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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CWU chapter.

This was a year of firsts for me. My first time moving away from my home, my first time having a place to call my own, and my first year attending Central Washington University. It’s been a whirlwind of emotions but so many good things have come from it. This year has challenged me to get out of my comfort zone and not let the pandemic get the best of me, and just break out of my shell. What am I taking away from this year? So much growth. Here are some of the crucial things I learned after my first year at CWU.

Get Involved

I knew CWU was a place where you could get involved in so many different areas, whether it was clubs, sports, or inner circles within your major. Although the pandemic limited some of my social interactions, I was able to be involved in three clubs: Her Campus CWU, CWU Sisters, and Nutrition Club.  All these clubs allowed me to get involved in different ways, whether it be writing, learning about the future of my major, or empowering women. Even though these clubs were virtual, I was able to meet so many people and make friends. 

Organize Your Life

I thought I was organized before, but I began to realize I had more room to grow in this area especially at college. I learned that one planner is not enough, and color-coding your whiteboard is a game-changer when you have lots of classes and meetings at different times on Zoom. With it all being a virtual world, organizing was something you had to be on top of. 

Time Management

This perfectly ties in with being organized. Time management with all online classes is not a joke. Your deadlines can sometimes be crazy based on your professor and planning ahead certainly comes in handy. Schedule yourself accordingly, and by the end of the week, you’ll be thankful you did.

Take a Brain Break

I typically sit in front of my computer for 9-10 hours a day, sometimes, even more, depending on how much I need to do.  It can be exhausting to put it lightly. It got to a point where there were days I never left my dorm except to grab lunch or dinner. I became so tired, my brain was fried, and I felt overly stressed. I decided to set aside one hour every day to go for a walk or do a small workout to give my brain a break and get re-energized. 

Make Time for Your Friends

There were nights where I had opportunities to go out, but I took it upon myself to do even more studying to get ahead.  What I learned is that is important to make time for your new friends and have fun. It’s worth the little sleep you get because you’re having the best time with them and experiencing college the right way by letting loose. Deadlines for homework will always be hanging over your head, but what about the experiences you’ll have with new people? 

It’s Not Just You

When I moved into a dorm, I had no clue what to expect. I knew nothing about my roommate and thought the worst going into it all just because of the horror stories you hear from your friends about their “dorm room nightmares.” It wasn’t as painful as I thought, I had to get used to being in close quarters with someone else rather than being that “only child” from back home. I learned that it’s like having a sibling you never had. 

Don’t Be Afraid

You see an event on campus and you don’t know anyone?  Go. Go by yourself, you never know who you will meet. I went to plenty of events by myself at Central and was it awkward at first? Sure. Was it worth it? Yes, because I felt engaged at my university and I was making the most of my experience. 

Address Your Mental Health

This hit the hardest during the winter quarter for me. I felt more closed in when I was sitting in my dorm room, and I was studying more than ever. I felt on and off depression waves to the point I would start crying over the littlest things. It was frightening. I felt like the walls were caving in and I was failing at life. Talk about these things, don’t bottle it up. I was thankful for a CWU Sisters meeting where we had guest speakers from Campus who addressed seasonal depression. The speakers gave me so many tools to help deal with it. It’s a real thing. Do not hide your struggles. Learn and grow from them.

You Are Going to Crave Home-Cooked Meals

If someone tells you college food is awesome, they’re lying.  Being a nutrition major, I learned how horrible college has made me with my eating habits and it’s something I am learning to change for my senior year. You have got to be creative with meals and not burn yourself out. But the one thing I learned is that when you go home for a weekend, fruits and vegetables are like gold. 

Give Yourself That Pep Talk

Sometimes it feels like the work is not paying off, but it is.  Give yourself the motivational pep talk and let yourself know that you are here for a reason, to get that degree and make a difference in the world. Don’t give up. You are going to rise above the challenges. 

This first year has been full of challenges, but I have learned that with the right tools, supportive people, and a structured schedule, I can survive through it all. Even though I started this journey later in life, I’m learning that age has given me an advantage. I’m more driven and passionate to thrive in college.  Make the most of your experiences at school. Make it an experience you definitely learn from. 

My name is Katelyn Richardson. I am 29 years old. I am currently attending Central Washington University studying for my Master's in food and sciences to become a nutritionist and later a diabetes educator for kids. I've been personally battling type 1 diabetes since I was six years old. I love being outside, vintage shopping, watching movies, and going to stock car races! I love being a Her Campus Contributor because it gives me a platform to talk about current issues, topics I'm passionate about & real-life relatable experiences.