Transitioning to life after high school is not easy, even when you have plenty going for you. Whether figuring out how to make a living, studying a trade, or heading off to college, so much change can create tumultuous times for anyone.
Emery Bergmann experienced this when she moved to Cornell University. She had a picture in her head of how everything would work out, but no amount of planning could have prepared her for how she’d feel her freshman year.
In a word, Emery was lonely. Although she was surrounded by people, she felt far away — unable to reach out or form deep relationships. So when her Introduction to Digital Media class asked her to create a video about a transformation, she knew right away what hers would be about.
In the short video, Emery describes what it was like to leave her close friends behind to attend a large university where she didn’t know a soul. Her vision of college involved big parties, loads of new friends, and nonstop fun.
Instead, she often found herself alone in her dorm, scrolling through social media posts from friends she’d had since grade school who seemed to fit in much better than she did at their chosen schools.
The highlight reel of other people’s “perfect” lives started to wear on Emery, and she wondered if it was her fault she didn’t have friends. But then her sweet mom sent her a note that changed the way she was looking at the situation.
The point was simple: Everyone feels a little out of place and lonely when they move somewhere new, and that’s okay. Emery said she quickly “realized how unfair I was being to myself and others, expecting everything to work out perfectly in the first two months.”
She also realized things would be a little easier if she talked about her struggles, so she poured her thoughts into her class assignment. Of course, the relatable video went viral! People started reaching out to her both on campus and off and confirmed that just about everyone feels like a misfit now and again.
A year after her brush with viral fame, Emery spoke to the New York Times about her experience being known as “the girl with no friends.” She said she’s finally acclimated to college life, and looking back, she can see even more clearly that she was way too hard on herself and those around her.
“Now a sophomore, I see how ridiculous my expectations were for my first year,” she wrote. “Some of the high school friends I was missing had been my friends for my whole life.”
Emery recognized how many people need to come to the same realizations she did, so she decided to share her wisdom with the world. Here are her tips:
- Don’t try to “clone your high school friends” because meeting new and different people is great.
- Don’t believe everything you see on social media as it can become “a platform for comparison.”
- “Give yourself time to adjust” to a new environment at your own pace.
Emery has finally “found her people” at Cornell, but her acknowledgement of how difficult and slow that process was continues to help others feel a little less alone. Her words are a good reminder to us all to be gentle with ourselves. Some things take time, so keep being yourself, and you’ll find your people too!
Watch the video that started it all below, and be sure to share this message with someone going through a big transition.
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