Uff da! That simple Norwegian exclamation was the first thing that came to mind as I sat down to write this month’s message for the newsletter. As you may recall, our daughter is headed off to college this fall. She’s an only child, and there are many thoughts and emotions about this experience that “uff da” simply captures.
Some of you reading this will be headed toward a similar path. Or, as I see football athletes on the blue turf and other athletes arriving, yours may have already begun! But for me this week has been one of preparation, getting in some lasts before we head to Ohio to take our daughter to college, and simply spending time together doing our favorite family things.
People often ask me how I am managing this transition. I appreciate the question, and it’s one I know I have asked—often at the car window outside Ylvisaker on the main move-in day. I am thankful that my response to the question is “great.” It’s because her enthusiasm and excitement for this next step are palpable. Does she have some concerns about what’s ahead? Sure, and every new student does. But the energy that is driving her is one of positive anticipation and readiness.
I am blessed that she is excited and ready. Part of this can be attributed to the fact that she has effectively grown up on college campuses. She has a lens into college life that is unique and has helped her to be ready. Students experience a range of emotions as they are readying for college to begin. As I share during ROAD, society emphasizes college as an important part of someone’s journey. But it is simply that: part of a continuing journey. For students who are unsure about what’s next, anxious about how they might fit in, or questioning whether than can “do college,” the best advice I can offer is that they are not alone; you are not alone. More importantly, they can do this.
We know that students come to college with a range of personal experiences, successes, and failures. Students carry with them histories that include diagnoses and trauma, displacements and adjustments, beginnings and endings. These histories are a partner with them on their journey and can be a source of profound wisdom. I hope that students, with your assistance, can tap into this wisdom to serve them as they begin this next stage in their personal journey.
We can’t promise their college experience will be perfect. It won’t be. Of course, life itself is far from perfect. We gain from engaging in our experiences and focusing our energies toward outcomes that are meaningful (not necessarily perfect or positive), and this can lead to the growth and development that transitions a student from adolescent to adulthood.
For those of you who are experienced parents of college students, I trust you’ve found this to be the case with respect to your students' college career. Perhaps when they moved in they were anxious, uneasy, and worried about what was coming. Maybe you drove home wondering whether you would be making a return trip sooner than planned. And yet, perhaps what happened is that they connected with peers, got into a grove and schedule, and adventured into opportunities that shifted their initial anxious moments into ones of connection and confidence. This all might have happened that first week, perhaps it took the spring semester, or maybe it is still in process.
Do I anticipate calls (or texts or Facetime)? Yes. Will some of them be marked by uncertainty and frustration? Yes. But rather than telling her what to do, I will listen for her to identify what is an issue and what she can do about it. Will I be pulled by a thought of wanting to be there? Yes. But that likely will pass quickly, given that she will be 12 hours away. I imagine my greatest challenge will be the reality that she is not a quick drive away. For those of you who are a long distance from Decorah, I trust you’ve encountered this dynamic.
I’ll likely report back in a future newsletter about how her journey has proceeded and what lessons I’ve learned as a parent. I trust there will be lessons that could be expected, but I also know that there are always unpredictable situations. It is perhaps those that provide the deepest learning.
For those of you who are beginning another year of this journey toward graduation, I hope that you are experiencing a renewed energy and enthusiasm. It may seem like only yesterday you were pulling up to Brant, Olson, or Ylvisaker Halls to move your student in. I anticipate these next few years will pass by quickly. What I need to recall is that the number of hours in a day and days in a year don’t change. I need to not lose sight of making meaning of all our experiences and ensure that I encourage my daughter to lean into her experience as fully as she can.