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Why public speaking on the first day of college was easier than I expected

I lay in bed, staring at my white and boring bedroom ceiling in an attempt to ignore the alarm on my phone that is growing louder with each passing second. I know as soon as I shift my gaze and turn off that alarm, that I will have to deal with the fact that I must get dressed, leave the house and go to class. The thought fills my body with dread. My heart rate quickens. Another 10 minutes staring… I’m thinking of every possible excuse that could get me out of having to leave the house today. Deciding against them all, I begrudgingly peel myself out of bed.

Dreading leaving the house isn’t an abnormal experience for me. I feel it most mornings – that’s why I set my alarm 20 minutes before I actually need to get out of bed; so I can talk myself into doing it. But this morning’s urge to stay in bed is stronger. It’s Monday morning and today is my first day at college.

One hour later… 

The chair groans as I sit upon it, its cold metal legs pressing against mine. I glance across the room to a crowd of unfamiliar faces looking equally as nervous as me. I shift my gaze to the navy carpet beneath me. The main tutor enters. She introduces herself and is shortly followed by the rest of the tutors our class will be taught by. Their friendly faces and calming hello’s are soothing. Then my stomach drops… the tutors announce that everyone should think of three interesting facts about themselves to share with the class.

I hate public speaking. My throat grows drier and chest starts to ache. I stare at the blank piece of paper set out in front of me. My brain feels foggy and my hands shaky. I can’t seem to think of even one interesting thing about myself, let alone three. I manage to scribble down three mundane things about myself as the teacher announces our time is up, she looks across the room and asks who would like to go first. I stare at the wall across the room intentionally avoiding eye contact from her in hopes she won’t pick me. But it doesn’t work. ‘Katy, is it? Would you like to read yours?’ I start to feel woozy, I decide against standing and focus my eyes on the blurry looking writing in front of me. I open my mouth and my heart thuds.

1.   I have a dog called Lilo.

2.   I am one of six sisters.

3.   I love to bake.

Loud claps fill the air from around the room and the weight of my chest lifts. I did it. A smile creeps over my face and I don’t even attempt to hide it.

One after another each member of the class recites their list, some voices shaky others not so much. I join in with each applause and try my best to smile at each class mate as they finish speaking, as I know how hard it can feel to speak in a group and I want them to know that I get it.

As the day goes by awkward gazes turn into comfortable smiles as the nerves calm and we begin to settle. Lunch time comes around, groups form, and classmates walk together to lunch. My heart tells me to join them, that it would be good for me not to be alone, but my head tells me otherwise. I find a quiet corner with a comfortable seat, put in my earphones in and start to unpack my lunch box.

Halfway through my ham sandwich and packet of skips I feel a gentle tap on my shoulder. I pull out my headphones and turn towards a familiar face. It’s one of my classmates, I think her name is Tracey. She smiles at me. ‘Do you mind if I join you?’ Stunned, I only manage a nod in reply. We spend the lunch break discussing our new teachers and subjects we will be studying.

As the hour goes on more of our classmates pass us, some in groups and others alone. We offer them all to join us, most accept. By the end of the lunch hour I am so caught up in conversation with my classmates that we all end up slightly late to class. Our tutor smiles as we return in a large group, to my surprise she isn’t angry at all that we are all late – I presume she is happy that we spent time together and all got along. I abandon my old seat and take up a new one next to my new friends.

Packing up my bag at the end of the day, I notice the pain in my chest and the dryness in my throat has eased. I leave the college doors contrastingly different to how I entered them; alongside my peers, feeling proud of myself and glad that I got out of bed today. 


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