August 2, 2018
GUEST BLOG: Freshmen Year: Expectation vs. Reality
Can you believe move-in day is less than 2 weeks away?? We are so excited to welcome a new group of students to campus, but we know this comes with some fear of the unknown. Here are some words of wisdom from Natalia Wurst ‘21, who reflects on her first year of college. You can find the original post on Trojans 360, a student run blog on campus.
It seems almost impossible to encapsulate everything your first year of college teaches you about adulthood in one blog (which is great, because it should be). For awhile, I put off even trying–until I realized that, 12 months ago, I was exactly you. I didn’t care whether the author of the content I was reading felt self-conscious about the quality or relevance of her words. I needed answers, and I needed them before I spiraled into a black hole of doubt and what-ifs.
So without further ado, the following are four takeaways from my experience, yours to leave or take.
1. Expectation: You’ll live off of Ramen Noodles
You’ve seen it in the movies, and in some masochistic way, maybe you’re looking forward to an all-sodium diet. There’s secret pride in being the embodiment of a completely broke college student after all. The truth is, most universities force you into an unlimited dining hall plan your freshman year, and force you to eat a proper three meals per day like a normal human. It’s only disappointing until you realize it means access to an unlimited supply of breakfast omelets.
Then one day you’ll start using your $13 meal swipes on single bananas and your less privileged upperclassmen friends without dining plans will hate you.
Reality: You’ll be well-nourished, without having to lift a finger.
2. Expectation: You’ll love every second of freedom
As a senior in high school itching to experience life outside of your childhood bedroom, it was easy to throw internal tantrums. There is/was probably a feeling of ijustcannotstayhereinthissuffocatingtownforanothertwofckingseconds.
For most though, the first three-ish months of being away from family will test you. It’ll make you the kind of homesick you swore you’d never be. The kind that’s overly sentimental about pictures of Michael Scott’s face because you know they’re watching The Office without you.
I’ve found that during moments of stress is when homesickness feels heaviest, when the rose-colored glasses of Welcome Week are off. It’s normal to miss the comfort of the hometown you were so quick to detach from at first. Just know that it’s mostly because your university hasn’t become your second home yet, and it eventually will.
Reality: You’ll have to adjust to a new life not surrounded by people you’ve loved since day one. It’s okay if that takes more effort than you’d expected.
3. Expectation: You won’t be able to handle the new workload
Yes, you will. Maybe at times you’ll be temporary married to your favorite library, or downing five espresso shots at once (or both). Maybe at times, in the space between inhaling your third and fourth espresso, you’ll question whether the debt and potential stomach ulcers are really worth the diploma. You’ll find that the answer at the end of those exhausting days is always yes.
Even the 10-page papers you dust your entire room to procrastinate on end up being masterpieces you’re proud of. The friends I have in the Viterbi School of Engineering sometimes spend a total of 30 hours on coding assignments, sending me frustrated 2am Snapchats in all caps. When I asked them if the stress was worth it, every single one said yes, of course it is. They’re in love with what they do.
Your new workload has all of the extraneous, unnecessary crap cut out. There isn’t daily homework you must submit (and the 30-hour assignments are by no means typical for most majors). There are midterms and exams and labs and papers, but youdecide how to conquer them. Go to office hours or don’t. Study two weeks in advance or cram 48 hours before. You’re the adult now.
Reality: You’ll be more in control of how to manage your time than you could’ve imagined, and you’ll, for the most part, become absorbed by what you do.
4. Expectation: You’ll make instant friends
I’m not here to contradict this, because you most definitely will make instant friends with pretty much everyone in those first weeks. There is a thrill that comes with being surrounded by people experiencing everything you are too, and a desperate need for acceptance that you hadn’t felt since middle school. I used to be terrified of eating alone in the dining halls, and apparently so were many. We would scan the room anxiously, with plates in hand, hoping to make eye contact with a stranger who would seem inviting enough to sit across from.
The relationships you form at first, the hyper self-aware interactions you have with your new floormates, are surface-level. And of course they are; that’s normal. Living in the unicornland that is college doesn’t alter the natural progression of forming human connections by all that much. You’re not a failure if it takes you a few months, joining a couple of clubs, and suffering through multiple group projects to find the people that mean the most to you.
Then suddenly, you’re in the car with those same hooligans that have changed your life, singing Ariana Grande at the top of your lungs, asking yourself: if this is college, what the hell was I so afraid of?
All the best on this wild adventure!
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