It was three years ago, nearly to the week, that I turned off Rt. 123 and made my first move toward the independent life of a college freshman. I was excited, yet terrified, for what the next four years had in store for me.

Like many of you, I was moving into a crowded, uninviting room with someone I had never met and I was unsure about the prospect of living with a complete stranger. You might be experiencing some of these feelings right now. They are completely natural.

Within a week of enduring this new life, I was ready to tap out. I was trapped within the walls of my cinderblock room and was forced to listen to my roommate convince his girlfriend that she did, in fact, love his big, voluptuous rooster. I was forced to shimmy my way around dirty clothes and piles of trash when entering and exiting my room. And I was forced to sit and smell the stench that reeked throughout our room.

I do not do well with starting conversations, so it was an increasingly difficult task for me to develop friendships.

That was it.

I was ready to pack up my things and head home. Even worse, I had limited success in putting myself out there and getting involved in different groups on campus. It took days, weeks and sometimes months to get a response from anyone about getting involved and it began looking like it might be a lost cause.

But I did not give up.

I went out and made friends who shared similar values and interests; I found ways to pass time, ways that did not involve me putting myself in positions that jeopardized my values; and, perhaps more importantly than my academic education, I took advantage of the opportunity to get to learn about myself. And it is not an easy process.

I am now entering my final semester as an undergraduate student at Mason and I have learned more in three years than I ever thought was possible.

I have had conversations with LeBron James and Tom Izzo and sat courtside at the 2011 NCAA Tournament in Cleveland, Ohio. Most importantly, though, I have developed strong relationships with a number of people in the area and have developed friendships that will last a lifetime. In Mason, I have gained a home away from home and a family away from family.

Stick it out, freshmen, and who knows? You might, too.