Illustrations by Chloe Batchelor.

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College, for some of us, is a training ground of sorts, a trial by fire environment where we begin to erect our adult selves. We buy our own groceries and manage our own time, navigate the bureaucracy of higher education and muddle through the occasional messiness of finding friends who fit who we are.

Upon entering the “real world” of full-time work, rent payments, electricity bills and the like, it’s easy to forget the rhythm and idiosyncrasies of our undergraduate years.

We at The Lily asked young women in America and abroad: What’s college like these days?

Here’s what eight students had to say.

Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

“Something that makes me anxious every semester is getting textbooks. Tasks like these (getting school supplies) have always been something I had a parent to help me out with, someone to lean on and guide me — and double-check that I’m not accidentally getting the double-sided tape.”

—Nina Cicero, 18, second-year student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison

“I’m not very motivated, so I’m worried about finding the drive to study, spend time with friends or really do anything but sit and mope.”

—Dylan Richmond, 18, freshman at Westminster College in Utah

“I’m anxious about job hunting. In Japan, there is a two-year process to find a job, and most people start during their third year of college. Foreign companies in Japan don’t necessarily follow this model, but almost all Japanese companies do. My parents never worked for Japanese companies, and because of the way I was raised and educated, I don’t think I’d fit in very well at one. Most companies here are quite traditional and have a rigid hierarchical structure based on age, not merit.”

—Caroline Morita, 20, junior at Waseda University in Tokyo but studying abroad in London

“Money, because even though my parents began saving money for me before I was even born, I plan on going to grad school and there’s just not enough money for both. I want to follow my dreams but don’t need the stress of debt.”

—Mari Dickens, 19, sophomore at the University of Toledo in Ohio

“Getting a job after college or a scholarship for grad school. As an international student (I’m from Nigeria), it’s quite unusual to be in the journalism field, at least from my interactions with other international students who are mostly in STEM fields. The journalism field is also an unpredictable one, which is exciting but also scary. I’m not sure what I’d do if a job or grad school isn’t projected my first year after graduation. So many other factors depend on it.”

—Ayooluwa Ariyo, 19, senior at Temple University in Pennsylvania

“Where my current friendships are going. Last year, the people I started getting close with began to spend a lot of time with another group. That added to insecurities I already have as someone with depression. So even though I seem to have good friends so far this year, I’m struggling to believe they actually want me around.”

—Anna DeBraber, 19, second-year student at Michigan Technological University

“Pasta. It’s quick, easy and versatile. What’s not to love?”

—Nina Cicero, 18

“Grilled cheese from the dining hall.”

—Dylan Richmond, 18

“Whatever my mom makes that night. I live at home, and one of the perks is being able to eat with my parents and brothers on most nights.”

—Caroline Morita, 20

“Making a big pot of soup/curry/chili.”

—Zoe Clark, 23, junior at San Francisco State University

“Popcorn and sparkling water, because at least I feel healthy-ish.”

—Mari Dickens, 19

“Gluten-free rice noodles, bought in bulk from Costco.”

—Anna DeBraber, 19

“In-N-Out.”

Kimberly Quitzon, 26, graduate student at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

“I decided I wanted to try something new this year and go for a boho-hippie theme (why not, right?). My four roommates and I live in a three-bedroom apartment where they each share a room and I have my own. We came up with a theme or ‘vibe’ for the bathrooms. One is jungle-themed with fun, green palm tree lights and a leaf bath mat, and the other is peach-themed with a peach shower curtain and a cute little peach-shaped bath mat that says ‘peachy clean.’”

—Nina Cicero, 18

“I live in a small double with my amazing roommate, and we have used colorful tapestries, fairy lights, vintage posters and postcards to decorate our room. I also have a picture of my dog hanging above my bed, and other things that remind me of home, like a lamp my dad made and my mom’s favorite books.”

—Dylan Richmond, 18

“Growing up, my room was very minimally decorated, and I’ve kept that up throughout my life. On my wall I have postcards from all over: trips that I’ve taken, vintage postcards from a dear friend I used to mainly communicate with through snail mail, free exhibitions, museum shops and greeting cards from my globe-trotting grandma. I’m not a big knickknack person, so besides books and postcards, there’s only my bed, desk, closet and blue reading chair.”

—Caroline Morita, 20

“I decorated my room with art prints of old anatomy sketches that have flowers drawn over the organs (I want to be a midwife and family nurse practitioner). I have anatomical posters of the female reproductive system, breasts, heart, and a fetus in utero. I also have a vintage-inspired fridge that fits my aesthetic — it’s a statement piece in my room.”

