Reflecting the First Half of College

As I near the end of my sophomore year, I want to look back and write a letter to my freshman self and reflect back on the first half of my college career. 

To Freshman Year Maria, 

It is May 3rd, you’re sitting at home in the office mom and dad set up for you. What you don’t know is you’re about to finish your sophomore year at home because of a pandemic. These last two years went fast. It’s crazy to think how much has changed, how much you’ve grown, glowed, and learned. You came to IUP after working full-time for two years and a lot of uncertainty, but you were so eager to learn and make a difference in life. It was a crazy transition; from 8-15-hour workdays to classes, exams, homework, papers, and discussion boards? They aren’t as easy as it seems.

You’re going to meet some amazing people and some who aren’t the best for you. You’ll learn very quickly who those people are. You’ll see who’s there when you’re feeling down. Follow your gut feeling and never second guess it; chances are you’re right about them or the situation. Don’t hate, just keep moving forward. Take every experience and allow it to help you grow and do not harden your heart. 

School is going to make you want to rip your hair out, cry, stay up all night, or even sleep all afternoon. You’re going to sleep through classes, fail some exams, forget to read the chapter assigned. You’re going to miss home a lot, even when you don’t want to admit you’re homesick. All of it is normal. You’re going to procrastinate, do your assignment last second, submit it, say you won’t procrastinate, and do it again the next paper you get. 

If there is one piece of advice I could give myself two years ago, it would be this: make as many memories as possible. Get in the car and drive to Pittsburgh with your friends for spontaneous trips that make for the best stories. Say “yes” to that date, because, why not? Go out and dance with your friends on Friday and Saturday nights just to get breakfast the next afternoon laughing about the night before. Go to the sports games, blast throwbacks and sing at the top of your lungs, take lots of pictures. Sheetz at 3:00 AM? Let’s go. Have those sleepovers on your friend’s dorm floors, watch as many sunsets as possible from the parking garage, hug your friends every time you see them like it’s going to be the last. 

Ask for help when you need it. Go to the gym when you can. Learn as much as possible, challenge yourself daily, get involved on campus. Pick up the extra shift at work and make some extra money. Find balance in everything you do. Most importantly, remember that family dinner with the squad is at 5:00 PM. North. Every weekday.