I’m Moving Out: Looking Back at My Freshman Year


Samantha Phan

For the past nine months, I’ve lived in a small white room with a concrete floor. I have a twin bed with a hard mattress, a wooden desk and closet, and a window where I can look out into the street and see the people passing by. I have a calendar that is still stuck in January, a dusty traffic cone, and a “My Neighbor Totoro” poster above the light switch. And now, I have boxes and suitcases lining my walls so I can bring everything back home again. 

Nine months ago my dad and I drove here in a rented sedan with everything I owned piled into the back seat. I had never been here before, so even though we had arrived 30 minutes early, I started moving in 20 minutes late. We had driven around for almost an hour trying to find where we were supposed to be. Then, the move-in staff could not find my ID card. And once they did, the chip did not work and I could not get into the room. But after running around for hours trying to get everything situated I was finally in this tiny room with all my things. I unpacked the boxes, put the sheets on my pillow, sat on my bed, and cried. 

I remember thinking that going to college was going to be the worst experience of my entire life. And I might have been right in some ways. There were some days when I paced around my room anxious about an exam. There were occasions when I stared out the window and just looked for hours, too tired to do anything else. There were times that I cried just like that first night. 

But there were also things that were really great. I made some of the best friends of my life. I tried new things and explored new places. I stayed out late and slept in and missed class. I joined new organizations. I went on trips. And after I would come back to my room, look inside, and think, “I’m glad that this is my life now.” I would stare at my posters and my bedsheets and my little mugs that sit on top of the dresser and smile. 

I’m packing it all up now and it feels strange. 

I’m putting away the pens that I wrote notes with for my first classes, back when I still took them. I’m folding my favorite jackets that I wore on late-night walks to the beach. I’m throwing away all of the little sticky notes that reminded me to do my laundry that day. Everything is moving back into the boxes that I came in and soon my room will just become a room with nothing left in it. The posters are gone, the traffic cone is returned, and the calendar is put away. Everything is as it was. 

It’s a little bittersweet, cleaning up the most formative year of my life into a bit of cheap plastic. But I think that is just how things go. I’ll put things away only to take them back out again in a few months. I’ll fly things home, and bring some other stuff back. I’ll live in different rooms in different places and things will change but, somehow, they will also say the same. 

I’m saying goodbye to my room now, the walls empty and the closets barren. My memories are packed into suitcases that I take on my way out. Goodbye to my small room. Thank you for being there for me.

Photo via Kadarius Seegars on Unsplash