—Mari Dickens, 19

“There’s a cork board behind my desk with pictures from home, art that I purchased with graduation money and sweet notes from loved ones. My books are on a shelf above my desk along with a wooden chicken, a stuffed llama and a clay bear. There’s also a cedar box with stone pendants that my partner gifted me. The stones are from Lake Michigan, Kettle Lake in northern Wisconsin and the Smoky Mountains.”

—Anna DeBraber, 19

“My walls are purple and there are pictures of my loved ones and postcards from traveling with my boyfriend. My computer is in one corner, my meditation altar in another corner, and my skin care in another. I live with my hoarding grandparents and my dad, so my room is my sanctuary away from the mess that surrounds me.”

—Kimberly Quitzon, 26

“Recently, I have been extremely frustrated with something that I never even realized would be an issue: bureaucracy. When I try to take steps to achieve my goals there is no linear path to do so. I often end up having to make multiple phone calls and appointments over a span of weeks only to be told that the person I am talking to can only help me with part of what I need, or can’t help me at all.”

—Nina Cicero, 18

“Tuition, and the various banks and credit unions that come to campus to try to get us to take out loans with ridiculous interest rates. It’s just a constant reminder of the sacrifices I need to make in order to be here, and it infuriates me that corporations are trying to profit off of my education.”

—Dylan Richmond, 18

“There aren’t enough female doctors in Japan. As a child, I didn’t question this, but now that I’ve reached legal adulthood in Japan, the government sends me free vouchers every year to get tested for cancers of the reproductive system. The first time I was tested for cancer, it was at a large and reputable hospital in Tokyo, and I was told that no female gynecologists were present that day. Bad luck. But when I went back recently for a second time, I decided to check ahead on the hospital website to see if I’d at least have a chance of being seen by a female doctor. To my horror, there are currently no female gynecologists working at that hospital, which also happens to have a famous birthing center. Making matters worse is the medical school admissions scandal from a few years ago, where it was found that female applicants’ scores were lowered so that more men could be admitted.”

—Caroline Morita, 20

“I’m really angry about gun violence and police brutality. Just the whole idea that a mother can drop a happy child off at school and come to pick up a lifeless body or that a man can get pulled over and shot for no reason with no justice following his death is just bizarre to me, and sad, too.”

—Ayooluwa Ariyo, 19

“I found an antidepressant over the summer that’s been working really well for me. When I got the prescription filled through the school pharmacy, it was from a different manufacturer and has been throwing me off completely. I’ve had a hard time focusing in class and it’s the start of the semester, so I feel like I’m missing a lot of basics. It’s so frustrating that my body is sensitive to that kind of thing; this has been a major setback in my mental health.”

—Anna DeBraber, 19

“The state of our democracy. From income inequality to climate change, poverty, violence and mass incarceration, we need to do better.”

—Kimberly Quitzon, 26

“The cost of college and the cost of living while in college (to be fair, I live in one of the most expensive cities in the country). I go to a public school and pay in-state tuition but I will still be in debt when I leave. I got into ‘better,’ more ‘elite’ schools when I was preparing to transfer from community college but was unable to go because they were too expensive.”

—Zoe Clark, 23

“I never had to deal with buying toiletries like shampoo or toothpaste at home, so taking two buses to get to the drugstore to buy those things was a bit of a rude awakening.”

—Dylan Richmond, 18

“Waking up early in time for class. My parents were always there for that, but now I have to set five alarms.”

—Ayooluwa Ariyo, 19

“I was pretty independent in high school. Not much has changed.”

—Anna DeBraber, 19

“I have recently found myself worrying about my savings and not being able to afford a house in the future.”

—Kimberly Quitzon, 26

“Taxes.”

—Zoe Clark, 23

“I like Friday nights to be me time. (I set aside Thursday and Saturday nights for social activities or to hang with friends.) If all goes according to plan, you can find me curled up in bed, binge-watching a good show (currently ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,’ ‘Euphoria’ or ‘Bachelor in Paradise’), with my salt lamp on, maybe wearing a face mask and burning a good-smelling candle. Unfortunately, later in the year I will most likely end up having to sacrifice many of my Fridays at the library trying to get ahead on work.”

—Nina Cicero, 18

“In my hammock in a little stand of trees outside of my dorm.”

