As TCKs, many of us are used to moving around a lot. Still, going “home” for college can be the toughest move of all. Having moved to the States for college just last year, I would know. Here are 10 things you can do before leaving to make the transition easier.
1. Revisit your favorite places. And I don’t just mean your favorite restaurants, although that’s certainly important. In all seriousness, do make a point of revisiting favorite hangout spots, parks, etc. with your loved ones. It’ll give you some sense of closure, not to mention create plenty of new memories.
2. Be a tourist in your own city. We all have some places we’ve been meaning to visit, but keep putting off. Although I’ve lived in Hong Kong most of my life, I’ve never seen the Big Buddha, or been to the Cheung Chau Bun festival. I tell myself it’s because that stuff is for tourists, but the truth is, I’ve just been too lazy. So get off Facebook, and go on a relaxing hike today. Take the tram. Live a little. If nothing else, it’ll give you a chance to explore a different side of your city.
3. Stock up on special items from home. With airlines tightening their belts left and right, it’s probably a good idea to try and pack light. But there are certain items from back home that are worth packing simply because they’re unavailable in other countries. For example, it’s pretty hard to find my favorite rich tea fingers in American grocery stores, so I usually buy a few packs before heading back to New York. And on that note…
4. PACK. Start early, because this is gonna take a while. I don’t care how much of a minimalist you think you are – once you get going, you’ll realize how much crap you’ve accumulated over the years. Get used to it, though, because this process will repeat itself every time you move in and out of your dorm or apartment. While it’s important to take necessities like clothing, it’s also a good idea to bring pictures or other objects of sentimental value. I’m not ashamed to admit I brought some stuffed animals to college. Sure, they were a pain to carry, but they are tangible reminders of home.
5. Do some spring (or summer) cleaning. While you’re packing, you might as well get rid of stuff you’re never gonna wear again. That shirt you haven’t touched since middle school? Straight to the bin. Depending on where you live, though, not everything needs to be trashed per se. For instance, my apartment complex in Hong Kong runs an annual clothing and book drive. Stuff like this is a great chance to clear up some space while doing some good. After all, you know what they say about one man’s trash.
6. Take care of the little things. Doctor’s visits, haircuts, brow appointments… I can’t tell you how many errands I have to run every time I’m back in Hong Kong. In the frenzy that ensues before the initial departure, though, it’s easy to forget to take care of routine checkups. Of course, you may choose to see a new dentist or hairdresser wherever you’re headed. But it’s probably a good idea to check in with your current practitioners before you go, just in case. Especially if you’re wearing braces.
7. Say goodbye to everyone. It may seem obvious, but taking the time to say proper goodbyes is critical. People often subconsciously withdraw from relationships as they’re about to leave. While this defense mechanism might make us feel less pain in the short term, it can lead to plenty of regrets in the long run. So, instead of clocking out from your relationships early, make a point of letting friends and family know just how much you care.
8. Start planning things to do once you get there. As mentioned above, try not to let your heart fly away before your body. But for those of you who are reluctant to leave home, picturing all the cool new things you’ll get to experience should help to ease those feelings of doubt. At the very least, it’ll give you something to look forward to. When the fact that I’d be leaving friends and family finally began to sink in, I consoled myself by imagining all the fun things I’d do once I got to NYU. Indie cafés, Central Park and U.S. Open, here I come!
9. Know that you’ll probably be back one day. If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my time abroad, it’s that homesickness catches up with everyone eventually. Fact: being homesick sucks, but hey, at least it means you lived a pretty good life back home. Throwing yourself into your new life is probably the easiest way to deal, but if all else fails, comfort yourself with the knowledge that you’ll probably be home in a couple of months. In all likelihood, the feeling will pass. Still, don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you feel homesickness taking over your life. Prolonged moodiness could be a symptom of serious depression.
10. Stay in touch… to an extent. With Facebook and Skype, there’s no excuse not to keep in touch these days. Still, don’t spend so much time staying in touch with old friends that you forget to live your new life. Going away to college is like evolution for relationships – it’s a matter of survival of the fittest. You won’t keep in touch with everyone, but chances are, you’ll stay friends with the people who count.
Do you have other tips on how to prepare for college? Share your ideas below!
Valerie is a sophomore at NYU.