Just a few months ago, I was a wide-eyed freshman excited to come to the University of Washington. There was some apprehension about the competitive nature of the school, which was only natural for such a big change. The summer was long and filled with anticipation. I tried to limit my expectations and stay excited, but it was challenging. I knew that there were so many possibilities for what college could be like, so I started to think about what I wanted out of my college experience. I chose classes that would challenge and excite me, and I decided to rush to join a sorority. Every decision I made this past quarter has led me to where I am today, and I don’t regret any of it. I’ve already made life-long friends and have learned so much from my classes. My first quarter was everything I wanted and more.
At first, college felt like summer camp. I moved in, started making friends, and had essentially no responsibilities. We spent our days exploring campus and Seattle, excited to be in college. Everything was romanticized at the beginning of the quarter. There was no desire to skip class and “watch the lecture later,” no looming midterms, and not an ounce of burnout. I was eager to finally have homework again. I remember going to the quad with friends to do homework and enjoy the sunny fall days. Thinking about it makes me nostalgic, but I have learned so much since then.
Making friends in college has been an interesting experience. I was excited to meet new people in college, but it shocked me how quickly you can get to know people. I did end up joining a sorority, so the girls in my sorority were my first friends. Since we met, we’ve grown so close. Living together allowed us to spend lots of time together. We started with surface level conversations and began to find things in common and connect on deeper subjects. Despite our different backgrounds, we have much more in common than I ever would have expected. It never ceases to amaze me that we met just a few short months ago. We’re always there to support each other and make an effort to make plans together. This was a very different experience than I’d previously had with a friend group, so I am very grateful to have found it.
I’ve also met so many people in my classes. Because of the size of campus and classes, there are such small odds of meeting the people you do. To me, that makes friendships formed on campus even more special, and the connections I’ve made through my classes have been an important part of my college experience thus far. We’ve gotten to experience the transition together and learn from each other. Everyone has different backgrounds, experiences, and approaches to problems. Doing homework with my friends has allowed me to maintain a balance of social time and studying. We’re able to learn from each other and strengthen our own knowledge by teaching each other. The biggest adjustment in college has been adapting my study habits. I’ve had to learn what works best for me in terms of environment and effectiveness of different techniques. The pace is also much faster in college, so this quarter helped me learn how to pace myself and try to avoid burnout. My grades definitely aren’t as good as they were in high school, but there’s still room to improve each quarter. Throughout the quarter I’ve seen improvement, so I can give myself grace and continue to challenge myself to grow.
Although this quarter has been tough at times, I’m glad I had the opportunity to be away from home and challenge myself. My mindset about school and the people in my life allowed me to learn and grow a lot. I was surprised at how easy it was for me to adjust at first. Still, I had days where I just wanted to be at home with my family; it’s easy to forget that our families are just a phone call away. Luckily though, I could go home when I needed to since I live so close. I had to find a balance though, as I tried not to depend on going home and stayed on campus as much as possible to gain more independence, and I’m glad I did. Navigating the real world by myself was something that scared me coming into college. At the beginning of the quarter, I hated going places by myself. Since then I’ve gotten more comfortable running errands and navigating the surrounding areas of campus by myself when I need to. Before college I considered myself an independent person, but I’ve grown into a more confident version of myself this past quarter.
Whether or not you had the same experience this quarter, you should be proud of getting through your first weeks of college! My experience has been very positive, but there were still difficult moments. Learning to interact with new people and taking difficult classes took its toll. I am feeling burnt out and ready for a break, but I wouldn’t change a thing. We are always going to have challenges in college and in life. Finding happiness despite those challenges has made me feel a strong sense of belonging at UW. Going forward, I am excited to take the lessons I’ve learned this past quarter with me. My classes next quarter are ones I’m looking forward to. Adapting to a new, different schedule will be yet another challenge, but I am confident that I will adapt and find balance once again. If nothing else, I know to give myself grace and continue to try my best.