—Dylan Richmond, 18

“On most Friday nights, I can be found at a park near my house, taking my dog on a two-hour walk. After a week of sitting in classes all day, I want to treat him and myself to some quality time outdoors. Plus, all my neighbors with dogs seem to feel the same way, and because they’re all already working, it’s a good chance for me to hear about different industries and work environments.”

—Caroline Morita, 20

“Studying or playing Dungeons and Dragons with a couple of friends over pizza.”

—Mari Dickens, 19

“Cooking a quality meal with a friend.”

—Anna DeBraber, 19

“Happy hour with friends.”

—Zoe Clark, 23

“Writing, because I’m currently working on a screenplay I want to pitch by the end of the year.”

—Dylan Richmond, 18

“Dungeons and Dragons, honestly. That makes me sound like a total nerd, but it’s true.”

—Mari Dickens, 19

“I would say fellowshipping with my Christian community. I live with a Nigerian household, so attending church twice a week, maybe thrice if there’s a special service, isn’t much of a choice. My church has a majority Nigerian population. I’m also part of a young ladies’ Bible study on campus and I love them to bits. These people (church and Bible study) are my community. Being with them helps me reflect and stay close to God and keeps me sane on most days.”

—Ayooluwa Ariyo, 19

“Sustainability and climate justice. My school is really behind on a lot of basic things and I’m trying to help us catch up. It feels exhausting that if I want to have a future I need to push for it, but it’s also rewarding work that connects me with a lot of inspiring people.”

—Anna DeBraber, 19

“I watch a lot of documentaries in my free time and usually write for my blog. I mainly like to save so I can travel.”

—Kimberly Quitzon, 26

“Work — I need to afford to live in the city.”

—Zoe Clark, 23

“Eye-opening, challenging, diverse.”

—Nina Cicero, 18

“Tiring, frustrating, expensive.”

—Dylan Richmond, 18

“Explorative, fortunate, unpredictable.”

—Caroline Morita, 20

“Stressful, affirming, educational.”

—Mari Dickens, 19

“Challenging, insightful, introspecting.”

—Ayooluwa Ariyo, 19

“Frigid, independent, telling.”

—Anna DeBraber, 19

“Exciting, informative, inspiring.”

—Kimberly Quitzon, 26

“Transformative, brutal, enriching.”

—Zoe Clark, 23

“I regret not rushing a sorority my freshman year. That ties into the advice I would give myself: Trust your gut, try new things and don’t worry about what other people think. My parents really bought into the stigma surrounding Greek life, especially the stereotypes regarding sorority girls. I’m pretty indecisive so, feeling the pressure of their opinions, I decided it would be easier to not associate myself. I completely ignored the fact that when I really think about it, a sorority is a perfect fit for me. I love girl power, girl gangs, girl bosses — being surrounded with strong female energy is so empowering. This year I’m rushing and so far, I love it.”

—Nina Cicero, 18

“I’m not sure if it counts as a regret, but I wish my school had a core curriculum. The only class all students in my department are required to take is statistics, but you can’t really bond with people over that. If we’d all read the same book or taken some sort of foundational class together, I think there’d be more cohesion among students.”

—Caroline Morita, 20

“Not taking antidepressants sooner.”

—Anna DeBraber, 19

“Mari was nerdy, nurturing and left this place better than she found it.”

—Mari Dickens, 19

“I hope to be remembered as the girl who always smiled at everyone and had good graces.”

—Ayooluwa Ariyo, 19

“The woman who inspired acts of environmental justice.”

—Anna DeBraber, 19

“I hope I’m remembered for being honest and down to earth.”

—Kimberly Quitzon, 26

“As a kind person with a sharp academic ability.”

—Zoe Clark, 23

“Apply for more scholarships, and hug your friends from home.”

—Dylan Richmond, 18

“You will hate using your planner, but honestly it’s a necessity so get over yourself. You can’t possibly remember everything.”

—Mari Dickens, 19

“I’d say, ‘It’s going to be a tough but exciting learning process. Embrace it. Everything that comes your way will grow you. Let it. You’ll meet different types of people, much different than you, helping you learn more about yourself and about others. Enjoy it.’”

—Ayooluwa Ariyo, 19

“Don’t self-isolate, and take care of yourself even when you think you don’t need it.”

—Anna DeBraber, 19

“It’s okay to not know what you want to do at first, or to change your mind — don’t lose confidence in yourself. And most of all, trust the timing of your life.”

—Zoe Clark, 23

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