‘Excited to begin’: A freshman’s transition to college

Paige Watson and her friend Emily Paulin look at a picture on Paulin’s phone as the two wait for an elevator in Watson’s dorm on UK’s campus on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Lexington, Kentucky. Watson is a freshman at UK this semester and her best friend, Paulin is a student at Eastern Kentucky University, which is only about 20 minutes away from Lexington. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Akhira Umar

A new school year means new students are rolling in, and that comes with a roller coaster of emotions and experiences.

The transition from high school to college is a milestone that can be a mixture of exciting opportunities and nerve-wracking challenges.

For incoming freshman Paige Watson, her first taste of independence came from an experience she shared with hundreds of other freshmen on campus: Big Blue Move-In. For Watson, an out-of-stater, living on campus alongside thousands of other students is an opportunity she just couldn’t pass up.

“I knew I didn’t want to go to school in West Virginia, and I had lived in Kentucky before so I was familiar with the state and knew UK was a great school,” Watson said.

She said she did research and decided that she liked the dorm setup, as well as the location of UK.

“I figured UK was the best place for me because I still have friends and family in Kentucky if I need them but I’m still living away from them,” she said.

Like many other first-year students, this will be Watson’s first time living on her own. One crucial factor in successfully living on one’s own is self-awareness. A 2017 report from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health showed the top four concerns of college students were anxiety, depression, stress and family. Concerns such as these come with college in general but may be even more concerning when moving into college dorms.

UK Counseling Center Director Mary Chandler Bolin stressed the importance of mental health in college, especially during freshman year and the move-in process.

“Some students may arrive at college having already experienced symptoms of anxiety, depression, disordered eating, PTSD, substance abuse, ADHD or other conditions which may be exacerbated by transitional stress,” Bolin said. “It is crucial that students maintain the behaviors which have helped them manage any symptoms.”

She mentioned behaviors such as regular sleep, complying with prescribed medication and connecting with campus resources such as the UK Counseling Center (859-257-8701) and the University Health Service (Behavioral Health, at 859-323-5511).

Despite these concerns, Watson, who already deals with mental health issues, believes she will be able to handle the big move with the support of family and friends. In fact, Watson’s family found that the advantages of living on campus outweigh the disadvantages.

“My parents really wanted me to live in a dorm my first year so that way I could be on campus and close to all of the fun things happening,” Watson said. “They are hoping this encourages me to get out of my comfort zone.”

Yet a comfort zone is exactly what Watson moved into on Aug 15. Through the chaos of families and carts full of clothes lining Huguelet Drive and just about every other residential road on UK’s campus, Watson found a home away from home she’s sure she’ll like. With the help of residential staff, her move-in experience went quickly and smoothly, surprising her and her family. She is also living in a dorm where she’ll have her own separate room, leaving her brother, who didn’t have the same amenities at his college, envious.

Despite not being part of a Living Learning Program or knowing anyone at UK, Watson is confident that she’ll be okay here, and moving into the dorms will only help her all the more.

“I’m sad to leave the familiar faces and places but I’m excited to begin my life,” Watson said. “I know that no matter what, my close friends and family members will be there for me despite the distance.”