One of my greatest fears about going off to college was the idea of leaving my family to be “on my own.” I’m the oldest of six children, the youngest of us being only five months old, which means I’ve often felt like the oldest of three and also the part time mother of three others. My family is often referred to as “The Shadle Circus,” or more often, “The Shadle Clan.”

So for me, the transition period meant not only leaving my parents and oldest siblings, but also leaving the three “little people,” to whom I have a different attachment then I normally would to a sibling. The idea of this transition both excited and terrified me, to the point where some days I just couldn’t wait any longer, and some days I silently prayed for more time.

Still the day came, regardless of my bittersweet predicament. And as I move into October, reflecting upon my first month living without seeing them as often, I’ve realized how much I’ve grown as a person, and also how much I’ve grown in my relationships with my family members because of this transition.

I still go home on most weekends since I don’t live too far away, which has definitely helped to make the transition a smooth one. As my mom says, “You spend just enough time at school to get sick of it, and then enough time at home to want to go back. It’s perfect.”

But when I go home now, I’ve been surprised to find that I legitimately feel older and more adult. I can have long conversations with my parents as though they are my best friends, and I find that I am not finding reason to argue with my eighth grade sister nearly as often as I used to be (plus she actually hugs me now!). My 5- and 3-year-old little sisters are so much more excited to see me then they used to be when it was an everyday thing. I find myself more inclined to spend quality time with them, because I view it as even more of a precious treasure than I did a month ago. My 16-year-old brother hardly seems to deserve fighting with anymore.  And then there’s August, the 5-month old… Well, he’s always been cute

When I first moved in, one of my roommates was talking to me about her older brother who lives on campus. After listening to the adoration in her voice, I said, “That’s so awesome that you two have such a great relationship.”

Her response was first a laugh, and then, “Well, he moved out two years ago… and you know what they say — distance really does make the heart grow fonder.” Now I can appreciate how right she was.

As I reflect, I also can’t help but comment on how different the transition period would have been, had CBU not also helped provide the means for it to happen so smoothly. While here I have been pleasantly surprised by the warmth which immediately engulfs the freshman student body. Going into my fifth week, I am confident in the friendships I have established, the care my teachers provide, and the excitement going to class every day brings me. Believe it or not, my most exciting class of the week is my earliest. Eight o’clock is not the friendliest number on my schedule, but when surrounded by such a wealth of wonderful people and thrilling knowledge, I hardly care about what I’ve set my alarm to.

God’s really been working in my heart throughout this month, teaching me to have joy in new experiences and cherish the opportunity to return to familiar ones.

All that to say, as terrified as I was for this transition, I’ll be the first to call it a beautiful one.