Letters from the dorm: Freedom isn't free, it comes with a price

By April Xu Xiaoyi, Pomona College, California

April Xu Xiaoyi discovers freedom in abundance in her first year in university, and also that it comes with many different price tags

By April Xu Xiaoyi, Pomona College, California |

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Greetings from a first-year student studying at Pomona College in the Golden State of California. I’m writing this letter to you from my college dorm. As that brief information may suggest, I have gone through a major transition in life by embarking on a new journey: college.

College embodies freedom: the liberty in course selection and scheduling events outside the classroom for ourselves, and adventures in a new geographical region with fascinating new friends.

This freedom that college offers also comes with a price. After all, nothing is entirely free. Even Daylight Saving Time (a brand new concept for me), which gives the illusion that we get a free extra hour, demands that we must eventually pay it back next spring.

Living away from home has meant that I need to make more decisions on my own. Instead of going to class at a fixed time every morning, I now get to design my own academic and extracurricular schedule.

Do I want to be a morning person? Should I skip breakfast to finish this assignment prior to today’s office hours? Do I go to the contra-dance today or should I choose to write this article for South China Morning Post? I had considered these kinds of questions prior to college, but certainly not as frequently.

There is always a diversity of enticing events, exponentially more than the range of activities offered back in high school, but I can’t do them all. Although freshman year is about exploring everything that college has to offer, I need to find a balance between academics, sleep, and social / general non-academic life. So I constantly find myself indecisive, carefully weighing the tradeoffs of each option.

Often, the decision process has taken much time, energy, and thought. But I have gradually learned to become more decisive, staying steadfast in adhering to my personal principles. Although classes only started two months ago, I can already track my personal growth as a learner and also as a young adult.

The college experience has so much freedom to offer, but it demands a price. It simultaneously demands effective planning and personal determination. 

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