The realization that you’re actually headed for college can be overwhelming. It might sink in at 3 a.m. after a long Zoom call with friends, while playing Animal Crossing, tie-dyeing yet another old sweater with your sibling, learning a new recipe with your parents or reading a book. It might not dawn on you till you get to campus; or one month in, during a particularly stimulating seminar; or as you finish your last final of your first semester. And with this fall semester shrouded in a big fat question mark, it may take even longer.

For me, the fact that I was at Yale — that I was a Yalie — hit me in waves across my first year, and will jolt me until I graduate. Finally securing my classes at the end of “shopping period,” slurping noodles and dumplings with friends at “FroCo duty” (a ritual you’ll learn), my first few frat parties (a different kind of shock altogether). Each time, I was awash with both surprise and relief that I was beginning to feel comfortable in my place here.

But those feelings, and their converse feelings of confusion, loneliness and uncertainty, can be difficult to navigate. There were weeks when my new friends and I would talk about homesickness, when I would call my mum, my boyfriend and old friends nearly every day. Even as you begin to feel like you belong, sometimes you may feel a little lost. It took me a couple of months, but finding places — even shared spaces — that I could somewhat call my own was the remedy to my feelings of displacement.

As an international student, I especially felt the distance: My loved ones weren’t just a phone call or a road trip away, but a 12-hour time difference and a 30-hour plane journey. But even if you don’t live far at all, suddenly having 6000 new faces passing you every day, sharing a bunk bed or a room, and feeling the pressure to constantly socialize — or else you’d miss out on the “college experience” — can easily wear you out. In my first few months, when people back home asked how college was, I’d reply that I was still adjusting. But it was less that I was adjusting, and more that I’d go from feeling completely at home to very, very unadjusted and back again in less than a day.

In Singapore, there is a common attitude of being “kancheong.” This translates to being “afraid to lose out,” and it was a difficult attitude to shake. With every step of my college journey, I’d look around and wonder how far ahead or behind everyone else I was.

But the process is not linear, and you shouldn’t try to make it so. Figuring out your place at Yale is not a race or competition, nor is it a quest of some kind. Particularly with the possibility of an online fall semester, it is important to combat those feelings of “losing out.”

Take the time and space to process all the changes happening around you. Find a place to reflect, call home, do work, and sometimes to cry and be upset. For me, that shifted from my room to the Pierson common room to The Acorn to the Sillidomes. Your space may not be your own in the same way that your room or bed at home is, but it is a space you can claim even for just a moment, where you don’t have to feel bad about being alone or feeling what you feel, and you don’t have to explain it to anyone. Whether on campus or not, you may feel like you have left things, people, places behind. Give yourself room to grieve those losses, and when you feel ready, reach out to everything waiting for you.

MIRANDA JEYARETNAM is a sophomore in Pierson College and a staff columnist. Contact her at