3 Lessons Freshman Year at UMass Teaches You About Yourself

Freshman year is a time to make mistakes, and even though older students are always willing to offer advice, it's more important to learn for yourself—I made mistakes that I was warned about time and time again. You never truly learn until you have your own experiences, and laugh about them later. Freshman year affects everyone differently, and it can be easy to feel alone or uneasy. However, I've learned that there truly is a place for everyone at UMass if you are willing to make it work for you. Freshman year also taught me the following: 

1) My comfort zone was too comfortable.

By move-in day of freshman year, I already felt in over my head. After a month or so, however, I got used to my routine. I walked the same routes to class, ate at the same places, and went to the same Rec Center group fitness classes every week. It became comfortable for me, and I seldom strayed from my set schedule. I never joined any clubs, barely went out on the weekends, and went home frequently. I focused on my schoolwork which I was proud of, but I found it difficult to make friends. By second semester, I didn't think UMass was the right place for me, and started looking into transfer options. However, I came to realize that UMass wasn't the problem: I was not trying hard enough to make it my home. Freshman year taught me to keep finding ways to move outside of my comfort zone, and you should do the same. You’ll feel weird at first, but after a while, these new experiences you have will broaden your comfort zone. Sign up for a cool club, smile at people you’ve met whenever you see them, and study somewhere else other than your room.

2) I needed to focus on myself.

To anyone entering college with a significant other who doesn't attend the same school: proceed with caution. Long-distance works for some couples, but most of the time, trying to keep the relationship alive and healthy is a waste of your valuable time. When conflicts arise between you two, be sure to take a step back and evaluate if they are what you really need. I spent my entire freshman year either worrying about my boyfriend, going home to see him, or having him visit me. I should have spent the time out making friends and worrying about myself. UMass has over 20,000 new people to meet. It is so important to focus on what is in front of you rather than trying to incorporate someone from your past into your future. Each relationship is different, so it’s not essential to come into college single. However, my experience at UMass has taught me that it's much easier to discover yourself and what you need when you don’t have an SO to worry about.

3) I am even more introverted than I once thought.

Freshman year at any college is a clean slate. UMass is an enormous school with thousands of students from all over the globe. Coming from a larger city in MA, I already knew a good amount of people who attended, but none of them were my close friends. I was always quiet through high school, but being thrown into a school as large as UMass with nobody to help me through put me even further into my shell. I made some friends, but felt even more isolated because I knew they weren't as true as the friends I had at home. It's uncomfortable to be in a completely new place where nobody knows you or your story. You have the flexibility to reinvent yourself, but it's much harder than it sounds. Freshman year taught me how to depend on myself and to value my relationships that I already had.

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