It’s finally over. After a year of drilling through problem sets, juggling extracurricular activities with classes, and surviving the awkward (or not so awkward) social transition to college life, freshman year has come to a close. Mistakes were made along the way, and not everything happened the way I wanted, but my first year of college was a cultivating experience that helped me develop as an individual. Now that may sound a bit unbelievable and perhaps even absurd, but as you make your through college you will realize that there are so more opportunities and challenges that will affect you. The freshman year experience can obviously differ from person to person, but here are a few things that I learned along the way. (If you would like to see how my first semester went, click here.)
Friends are Forever
As I mentioned in my previous article, college can be a great way to meet new people and build long-lasting relationships. However, this can only happen if you’re willing to go out and talk to people! At first you might hesitate to walk up to somebody and strike up a conversation, but eventually you’ll realize that this is totally fine (unless the person is a jerk, then they’re not worth your time.)
Making friends and meeting people in college isn’t hard, but actually maintaining those relationships and keeping in touch can definitely be hard if you’re not in any of the same organizations or classes. Even though knowing a lot of people looks like you’re “doing college right,” remember that it’s okay to have a smaller group of friends. Also, don’t forget about your good ol’ high school friends! Just because you’re in college doesn’t mean that you have to cut off communication with them. Sometimes you’ll find that they are much better people to confide in than the people you meet at college.
Classes and Extracurricular Activities
Having completed a year’s worth of college classes, I can safely say that college classes were much harder for me than high school classes. Compared to high school, I had to work through weekly, rather than daily, problem sets, and I aslo definitely felt like information was constantly being crammed into the curriculum. However, over time I learned to adapt to these changes (but not as quickly as I wanted.) Some classes felt more relaxed than others, but I think it was important for me to distinguish between challenging myself and making myself struggle. A challenging semester is one thing, but if you’re struggling to barely get through the semester, you know that there’s a problem.
In addition to classes, there are of course different clubs and activities you can join! At first it’s tempting to join as many as possible, but remember that just because you have more time in your schedule doesn’t mean that you’re going to have more time to do things. Trust me, things take a LOT longer than you think. Instead of overwhelming yourself with so many activities in the beginning of the semester, try different clubs throughout the year. Take the time to learn what each club does and whether or not the group is right for you. Doing a lot of things is great, but by devoting your time to a smaller group of organizations, you’ll likely be more productive and have the opportunity to really get to know the people involved.
I never realized how much time packing up takes until I actually had to do it. Before I started packing, I thought, this won’t take very long. Well, I was definitely wrong here. As an out-of-state college student, packing was something I definitely underestimated in terms of time. As the end of the spring semester approached, I literally had nothing packed for storage or even to take home. Since I had a final exam the day before finals ended, I planned on packing about a day and a half before so that I would have time to figure out what I was going to store and take home. Little did I know that this would take me a little over two days…
Now you’re probably wondering why I included this here. After all, you chose this college for one reason or another, right? Whether it was for financial or academic reasons, you’re attending this school for some reason. I think one of the most difficult parts about college is figuring out where you belong. You could argue that ‘belonging’ is too mainstream, but let’s face it: you’re a part of the college community either way.
Throughout the year, I struggled to find my place in this new environment. Sure, there were times when I talked with people and participated in group activities, but somehow there was always this feeling of desolation and awkwardness in the back of my head. By the end of the year, I managed to recuperate academically, but overall I felt insecure about where I belonged (and I still do.)
Not all of you will experience this feeling. However, for those that do, know that you’re not alone. I know this is no real consolation in solving anything, but realize that there are other people who feel almost the same way you do. My freshman year was by no means perfect and I wish that I could wash away all of my insecurities about college, but coming out of freshman year I realize that all of these struggles were meant to help guide my understanding of how to cope with life. There are things in life that suck and I can definitely guarantee you that not everything is going to go in your favor. However, with time and persistence anything is possible (even happiness) as long as you continue to fight for it.
Finishing Freshman Year
Freshman year is well-known for the excitement and freedom of heading out into life on your own. Of course, being a college student also means there are more responsibilities and challenges that lie ahead. Although there will be bumps and obstacles along the way, remember to celebrate even the smallest successes, because every small step you take is a step forward.