Well, here it is: the cliche synopsis of my freshman year of college. As I write my last article for the school year, all I can think is how I can’t believe it’s actually ending; the acceptance letter, last year’s prom and graduation, orientation week and the first day seem as if they simultaneously all just happened yesterday and 500 years ago.
To attempt to put the ride of college into words has been done and done again. But if there’s one thing I’ve become accustomed to this year, it’s reflection, reflection, reflection: you don’t learn anything without looking back on it.
So, here are multiple lessons and anecdotes from my freshman year of college. I hope you appreciate my experience and laugh, study, scream and love your way through the next few years of school.
1. Orientation Week is going to be a mix of highly awkward and cliche fun. But, it’s fine because that’s how it’s supposed to be: you and your class will bond over how weird it is to all be new and trapped on this campus for the next nine months.
2. Speaking of Orientation, if you don’t meet your lifelong best friends during those few days of madness, there’s no reason to worry. Everyone will be grabbing onto whoever they can, so your future S.O. of a friend may be eating dinner with her roommate while you desperately search for people to sit with. You will find each other someday. (Last comment on O-Week: it is especially difficult for commuters, as you won’t have the built-in possibilities of hanging with your roommates or the people in your hall. Don’t lose hope; it’ll only be a bummer for a little while.)
3. You will assume everyone in all your classes are also freshmen. Little do you know, every grade will be represented in every one of your classes. This is tragic when you hit it off with someone, then realize they’re a second semester senior and are basically generations older. RIP.
4. FOMO is real. Especially in the beginning of college, when you might feel as if you’re out of the loop or as if everyone knows everyone except you. This feeling will die, whether you kill it yourself or it dies of natural causes. Eventually, you’ll be so caught up in your own experience that you’ll realize you forgot to worry about what everyone else was doing.
5. Studying is not the worst in two circumstances; if you do it with your friends or if you really care about the class. Some of my best memories from this year are late night studying in empty rooms with pizza, coffee, stress and my best friends. (It’s cliche, but there’s a reason it is.)
6. You will realize there are different vibes for every major, especially at a small school like CLU where we are very closely connected with students in our program. You become so used to the way that your pals in your major act that when you are thrown off when you start up a convo with an Accounting Major and realize, oh wait, I forgot not everyone I talk to is obsessed with kids and education. What’s up IES Majors.
7. Take advantage of everything your school has to offer but also prioritize what’s important. Only make time for what is really important to you.
8. The advice any advisors, professors or older students in your major give you will be truly invaluable. Write it down and (in most cases) you should act on it.
9. College is supposed to be the place where drama doesn’t exist, but that’s not true for anywhere in life. People will always have conflict; we’re people and we have different moral compasses and ways of viewing the world. But, in my experience so far, college students are a lot better than high school students at resolving conflict with people they’ve fallen out with. Whether it’s because the bonds are stronger when you’re trapped in a school or because we are all truly more “mature”, it doesn’t matter except that problems are often resolved and people come back together.
10. It took me so long to discover all the little benefits and secrets my school had to offer, such as a fridge to keep food in or that there are video games in the Student Union. It’s a fun little game of finding surprises on your campus; you’ll never know all there is to know about your school.
College looks different for everyone. It looks different for me than it looks for you, or will look for you. You will craft your own experience; creating a foundation, adding in certain pieces and cutting out other parts. I need to stress that there is no one way to have a college experience, and that your experience is being created everyday by who you surround yourself with, what you choose to do with your time and what you are passionate about. There is no one right way to “do college,” but after my first year, I am proud of where I am and what I’ve found and learned about myself. It truly is an individual experience that nothing can prepare you for, and I hope it’s incredibly exhausting and exciting.
*All photos provided by author.