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Freshman Year: What I Wish I’d Known

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCSB chapter.

Freshman year can be hard. It isn’t the first time you’ve heard this, I’m sure. I vividly remember my father telling me, “You will feel lonely, you will want to come home and you will feel isolated.” Great advice to give a bawling teenager about to move 6,000 miles away from home. Thanks, Dad.

Although, there was some truth to his ‘words of wisdom.’ I understood that he wanted to make me feel okay with things not being ‘okay.’ That it was normal to feel alone and like you don’t know what you’re doing. I wish I had listened more but some things you have to figure out for yourself. 

Arriving from a British boarding school I was beyond wet behind the ears when I stumbled into my Santa Catalina triple last year. I quite literally had no idea what I was doing. I was taking it step by step, and learning as I went.

So, from me to you, here is all of what I learnt about what was beyond those famous Henley Gates my first year. 

Housing/ Rooms 

Now, many people have different views on first year housing at UCSB. You will hear varying opinions on the “Shorties” (Anacapa, Santa Cruz, and Santa Rosa) versus FT (Santa Catalina Towers North and South.) The choice here is really up to you. The closer you are to campus, the more involved you are. If you decide to have off campus housing, it gives you the possibility to distance yourself from ‘school’ when you’re not doing classes (a break you won’t appreciate until you get it.)

I spent my freshman year in Santa Catalina South Tower. Although it would have been fun on campus, it was definitely the right decision for me. The one recommendation I would suggest is: Choose Random Roommate Selection. This may be a controversial take but trust me; I went random. I did not know anyone and those ‘random’ roommates are now my friends for life. In fact, from what I saw and heard, choosing a roommate can often end badly. Most roommate decisions are based on preconceived views and not usually compatibility — which quickly can fail. Remember that just because you are best friends with someone does not mean that you can live with them. Trust me. Go random. You won’t regret it!

Dining Halls

First piece of advice with dining halls is you will always overestimate your swipes. I would start smaller as you can always increase (instead of the other way around.) By the time you have: woken up, presumably late, and finally gone to class, come back late, shared a Freebirds with a friend etc, you may have not eaten at a dining hall at all that day. You will always think that you will go to the dining halls more than you end up actually going. Save yourself time and money. Go smaller, not bigger!

The best dining hall on campus is DLG hands down. There’s a reason Jack Johnson writes about it in Bubble Toes! The food and variety is great and there is always a great buzz. But be warned, try and avoid rush hour otherwise you may be stuck in a queue winding around the volleyball courts. Carrillo is also great for another on campus option.

If you are stuck with Portola (as I was), be warned, it does not have the best reputation. Although I didn’t necessarily think it was bad, the word around campus is that it is a definite last contender. What I would recommend from my year of eating “Port” food is that dinners are not the prime time to go. Lunch is the best meal with the most variety and freshness of food. The highlight, however, would have to be weekend brunch. Featuring a full fry up and a UCSB personalized waffle (I mean come on!) there’s no place I’d rather spend my weekend mornings. 

GOLD / Classes 

Gaucho Online Data, or GOLD as it is affectionately known, will swiftly become your most visited website. Trust me. The truth about GOLD is this, do not expect to get the classes you hope for. As a freshman, you will be at the bottom of the pastimes and therefore, depending on the class, you will probably have to change your schedule from what you originally intended. This is fine though, you just have to be on top of it. I would recommend having various schedules in case your first picks run out of space. 

I also would encourage you to not forget about P/NP (Pass/ No Pass.) I did not understand what this was when I first came to college and didn’t understand the process. If there is a class that you need for a GE, or just for units, and you don’t think you will do very well, don’t be afraid to P/NP. When used sparsely and when you need it, it can be your best friend. Although, start as you mean to go on. It is best to do better at the beginning when you have less commitments and ‘easier’ classes (in theory!).

Rapid Fire

Here are a few quick, miscellaneous honorable mentions to note!

  • Devereux Beach is better than Campus Point. If it is a sunny day, go to Devs!
  • You do not need a bike. UCSB makes it sound like without a bike you would never survive. Show up, start your quarter, work out where your classes are and how much you want to get around. Then (and only then) think about whether you need a bike or not.
  • The Arbor coffee is overpriced! Try and get your coffee off campus or even better make your own. You will thank me in the long run.
  • Try to avoid the UCen Starbucks at all costs. The line is always too long and it’s just not worth it. If you need your daily Starbucks kick try the one in IV or Goleta.
  • The bus is your best friend. Your student ID is your free bus ticket so USE IT! 

All in all, you will be fine. Mistakes just make you learn more, and trust me you will make many! It’s best to just find your people. Focus on that. You may have some ups and downs and relationships may make and break, but you will eventually find your crowd. Once you have them, everything else will fall into place. 

Hi, my name is Francesca, I am a third year at UCSB studying Film and Media Studies. Originally from England moved to California for college, I have a passion for writing, storytelling and people's passion.