Fitting in and Finding Yourself

by Sarah McLaughlin '23 on June 11, 2023

Editor's Column

I’ll Miss (Most of) You, PC

I think Providence College is a difficult place to feel like you fit in.

The first week of freshman year, I felt like I was drowning—not in Honors Civ homework (yet), but in a sea of unknowing. Not knowing any person or place (I asked an orientation leader to help me find all of my classrooms Sunday afternoon, and I spent half an hour trying to find Smith with my new friend Sam—how did we get so lost?), strange new terminology (what in the world was a “darty”), and a major culture shock (I was homeschooled, and it’s not like I had zero socialization before coming to college, but still).

I like to think I’ve changed a lot as a person in my four years here, but not radically so. I still don’t go out past 10 P.M. (with the exception of Thursday night bingo), and I still get way too excited about discussing poetry in my literature classes. I still have an addiction to Dunkin’ donuts. But I’ve changed, too. I don’t wear skinny jeans anymore (thank God they fell out of style), I drink coffee despite my caffeine intolerance, and I voluntarily go to therapy. I make friends (really, really good ones) and I stand up for myself. I learned patience and confidence and vulnerability. There are ways you change in college that aren’t just getting older, getting a degree, and getting alcohol poisoning (I still don’t drink; you never got me there, PC). Now that my biggest fear is out of the way (getting a job), it’s hitting me how much I’ll miss this place, for all its scariness and strangeness.

When I see groups of tours strolling around campus at the pace of a tortoise while I’m buzzing to class at the speed of a hare, I slow down for a second and consider how some of those people might be where I was, who I was, and how they might change here, too. How they might feel like they don’t fit in. How maybe, hopefully, they find a place like The Cowl, a place and a people where they feel like they can be themselves, whoever that might turn out to be.
Most of the time, I still think PC is a tough place to feel like you fit in. I mean, I’m writing this as hundreds (thousands?) of students are wearing overpriced preppy clothes they’ll never wear again, trying to look like they belong at a golf course, when instead they’re huddled together like penguins on a pavement iceberg. Some things about you I’ll never understand, PC, and I’m okay with it staying that way. You have your fair share of problems. But that’s what The Cowl’s Opinion section is for.