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Seminar 1: Bridge #1 – Memoir

College: Weeks Before and After

Written by Selin Karahan September 23, 2016

Before my life changed just a month ago, I was a very relaxed and focused girl. I was born in Ohio, moved to Turkey, and eventually, Switzerland. I had the goal of one day coming back to the United States and residing there after living in Europe for 17 years. Although I did enjoy every year of my life in Europe, I always thought that the United States was my “true home”. I remember living in Turkey and being the only “American” in my classroom (although I am originally Turkish); I was very proud of that. My thoughts still remained the same even after moving to Switzerland later on in my childhood. In fact, having 2 passports made me feel more well fitted at the international school I attended at the time. It gave me a sense of comfort, and even more importantly, my identity.

However, coming to New York City from Switzerland was a real hassle; physically and mentally. There was a huge difference between the two cities: one never sleeps, the other does. I felt tight in my chest, often got shaky around my body by the thought of being alone and even started to forget things constantly. This made saying goodbye to my parents very difficult. Wasn’t New York supposed to feel like home (according to my lifelong thoughts at least)? This was exactly the opposite of what “home” is presumed to feel like. So, why was I miserable in a place which I have been calling “home” for all my life? Everything felt different compared to Europe: the opening direction of the doors and sinks, the way people talk or dress, maps, addresses, traffic rules and even laws. How could I ever get used to this?

Once I started college, I kept thinking that I would be alone for a long time. This made me feel literally isolated, since most of my friends live across the ocean. Having one or two acquaintances from the places I once lived didn’t feel enough or, as I wished, like home. I would Skype my friends from Europe and my parents a lot,  just to talk, and cry a little to get the bad side of this chapter of my life off my chest. There was always a bad thought in my head.

Being alone started causing me anxiety and becoming paranoid by the minute. I often thought of regretting denying the chance of studying in the UK because of this. I had the chance of being very close to most of my friends and family and stay in Europe at the same time. I felt troubled and concerned with my future, which made me feel uncomfortable by just being on the streets with my belongings, taking the subway alone (day and night), talking to people in and outside of school, and even doing homework. The only place I felt peaceful was my own dorm, where I could be alone from all the chaos the outside world has been causing me. Yet, staying in my room eventually made me question this choice: “You can’t make friends staying away from people,” I would tell myself.

Being stressed about my new life hasn’t just caused me to become very cautious about my surroundings, but it has also changed my eating habits. I realized that I was eating my stressy worries away whenever I was working or even taking a break from my work. With this realization, coming to my room to find a bag of Cheetos, 3 bags of Hershey’s Kisses and some more almost-empty packages laying on my desk made me feel bad about my negative thoughts previously.

As I was already disappointed with the beginning of my college life, I wanted things to get better. I tried coming up with rules in my head such as taking deeper breaths every time I start to panic or shake when stressed or treat myself with chocolate for easily speaking up in classes. These rules slowly started to encourage me to open up easily on my way to making new friends, and even telling my hometown friends about these changes that I was going through over Skype.

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