On my first weeks at Vassar

From the sweltering summer morning I dragged my whole life into that tiny dorm room until today, two weeks later, I have experienced the best and worst days of my life. My newfound freedom has become a blessing and a curse. I get to do nothing all day without worrying about my parents coming up over my shoulder to complain. I spend my weekends alone in the library, unsure of how to spend my time. I walk into the Deece, find a quiet corner, and once again put my headphones on to eat alone. I go from class to class, smiling and giggling when my professor lets me look at a rare moth. I sit on a bench and sob while it pours, unsure of what I am doing and why I am here. I sit with my student fellow group and watch “Jennifer’s Body.” I curl up under the covers of my far-too-tall bed and cry while ignoring the stranger on the other side of my room. I have no friends and far too many textbooks. I drink more coffee than is safe and ignore the pit in my chest when I think about how lonely I am. I sweat through my clothes and then shiver in the library. 

There is no way to boil down my first-year experience into a concise explanation. In the three weeks since I first arrived, I have snuck onto roofs and melted on the third floor of Rocky. I have no idea what I am doing, but why does that matter? I have met hundreds of people, their names becoming alphabet soup in my brain. I eat at the weirdest hours and cannot bring myself to care. Is this adulthood? I spend far too much time in dark corners of the library; my classes quickly consume my life. I dip my toes into the world of college parties and once again find myself disappointed. I have spent the past four years frantically waiting for the moment I could leave high school behind and go to college. I am finally here, yet it feels like nothing has changed. I still spend my days alone; I cry far too often; I find myself wanting something more.

How is it that this is my next four years? Late nights spent listening to music and watching the rain fall. I drag myself out of bed on quiet Sunday mornings and prepare for another college week. I walk from one side of campus to the other; the feeling of being lost never goes away, not even when I stand in the room I have started to call home. Not much has changed in these three long weeks, yet I am a completely different person. I go days without talking to my parents, or really anyone at all. I am overwhelmed by my mile-long to-do list, yet bored. I love my classes, but I also want to curl up in a ball and never get out of bed again. I keep meeting the same people over and over again. Their names never seem to stick and their faces blur together.

I am miserable and also the happiest I have ever been. I am in one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I am finally getting to choose what I study. I can spend as much time alone as I want. My first-year experience is one of joy and sorrow. This is everything I have ever wanted and the most difficult challenge. I do not know how my four years at Vassar will look—all I can do now is hope. I can hope that I find friends, figure out who I am and what I want; hope that this feels normal and hope that my perpetual headache fades. As the weather cools and the days get shorter, I finally feel myself settling in. I cannot quite believe myself when I say that I belong here. But I do. 

Many of my peers have begun congregating in small groups. Their friendships are already established. I desperately cling to any sense of belonging and friendship; I long for a shoulder to lean and cry on after a long day. But I find comfort in the heat of the sun and the smell of freshly cut grass. I smile and wave at absolute strangers, pretending to remember where I met them. I feel out of place and out of my mind. I claim a library table, and it becomes my new home. I blast sad music and wonder why I am unhappy. My only consolation is that this will get better. I am a raincloud ruining a sunny day. But now all I have to do is look for another person who loves the rain as much as I do.


  1. Hanna: you’ve written a beautiful, touching and poignant account of your first three weeks at Vassar. I feel you disappointment and discomfort. All I can say is that this sounds just about right on for the first three weeks of college. I hope you update us three weeks from now.

    Paul ‘78

  2. Hannah: I salute your honesty and vulnerability. This is so beautifully written. I ache for you. My hope for you is that you connect in meaningful ways with a few people whose company you enjoy, and who you can have fun with over the next few years. And who knows maybe even make some friends for life. The start of freshman year is really hard and I know that you speak for a lot of people.

  3. Hannah, you write beautifully and you feel intensely. Your friends already are at Vassar, you just haven’t met them yet. I hope you find my daughter: she loves the rain. In the meantime, you have your studies and you have your art. I hope you are journaling for your future self. And, like Paul, I hope you will share with us again. You have an audience now and we care about you!

    Franz (2026 parent)

  4. Finally, someone else has said it. Thank you for this, Hannah.
    This has been the biggest change of my life, but not one I have yet noticed. I don’t even know how to phrase it – I can curl up with a book until 3AM, rot in my bed upon waking up, or marvel in the now-less-torturous weather, but I can’t put my finger on how huge this has all been. There’s so much to think about and so little we have the time for.
    If you’d like to make time for that thought, I do quite love the rain. Reach out anytime, it would be an absolute honor to contemplate the everyday insanity of college with you.

    Jonathan Eccher-Mullally (2027)

  5. Dear Hannah,

    Thank you for speaking for yourself and many other students who are navigating such a profound life change!

    I know you didn’t share your story to get advice. You took a risk and shared your vulnerability by writing!

    Do that out there with individuals— ask a classmate to have lunch or your roommate to go on one of your walks. And yes, join a club or two.

    You’ve got this! Take the courage that caused you to share your story and carry it forward! Your future friends at Vassar need your voice and friendship!

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