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10 Lessons I Learned after My First Year in College

This week marks the finale of my freshman status at Winona State University—I survived!—and to celebrate how far I’ve come along, here’s a list of 10 things I learned after my first year.


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1. How to do laundry

I still get a little embarrassed to share this, but yes, I didn’t know how to do laundry before I came to college. Thanks to early move-in, though, my mom was able to give me a quick lesson before she and my dad headed back home. I remember doing my first load all by myself soon after and feeling super proud. In retrospect, it wasn’t really that big of a deal; but in the moment, it symbolized the beginning of me becoming more of a self-sufficient adult.

2. One bad experience with alcohol can be life-changing

I learned this lesson secondhand through one of my roommates first semester. I won’t go into too much detail, but let’s just say I have absolutely no motivation to ever put myself in her situation nor to ever put someone else in the position that I had to assume—which included taking care of her for multiple hours. The good news is that she turned over a new leaf and hasn’t drank since. Despite that night being extremely difficult for me, I’m proud to call her my roommate and I’m even prouder of the progress she’s made in taking better care of herself!

3. The walk to the gym is the hardest part

I’m no fitness buff, but I’m pretty proud to say that I was usually able to work out two to three times a week (more so when the weather was nice!). Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I had the absolute lowest motivation to go anywhere, let alone the gym. I learned over time, though, that once I took those first few steps out the door and toward the fitness center, the rest was a piece of cake—all I had to do was start.

4. “Once you go black…” you can totally go back

Although this phrase typically has a sexual meaning behind it, it can easily refer to other things too, like the idea of breaking trends or stereotypes. In college, I’ve found that nothing is ever really set in stone. I can change my mind often and on whatever I want—my major, my friends, my habits. Freshman year taught me that nothing in the world can define me other than me.

5. Who my (true) friends really are

Although I’ve learned a lot about choosing physical friends wisely, I’ve also learned tons about choosing metaphorical friends wisely. I’m not crazy, people; I’m referring to my planner—my Godsend for staying organized—and Spotify—to calm my pre-exam nerves or to pump up my weekend vibes—and yes, even Netflix—my go-to for when I don’t want to do homework or can’t sleep or am simply bored out of my mind. I know it sounds silly, but these are the three friends I know I can always count on!


spotify, phone, headphones, music
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6. Not having parents around isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

I’d say that I’m pretty close with my parents, so having to say goodbye to them on move-in day wasn’t the easiest thing for me to do. Granted, I made it out alive; along the way, though, there were definitely moments when all I wanted was for them to handle something I didn’t think I personally could or for them to say everything was going to be all right. Without a doubt, I appreciated them a hell of a lot more as well as the things they’d done for me for so long. Surprise visits, random cards in the mail and unexpected phone calls all made the distance feel a little shorter each time; and for that, I’m so grateful to be able to call them my parents. I love you!

7. How to live with roommates

Moving into the dorm was quite the adjustment for me since I’m an only child. Regardless if for the good or the bad, I wasn’t used to living with multiple people in such small quarters. Even though we had our ups and downs throughout the year, I can honestly say I’ve taken away a lot of positive lessons due to my experience of living with roommates, like being open to sharing my things and personal space. In the dorm, it didn’t feel like I was an only child—it felt like I had a new family to go home to.

8. I’m no longer going to be spoon-fed

I was confident entering college that I was going to have to chase after the things I wanted—I never realized, though, how tough this would be at times. Opportunities come up frequently around here, like to join clubs or to attend study sessions with tutors. The atmosphere, I learned, was very different from high school’s in the sense that professors can only go so far to recommend doing something—it’s up to us in the end to step up and make something happen, which put a lot of responsibility on my shoulders that I wasn’t entirely used to yet.

Also, despite all the classes I’ve taken thus far, I have my freshman year to thank for helping me master the two hardest courses I’ve encountered yet: “Get Your A** Out of Bed by Yourself, Even When You Don’t Want to” and “Get Your A** to Class on Time.” Surely, they won’t show up on my official transcript, but man are they important!

9. It’s okay to not always know the answer

One of my favorite professors I’ve had so far said the following quote during the first week of our English class: “The phrase ‘I don’t know’ was where the conversation ended in high school; but in college, ‘I don’t know’ is where the conversation begins.” I loved this message so much because he encouraged us to always participate, even when we weren’t entirely sure whether we knew the answer—let alone the correct one. He ultimately taught me to take control of my learning by refusing to sell myself short, which I’d normally do when I’d worry about my answer being wrong or my question being too dumb to be asked. Moral of the story: in college, you don’t have to be a brainiac—but whatever you do, don’t be a quitter.

10. It’s also okay to be alone sometimes

While it may be nice to have company around when going to the caf or doing your laundry, it’s also nice to have some moments to yourself when you can focus on what you need to get done and do so at your own pace. Although I was pretty independent before coming to college, my freshman year taught me that sometimes it’s easier to do things on my own. It doesn’t make me (or anyone else) a loner, either—doing things alone can help when all we want is to be more efficient with our time.


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My first year in college proved to be one of the most difficult transitions I’ve experienced so far… but it’s also given me some of the greatest moments of happiness and new knowledge that I can carry with me to my remaining years at WSU!

| 2018-20 Club President/Campus Correspondent | Hailey Seipel is a senior at Winona State University who is studying Applied & Professional Writing and Journalism. She has been passionate about writing ever since she was little, and a dream of hers is to author poetry, sci-fi and romance novels. Until then, she is interested in working as a creative/blog writer, technical editor or project coordinator after graduating. In her free time, Hailey enjoys listening to music and reading leisurely.
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