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Life > Experiences

Closing My Freshman Yearbook

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 Washington chapter.

“Say yes to everything.”

Scribbled in black ink on the back of a water-spotted United Airlines napkin during my flight to Seattle, this became my freshman year mantra. In hindsight, I realize it wasn’t just about saying yes to new experiences, but about embracing the unknown and finding confidence in my own decisions. Over the past month, while sipping coffee at my favorite U-District spots, I’ve reflected on the highs, lows, and everything in between of my first year. 

No amount of “how-to” guides could have prepared me for my first 10 weeks of college. Transitioning from a high school of 250 students to a small fish in UW’s sea of 36,000 students in a big city 1,024 miles from home was daunting. As the leaves turned orange and my semester-school friends were long gone, it was time for me to face reality: Autumn Quarter. 

My older friends described the first few weeks of freshman year as crucial, and I found this to be both true and false. The initial rush of independence manifested in minute details: returning to my dorm from a party at 2am, eating Frostbite ice cream for dinner, and climbing two flights of stairs to my best friends’ room. My American Ethnic Studies class radically changed my understanding of American history, marking the beginning of my true appreciation for higher education and gratitude for pursuing a bachelor’s degree. 

On the flip side of this, I was humbled by my Climate Change class and spent days crying over photos of my dog. I rushed the field after football’s win over Oregon, was introduced to the wonders of the Montlake Cut, and survived my first thrilling (terrifying) Halloweekend. I hope every student can enjoy these quintessential UW experiences throughout their years here.

As the autumn leaves disappeared and branches became barren, returning from Christmas break brought a host of new adventures. I celebrated my 19th birthday away from home for the first time, enjoyed hot dogs at countless basketball games, and experienced my first real winter weather. As a native Californian, I confidently confirm that seasonal depression is real. By the way, get your flu shot– I made it through the year without catching the disease.

On the other end, I felt lonelier than ever and was hit by a blast of freezing cold air every time I stepped outside. Two things that helped me manage? Late night phone calls with my mom and extensive journaling. Some of my dorm friends joined Greek life, making it hard not to feel left out, but maintaining those relationships was crucial– few can empathize with the unique challenges of freshman year. We had already built strong friendship foundations.

I began writing for HerCampus, met one of my best friends, and learned to share things online that I hadn’t been able to say out loud or even to my family. I stepped out of my emotional silence, gaining confidence in holding difficult conversations. 

Following a grueling winter quarter, the transition to spring after break was a much-anticipated and refreshing change. This period deepened my appreciation for the changing seasons and the value of sunshine, highlighting how winter enhances my gratitude for the arrival of spring. 

The post-spring break vibes are unparalleled– Seattle’s sunnier days immediately boosted my mood tenfold. I purposely planned my schedule to take “easier” courses in the spring: trust me, you won’t want to be cooped up inside while your friends are out enjoying the weather. I also placed an immense pressure on myself to make spring quarter the best ten weeks ever, feeling like a failure if I didn’t succeed.

I hadn’t been home for four months until I finally caved and went home for a weekend in May– the first since Christmas. Healing took place by spending quality time with my dog, sleeping in my quiet bedroom, and soaking up a picture-perfect beach day with my high school best friend. 

Conversely, I desperately struggled to slog through the second half of the quarter while most of my hometown friends were already home, and found it hard to cope with the interruption of rainy days in between sunny sequences. 

My sunny Saturdays were spent outside, jumping in the still-freezing lake, eating fresh berries on Denny field, and defrosting from the past months. I was introduced to darty season, indulged in the U-District street fair, and stumbled upon a huge field of daisies that made me smile ear to ear. Looking back, my transformation since September is astonishing– I’ve grown and changed in ways I never imagined.

Here are my key takeaways and advice:

  1. Take the year at your own pace: you don’t have to follow the crowd.
  2. Lean on your support system when needed. Then reciprocate.
  3. Get to know your random roommate before you’re forced to live together for 9 months.
  4. Do not expect to be included in everything, you won’t be– and that’s okay. 
  5. Take L’s with grace, then move on. 
  6. Go to class! Don’t let that precious tuition money go to waste.
  7. Don’t wait around for people.
  8. Soak up every piece of information you learn– what you discover about yourself is just as valuable as classroom knowledge.
  9. Embrace changing habits.
  10. Take advantage of the Link and bus system to explore the city!

In the spirit of every great yearbook, I’ll leave you with a piece of wisdom: embrace the unpredictable. It’s not merely about agreeing to everything, but about discovering joy in the unexpected and gaining insight through experience. You may also acknowledge that “yes”, this point in my life is a struggle, but I’ve gotten through hardship before and I will again.

I’ve had solitary dinners alone with my thoughts and AirPods, and nights filled with laughter and tears with friends who have become my chosen family. These moments, both lonely and lighthearted, have shaped me in ways I never could have imagined.

Reflecting on your year, regardless of whether you’re a freshman or a senior, consider your greatest surprises. How have they influenced your growth?

An imperfect year does not equate to failure. As I’ve discovered, take your time, seek support, and protect your peace. Freshman year is just the beginning.

From solo adventures in the city to unexpected friendships, every “yes” taught me to find joy in the unknown and strength in every challenge.

Hi! My name is Sophia Sostrin, a first-year student at UW. I plan to double major in Journalism & Global/Regional Studies. I'm from San Luis Obispo, California and spend any free time reading at the beach or hanging out with my dog while I'm home. A fun fact about me is that I have dual citizenship with Switzerland! And, I'm a huge music junkie, love watching sports & am addicted to true crime documentaries. Creative writing is my passion and I'm so stoked to share my work!