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11 Things I Learned The Hard Way My Freshman Year Of College

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

My freshman year at UConn is almost over and it’s safe to say that this year was…a lot. It’s crazy to think that in mere months a whole new group of freshmen will be packing up their things, driving to campus, and settling in. I remember move-in day like it was yesterday and I’m not sure if it’s because ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ or the brain forces you to forget the times that you’re miserable. I like to think it’s a combination of both. Through all of the good and all of the bad, I can at least say I learned a thing or two. 

Unh College Move In GIF by University of New Hampshire - Find & Share on GIPHY

1. It’s Ok To Do Things Alone

Being on your own at college can be new, challenging, and scary for many people. Coordination becomes very difficult when everyone has different and increasingly busy schedules. It’s easy to see groups of friends walking around together and think that you have done something wrong to end up alone. Being alone can be tough, but I assure you that it is ok. Eating in the dining hall, walking to class, going to a club meeting, and campus events are all things that I have done by myself. Was I always alone on purpose? Not necessarily, but I’ve learned to find the fun in being alone. Letting go of societal norms and pressures was definitely hard for me but now I actually look forward to my solo breakfasts and walks. 

2. Get Involved!

One of the best ways to avoid feeling lonely or bored is to simply get involved. At UConn, it’s pretty easy to find a club or organization that you’re interested in (we have over 400 student groups!). Not sure how to go about it? Here’s my advice: I find it’s easier to join a bunch of clubs and then stop going to the ones you don’t like than deciding to get involved mid-semester. So, at the beginning of the fall semester, I joined any club that sounded interesting (and yes, my emails were flooded). I saw which clubs worked timing-wise, attended various meetings, and eventually found the clubs that I really enjoy. Clubs and all campus events are going to be hit or miss, but the only way to find a group you love is to try. Getting involved on campus allows you to find people with similar interests, take part in meaningful projects, and at the very least have something to do. 

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3. Rest is Important

College is hard. Living away from home is hard. Sharing a bathroom with 20+ people is hard. It’s ok to be overwhelmed sometimes. One thing I have found really difficult in college is allowing myself to rest. It’s almost as if because I live at my school I should always be in school mode or something. This mindset has been really hard to break out of, but it’s something I try to prioritize. Sometimes it takes cocooning myself into a blanket and pretending I’m in my childhood bedroom to get my mind to ease, but at this point I feel like whatever works is best. 

4. Make your dorm feel like home

Before college I only ever lived in one house and was never away from home for more than 2 weeks. My dorm is definitely a place I can rest, but it doesn’t feel like my room. Sure, a lot of it is in my head, but even covering my walls more and adding things that make me feel calm and happy would probably be beneficial. It can be expensive but having a place to come back to each day that you feel truly calm in is important.

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5. Do Not Trust Social Media

As someone who wants to work in a media-related field, I would never tell people that they absolutely need to swear off their socials. But it definitely helps to take everything you see with a grain of salt. Nobody posts their raw, worst moments on social media. Even those ‘casual Instagram’ posts with people crying and looking ‘ugly’ are curated to present a certain image. The ‘college lifestyle’ increases this issue tenfold. I’m not really into the party scene, but I can definitely get jealous seeing everyone smiling and dressed in cute outfits. But the number of times I’ve heard people pull up these photos and say they were actually miserable that day proves how unreliable a social media presence is. I’ve also never been a victim of the dreaded ‘frat flu’- definitely a plus. 

6. The Weather is Crazy

When Olivia Rodrigo said “God, it’s brutal out here” I don’t think she was referring to New England weather, but the sentiment still stands. One day it’s 60 degrees and sunny, the next it’s 37 degrees and raining. During one of my first few weeks here, we had a rainstorm so bad that I quite literally had to throw out my new notebook and my favorite pair of shoes. Everyone has some sort of weather advice like “get a good jacket” or “buy a real good fan,” but honestly you might just want to buy all of it. 

Winter Storm Snow GIF by Outside TV - Find & Share on GIPHY

7. Caffeine Addiction is Real

I didn’t start drinking coffee until I was a senior in high school, but I was definitely a caffeine addict way before I stepped foot in Storrs, Connecticut. Thankfully, when I did arrive at UConn I found two Dunkins and two Starbucks in relatively good locations. Eight AMs are hard enough and sometimes you just need that extra boost to get you through the day. I’m embarrassed to admit how much money I’ve spent at the Union Dunkin, but I’m not embarrassed to admit that caffeine is probably one of the main reasons I’ve been able to stay afloat during these busy and stressful weeks. 

8. Find The Best Times To Do Laundry

Laundry in college might just be my enemy. I’ve long said that UConn’s north laundry room is what I imagine my own personal hell to be like. It’s seriously madness in there. Most of the washers and dryers don’t fully work— if you can find a vacant one to begin with. I have resorted to waking up, getting ready, and heading down to the laundry room at the crack of dawn to ensure my experience will be as smooth as possible. I imagine that every school and even every residence hall is different, but this is definitely something that needs to be experimented with.

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9. Podcasts Are My New Best Friends

This one is kind of niche, but I always thought podcasts were stupid. That is until I moved to an extremely walkable (and sometimes lonely) community, AKA college. Now I listen to podcasts almost every single day. From walking to class to eating in the dining hall, I almost need to have some of my parasocial best friends talking in my ears. Filling up that alone time with something to listen to can really help make those dreary days a little bit brighter. And I can honestly say that I’ve learned a lot – from gender performance to Taylor Swift history. Some of my favorites are Binchtopia, Sounds Like A Cult, and The Evolution Of A Snake.

10. do things you might not like

I’ve hated on sports for a long time, and trust me, living in the ‘Basketball Capital of the World’ has not entirely changed my mind. I went to First Night in October and it was a bit…meh. So, my expectations were not that high for any other basketball experiences. However, I decided to go to one of the women’s March Madness games because…why not? It was honestly pretty fun, thanks to the fact that my friends volunteered to tell me what the heck was going on. I guess my point with this one is, that no matter how much something is out of your comfort zone or typical interests, college is the perfect place to try anything at least once. 

Mascot Jonathan GIF by UConn Huskies - Find & Share on GIPHY

11. It’s Ok To Be Confused

If you had told me four years ago that I’d be a journalism and communication double major at a school in Connecticut, I probably would believe you, and honestly thank you. Because, unlike the ‘I can’t believe I’m here and I’ve made it so far’ trope, I was simply confused about what I wanted to do. I had no idea where I wanted my life to go and I honestly still don’t. I can imagine hundreds of different futures for me and that can be a little scary. As someone who’s always searching for the answers, trust me when I say that sometimes you just need to sit in the confusion for a bit.

UConn, and college in general, is a wildly magical, strange, and terrifying place. Through all of its ups and downs you’ll inevitably learn a lot— and not just in class. Hopefully, the things that I’ve learned can help you make the best out of your time in college too. 

Emily is an Associate Editor for Her Campus UConn. She is a junior at the University of Connecticut studying journalism and communication. Emily enjoys writing about pop culture, lifestyle, film, and TV. Emily is a Copy Editor for The Daily Campus and the Social Media Chair for UConn Creative Writing Club. She also co-hosts and edits a pop culture podcast called ‘Girl Talk.’ Passionate about all things creative, Emily is often writing poetry, reading a book, or trying to teach herself a new skill. In her spare time, you can find Emily sipping on a coffee, crafting a new Spotify playlist, or obsessing over her dog.