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Letter to my past self

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University of Massachusetts blogger Xenia Arinez in her freshman year (at left), and her senior year (at right)

Dear freshman Xenia,

Our college journey is coming to an end pretty soon, can you believe it? At the risk of sounding like an old lady, I have to wonder where time went. These past four years have flown by, and it’s almost time we leave our safety net and begin the next part of our lives. But, am I truly me if I don’t go all sappy and retrospective about our time in college? (The answer is no, you know this, I know this, every person who’s ever known us knows this).  

Going to college in the US has been the dream forever, and now that it’s here it turns out that it’s low-key terrifying to leave Bolivia and start a new life from scratch. I know you’ll miss small things from home, like listening to reggaeton everywhere you go, and going out to the same coffee spot with your friends every week.

But instead of pining because you miss your music, make a playlist and listen to it every time you’re feeling homesick. As for your friends, you will meet new people, I swear. The friendships you’ll build might not feel like the ones you’ve built with your friend from home, but isn’t that great? You get to have new perspectives, and new traditions, and your life will be that much better for that.

I will say this once: stop worrying so much.  I know how much you love to worry about every little thing in your life, but the world isn’t going to end because you need an extension for that essay, or because you overslept and you missed that morning class (don’t make a habit out of it though).

You have this idea ingrained in your head that everything needs to go flawlessly, but dude, life happens and flaws in the plan are pretty much a given. Just go with it. It’s not about fighting the waves, it’s about learning how to surf. Xenia, learn how to surf, and you will be fine.

Take care of yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’m sorry to tell you that these next four years are going to be a bit of an uphill battle. Your life is going to change time and again, and there’s no way to be ready for it. Some things will be out of your control, and others won’t. You’ll have a lot of stress and anxiety, and while I know you’re strong enough to make it through, I also know you’re strong enough to ask for help when you feel like you can’t.

It’s easy to forget about yourself when your to-do list is a mile long, but it’s important to take a minute every now and then. If you need to breathe — take a second to breathe. Also, if you need help breathing, don’t be afraid to reach out. Call the Center for Counseling and Psychological Help (CCPH), and get that appointment. Go to stress GPS. Go to that support group. You’ll need those eventually, and there’s absolutely no shame in admitting that it’s a little too much. Be it family, school, or just life in general, the University of Massachusetts is there for you. You don’t have to go through any of it alone, because you’re not. 

Don’t be scared to get out of your comfort zone. Your first instinct is going to be to shut down and run back to what you know; ignore that instinct. It’s terrifying to leave everything and everyone you’ve ever known behind, but if you open yourself up to new opportunities and people, everything is going to feel a thousand times easier.

Half the fun is learning something new as often as you can, and how are you going to do that if you don’t allow yourself to try?  Don’t be afraid to join your school publications. Spoiler alert: in three years you’ll write the first ever non-English article in the Daily Collegian. Do you know how huge that is? You can accomplish great things if you only step a little outside of your safety zone. It may not always be amazing, but at least you can say you tried, and that’s the whole point.

You have a great path ahead of you, all you need to do is be brave and walk through it.

Love always,

Future Xenia


Transitioning to College

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