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The Move This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

It was almost 2 a.m., and my alarm was set for 6. Despite this, I couldn't fall asleep. I was lying in bed filled with the anticipation of a child on Christmas Eve. After nearly a decade, it was finally here: the day I'd been waiting for. No wonder I couldn't sleep.

My move-in time was 8:30 a.m., and the dårive to Tempe would take thirty minutes. Like a traveling circus, I had packed everything I owned. I knew it was going to be tedious ­towing, carrying, and rearranging all my possessions in my dorm room. Nevertheless, enthusiasm was running unrestrained in my brain and glowing through my eyes, allowing me to fight through my fatigue. Even the car ride – complete with my dad's road rage and my mom's crying – didn't faze me. The day had finally arrived.

Let's rewind a bit. I had graduated from high school three months earlier, but it already felt like ages ago. I remember when I downloaded a digital countdown application on my cell phone senior year; it calculated I had 257 days until the move. That felt like a long time. Not until it read 170 did the excitement begin. My friendships began to wear thin as the realization sunk in that we would soon be going our separate ways. I was fed up with the same old high school routine; I was clamoring for change. I wanted new friends, new scenery, a new me. College was the gateway to everything I had been yearning for, and as the countdown crept closer to single digits, my anticipation amplified.

In the middle of my last night at home, my mind compiled every image I'd ever seen and every story I'd ever heard about college life into the archetype of what I hoped my experience would be. I drew the setting from one of my favorite movies, “The Social Network,” mentally constructing ornate, Gothic campus buildings. Then I turned to “A Beautiful Mind” to make the scene more credible, adding intelligent scholars and their legacies. (Every esteemed university needs a delirious genius.) Lastly, and a bit ashamedly, I referenced the classic National Lampoon's “Animal House”: need I say more?

When I finally made the seemingly infinite trek from high school to my dorm room, I was confronted with a college experience that fell short of my dreams. Where were the Gothic buildings? Where were the perpetually brooding scholars? Where were the statues of flag-holding founders? All I found were overwhelming piles of reading, tests, essays, lab reports, work, clubs, studying, and other responsibilities of being an honors student. I know the reason I came to college was “to get a good education to set myself up for the future.” We all want that. But I still wanted that iconic college experience.

My classes started off hard and only got more difficult. Maybe I could blame it on my science major, or perhaps it was all of the extracurricular groups I felt obligated to join. I felt like a six-year-old who just found out Santa isn't real.

When I vented to friends and family, they all said the same thing: “Give it time. Things will get better.” I knew this was true, but I was impatient. With every passing weekend, my ­situation seemed to remain the same. Time and time again, I was let down. Even detail about my college experience began to bother me, like the sub-par cafeteria food.

I repeatedly passed old high school classmates on the campus of 70,000 students. This frequency seemed to be more than coincidental. Fate wasn't letting me have that “fresh start” I wanted. It was the little things like this that irked me. They began piling up and driving me crazy.

I was advised to “give things a chance,” “try something new,” and “meet new people.” I knew I should have followed this advice more carefully – it might have eased my culture shock – but I had set my standards much too high. I'd created a mental image of exactly what I expected college to be and set myself up for disappointment. Maybe I had no one to blame but myself, but the closer I looked at the American stereotype of college, the more cracks I began to see. This was the true culprit of my collegiate angst.

Although my college experience was disappointing at first, with time I finally adjusted my expectations and faced the realities of higher education. The answer was much simpler than the other advice that was thrown at me. Instead of waiting for a day that would never arrive or continually trying something new to the point where I didn't have any free time, I simply decided to lower my standards, for now. This was an effective coping ­device.

There is a silver lining to this story. My experiences have motivated me to pursue graduate school where I feel I truly belong. I now have “bigger and better” dreams to achieve, not just for college, but for my future career.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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