When looking back at my first year at the University of Minnesota, it feels like it went by in a blink of an eye. There were tears, laughs, loss, new people, tests, anxiety and LOTS of late night pizza orders. Yet the word that sticks out to me the most is growth. And with this growth comes the responsibility of sharing my lessons learned with anyone who might come after me and be in the same place I was.
1. Lean onto others.
When I entered school here for the first time, I didn’t know a single person. It was so easy to feel lost, lonely and small. I was somebody who wasn’t very comfortable sharing my emotions and problems. But in college, my mindset had to change in order to overcome challenges. When you’re living by yourself, in an unfamiliar place, and your parents are six hours away, social support is critical. Surround yourself with others who lift you up. Whether it’s a breakup, homesickness, stress or family troubles, telling your roommate or friends problems you’re facing will make them all the more manageable. When my my dog passed away last year, I allowed myself to open up to a new friend because I didn’t have my family near by. At first, it was hard to allow her to see me cry and sob. But her hugs and empathy were everything I needed in that moment to feel a little less alone.
2. You’re allowed to do what is best for yourself.
Making decisions that put your personal happiness first aren’t selfish. I have always been one who chose to seek the approval of others and please them over myself. But when you’re in college, you need to be your number one advocate. If you are in a friendship where the other person brings you down more than up, and they make you more frustrated than happy, it’s not a place you should be in. As you are meeting tons of new people, remember that you don’t have to be friends with everyone, especially if they aren’t positive additions to your life. Remember that you are in control of who enters and leaves your life.
3. Embrace the unknown.
Tackle it with an air of curiosity instead of dread. There are plenty of opportunities that’re going to scare you while starting out college, but I challenge you to keep an open mind. As a shy person by nature, meeting new people at the beginning of the year was scary. Yet one of the nights I went outside my comfort zone was the start of one of my strongest college friendships. During Welcome Week, there was an activity called “Late Night Target Run,” in which all of the freshman were bussed to Target to pick up last minute dorm necessities. At the time, I did not really know anybody to go with. So, I mustered all of the courage imaginable and knocked on a random door on my floor to see if they wanted to go with me. That door turned out to be the home of one of my best friends, Sarah. Taking that leap of faith, and doing something uncomfortable can give you some of the most incredible friendships and experiences.
4. It’s okay to be confused.
It’s hard not to feel as if you’re drowning in an endless sea of careers and majors. The U has over 130 majors, so it’s very easy to feel overwhelmed. Freshman year, I started out as a potential psychology major, then wanted to transfer to CFANS and do animal and environmental science, went back to a psychology major, then to a family social science major, and now BACK to a psychology major! I have been through all of the confusion, and I still doubt myself. But always remember that indecisiveness is a part of human nature. Use the resources that the U offers to you such as CAPE (Center for Academic Planning and Exploration that offers academic coaching and major exploration workshops), your advisor, and others to aid you in your endeavors. Check out CAPE here: http://www.cape.umn.edu/
5. You’re going to be okay.
I promise. You’re strong, beautiful, and capable of overcoming all of the challenges you may face.