Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Freshman 15: What I've Learned

It's that time of the semester again! With a week of exams to tackle, last-minute grades to boost, and vacation plans to finalize, no one can overlook the fact that the year is coming to a close. But for some of us, this marks the end of a very exciting beginning. This time last year, I was scrambling for A.P. tests, shopping for my dorm room, attending pep rallies, and anticipating senior skip days. Now, in April 2010, I'm proud to say I survived my freshman year of college (not without challenges) and I've learned a lot from it... not just about anthropology and public speaking and how to use an oven or washing machine, but about (dare I say it) life.

Yes, I'm turning into one of those corny, semi (maybe a bit pseudo?)-self-actualized college students who thinks she knows everything... all I need to do now is start sleeping by the Reflection Pond of the school and bringing a frisbee with me everywhere I go. Perhaps that isn't exactly what I've become, but the truth is, I can't look at myself today and see the same person I saw in high school anymore. Things have definitely changed - hopefully for the better - and in order to document that, I decided to create my own Freshman 15, a list of the fifteen most important things I learned this year. And so, without further ado...

The Freshman 15

1. A first impression isn't everything.
Okay, so sometimes you do have to stick to your gut. Sometimes you might not like someone right away for a reason, and that's perfectly acceptable. But don't judge a book by its cover -- some of my best friends at school are the people I never thought I would see again, and some of the people I no longer hang out with are the people I thought would be my best friends.

2. Be friendly to everyone.
The first week after move-in is great for meeting people, because everyone is new to the school and looking to find their future best friends and boyfriends/girlfriends. Meet and talk to everyone you can... it really is worth it in the long run!

3. Flexibility is key.
I applied to college with every intention of majoring in Journalism and eventually winning the Pulitzer Prize, but a week into my first semester, I decided that it was no longer my passion. A little soul-searching and a trip to Career Services later, I changed to Advertising/Public Relations, and I couldn't be happier. It's okay if your plans don't unfold as you originally wanted them to; you just have to revise them until you've created something even better.

4. A fever is never really "no big deal."
After battling the flu, two ear infections, and mono in just the fall semester alone, I can honestly say that visiting the health center when you're not feeling like yourself is totally worth it. Living in close quarters with other people means that you're going to get sick, like it or not.

5. Take tons of pictures.
Document everything you can while you're here. It's always fun to look back later!

6. The "walk of shame" is not a myth.
Such a thing is possible no matter how far apart you live, regardless of whether or not anyone actually had sex. Just smile when you run into people and try your best to avoid their questions. :)

7. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
College is the one time where you'll have all these free services at your disposal... so go to the tutoring sessions, have Career Services look over your resume, talk to your advisors when you need advice on course selections, etc. After all, you've technically already paid for it, so you might as well get some use out of it!

8. When in doubt, turn on some Lady Gaga.
Whether you're getting ready to go out, craving a dance party with friends, or just hoping for something to brighten your day, Lady Gaga's your man. Or woman? You decide.

9. Parents aren't total dinosaurs.
The relationship you have with your parents does change when you're living away from home. And since they are no longer nagging you to follow a certain curfew or clean your room, you tend to be treated more like an adult. This makes it a lot easier to talk to them when you need advice or support. The more I talk to my parents, the more I find that they went through the same situations as the ones I am going through now, and they usually have better insight than anyone else.

10. Know who your real friends are.
Your friends aren't the people who leave you sick and stranded outside a club on a Saturday night because the line is too long to sit and wait with you. Your friends are the people who rush over to pick you up and talk you through things... the people who take care of you and bring you milkshakes when you're going through a tough time... the people you can ask the most embarrassing questions and expect the most honest answers from. And they are, perhaps, some of the best people you have ever met.

11. Find a way to de-stress.
It doesn't matter how much you love your classes or how strong your time management skills are... you will still, to some degree, experience stress. A little bit is okay and actually good for you, but when it becomes too overpowering, it's important to have some kind of release. (For example, I try go to yoga classes before I have a big test.)

12. Clubbing is overrated.
Of course this is coming from someone who doesn't like to dance, but the whole "night life" thing isn't all that college is about. It's great if you want your hair and clothes to smell like cigarettes, or if you want to get hit on by drunk older guys who don't care what your name is, but other than that, it usually isn't worth it. In fact, I've had more fun with friends doing completely random, even seemingly mundane things, than I've ever had at a club.

13. Take advantage of opportunities to grow.
If a guest speaker is coming in to talk about something that interests you, go. If the school is giving a workshop on one of your weaknesses, go. If you're in a club that offers some kind of retreat where you can learn more about yourself, go! Do whatever you can to improve on something in your life.

14. The hardest decisions you'll have to make are often the most worth it.
It may hurt at the time, but you'll thank yourself later if you do what you think is right. After all, when one door closes, another one opens.

15. Do what makes you happy.
Don't worry about what everyone else thinks. It is your responsibility to take care of yourself and keep your best interests at heart. Like Winnie the Pooh once said, "Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there someday."

What do you guys think? What has college/your freshman year taught you?


  1. that was the cutest thing i've ever read! i love, love, LOVE this post. i completely agree with everything you've said. i feel like i've changed so much as well, including my outlook on life... i just can't believe it's almost over! :)

  2. I'm glad you liked it! It's crazy how much can change in a year or... in this case... a little less than a year! I can't imagine what I'll end up learning in the next few semesters.

  3. Val,

    I'm so proud of how you have grown and matured. Your writing has always been special and is only getting better with your keen insight.

  4. Thank you so much! :) I really appreciate it!

  5. What an awesome post! I love your writing style =) --Melissa from HonCon

  6. Thank you! I'm really glad you enjoyed it.

  7. This is adorable!

    --Molly from SP&A

  8. Thank you so much, Molly! : ) I really appreciate it... I LOVE Smart Pretty and Awkward :)