone you don’t want to associate with them anymore? I spent too much time keeping quiet, watching and brushing things off, and trying to convince myself that tomorrow would be better and that there were other things that deserved my attention and stress. Truthfully speaking, you cannot expect the future to look brighter when you’re ignoring the past, and that appeared to be the one thing I continued to do.
I realized I spent most of my life bottling my feelings and not truly expressing what I felt needed to be heard, hence why I always let others feel comfortable while I lived in discomfort. But in a short span of time at the beginning of my college experience, I realized that I couldn’t and shouldn’t continue tolerating life as it was, especially if it could be changed. I’m grateful for the opportunity to build new relationships and connect with people because I believe that experience saved me. It took relying on new friends to show me that I had the support I needed to break off from certain bonds, and it took relying on a dean to realize that putting yourself first is not a bad thing.
Prioritizing myself was of course in some way going to affect others around me, whether in a good or bad way. I could end up offending someone, and I most definitely could end up losing friends. I would be inviting the experience of pain and loss, which in fact tends to hurt both parties. Still, I had to remember that I didn’t come to Andrews just for the new people and the new experiences, I also came here for me. Naturally, the friendships and the adventures I could make were aspects I welcomed wholeheartedly, but I still had to remember that there was still me, and before any of these experiences existed, I existed. I too needed the time to grow, I too needed the space to be, and I too needed to be comfortable, even when it meant that others were not.
It was a time period to grow, a chance to know myself better and to understand where I stood in new and unfamiliar places. Perhaps the whole reason why I never had to take a stand for myself was because I never needed to, in familiar places nothing feels foreign and faraway, there’s nothing to adjust to when everyone and everything was a comfort of its own. So I offer this: remember to take time to choose yourself, and be comfortable with the things that you want to do and the places you want to be in. You don’t have to constantly conform, and you don’t always have to sacrifice just to keep someone else happy. While you’re still finding yourself, remember to prioritize you too, even if someone is hurt by you, because sometimes you need to recall who you’re doing it for.
An Honors student at Andrews University, sophomore Beaula Mangundah is studying medical laboratory science. She speaks English, Afrikaans, and Shona.
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