As the curtain closes and marks the end of the year for nearly 10,000 first-year students, a few of them shared their reflections on the highs and lows of this unfamiliar and new experience.
Zander West is a sophomore majoring in environmental science. He is also a runner and passionate about sailing. He rated his college experience as 9 out of 10.
While classes and new relationships were stressful, West said he was still able to settle into a new lifestyle and experience new things. He joined the dance club Paso a Paso as well as a sailing club. He said he had more control over what he wanted to do and when.
“I’m learning how to become an adult, which I think is a big step up from the rigid structure high school has,” West said. “It’s a fresh start — there are many more options.”
West said he was able to find a balance between his academic and social lives by making a schedule every day and staying on top of his work. I found making a schedule to be extremely useful because it helped me better understand what I had to do and when. Even though he is in college to work, West believes it is still important to focus on having fun while making time to take care of yourself.
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“You definitely want to make time to be with yourself,” West said. “I think I missed out on a lot of alone time just chilling and decompressing that I needed.”
Before he started college, West had read in a book that one should not date someone on their floor. Yet, he met his current partner on his floor and made it work out. West recommends that future freshman not follow college tip books to a T because many great things can happen if one puts effort into setting boundaries and communicating. He said it is important to get out of your comfort zone and not abide by stereotypes.
“Go with your gut when making decisions because if you mess up, you mess up,” West said. “It’s all part of learning and you can always start over — it might work out.”
Joy Seo is now a sophomore majoring in biology and an avid reader. She rated her first-year college experience a 6.5 out of 10.
As an introvert, Seo said she found the transition to college both emotionally and mentally difficult. Since she saw some people only once a week, it was harder to develop more meaningful relationships with people. I can relate to this a lot; it is hard to make good friends when one does not see them on a daily basis like in high school. Even though it may be difficult, asking people to eat lunch together or study after class does help one develop connections. In fact, Seo became better friends with people by participating in a research lab through ASURE and joining a K-pop dance group.
“I had to get used to feeling uncomfortable sometimes,” Seo said. “In college, if you don’t reach out, if you’re not proactive with your relationships, it’s harder to maintain them.
She said she liked living 15 minutes away from her family because it helped the mental toll college had on her. It was comforting to have someone familiar close by to give her support and motivation. When it came to studying, Seo said it could be draining dealing with the heavy workload.
“Sometimes I just had to reset myself,” Seo said. “I had to let myself be unmotivated for a bit — watch Netflix and hang out with my friends more — and I hoped that it helped me get back into the zone.”
Seo recommends that future freshman take it easy on themselves while getting used to being more independent and responsible. She said it is okay to make mistakes and take time to adjust to living in a different environment.
“College is what you make of it: if you don’t put in the effort, whether it be your academics or friendships, it’s going to be really hard,” Seo said. “You have to come in with that growth mindset.”
Aubrey Wynn is a sophomore studying environmental science. She loves spending time with friends, taking care of her animals and listening to music. Her first-year rating: 7.5 out of 10.
College classes were a welcome change of pace for Wynn: even though she got sick a lot, she appreciated how passionate and informed the professors were when teaching. I definitely appreciated the diverse teaching styles on campus; it was interesting to learn about what professors were researching and how they were incorporating it into their lessons. Yet, Wynn said it was hard to find motivation to study sometimes if the weather was either miserably dreary or picturesque.
“It was a big learning curve,” Wynn said. “I’m learning how to balance my social life and my academic life and my work life.”
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Wynn said she enjoyed spending time with friends after joining a sorority and during Little 500 weekend. She was able to keep in touch with some high school friends through her job working security at basketball games as well as running into them on campus. Still, Wynn found it challenging the first few weeks living in a single dorm to connect with people.
“People with a roommate had a built-in person to do things with and I didn’t have that, so it was a little scary,” Wynn said. “But I found the people that I clicked with the most and tried to stick with them.”
Wynn recommends future freshman stay organized because it is easy to get stressed and overwhelmed at first. She said it is important to work on yourself, get used to being independent and keep an open mind.
I believe keeping an open mind is especially important; just because I am majoring in journalism does not mean I cannot fulfill my passion in Italian. I took a few random classes I did not even know existed and loved the experiences and knowledge they provided me with: medical anthropology, the history of Ernie Pyle, American sitcoms and social change.
“Explore things — don't be set on one path or one group of people,” Wynn said.
Isabella Vesperini (she/her) is a sophomore majoring in journalism and minoring in Italian.