By Lydia Gramstad
It’s a regular school day during my junior year of high school. I brew a cup of hot tea and sit down alone at my desk to pour over Emily Dickinson’s poetry in preparation for an essay due tomorrow. I didn’t have class today, and I don’t have class most days. Instead, I’m a homeschooled student who attends classes at a cooperative twice a week. Although this schedule may seem unorthodox for high school, it’s a remarkably similar format to college classes.
Flash forward two years to when I’m starting college. It’s move-in day, and I quickly begin to realize that having a roommate means no more alone time. As the semester goes on, this realization becomes my reality as I struggle to find times when my roommate is not in the room. She’s there when I wake up in the morning. She’s there when I go to bed at night. She’s there when I’m working through math problems beyond my comprehension or expanding my brain by writing essays in French, which is the real issue here.
Most of my life, I had the luxury of silence and solitude whenever I needed it–an essential part of my ability to succeed academically. Suddenly, I now found myself in a realm in which I could never get alone time in my room. My solution to this issue was to seek out a quiet place elsewhere on campus. I found this haven in a comfy corridor of the art building. There, I could settle in for long nights of undisturbed studying.
As insignificant as it may seem, eating in a cafeteria for every meal was a serious adjustment for me. Although cafeteria eating comes with the benefit of pre-prepared food, there are downsides as well. The obvious one is that it’s not home cooked food, but a more irritating issue to me is the fact that anyone can sit down at my table and start conversing with me. Often, people I’ve never met will join me because the dining hall is full, which can make mealtime incredibly awkward. Other times, a friend will join me, which is much more pleasant, but can still be frustrating. Before you conclude that I have antisocial tendencies, let me clarify.
Imagine waking up after your alarm should have gone off and immediately rushing to get ready for class. After a tiresome morning of lectures and seminars, you grab a bite for lunch with friends before heading to the library for several grueling hours of studying. Finally, it’s a reasonable hour to eat dinner, and you just want a break. A break from thinking and from talking. You make your way around the cafeteria and spot an empty table. You slide in some earphones and play your favorite chill album before digging into the steaming hot food. Soon, a shadow creeps up behind you, and a friend taps on your shoulder. “Can I sit with you?” It would be rude to say no without an obvious reason, so you allow the disturbance to happen. Just like that, your peaceful dinner shatters before your eyes.
Although my adjustment to college may have been more difficult socially than that of most students, I believe homeschooling adequately prepared me for the academic side of college. While most students were used to spending all day in the classroom and having a few hours of homework at night, my high school experience consisted of mostly independent study and some class time—just like college. I may have had to stretch myself past my comfort zone and find ways to work around being with people constantly, but it turned out to be a positive thing for me to expand my social interactions. Because college pushed me, I am a more social and more accommodating human being. Maybe I didn’t initially want to be forced to adapt, but now, I wouldn’t have it any other way.