The freshman experience: A muddle to find balance

As a freshman in college, you’ve already been told many different ideas of what it’s supposed to be like. I remember my parents, high school teachers and the average T-rated teen movies giving me all sorts of ideas. Many mild-mannered adults will tell you college is the time to focus entirely on education, to engage in numerous courses and soak up all that sweet, sweet knowledge with your endless supply of ramen noodles.

Movies and friends (but mostly movies) have likely told you about the time they used a hair dryer to cook their dinner, the quirky student organizations and, of course, the crazy, gigantic parties. Yes, college is one big haze of Solo Cups (specifically red ones) and jumping up and down to the newest hip-hop track in a fraternity you don’t even remember the name of. No one seems to attend courses but also seem to miraculously pass them. 

The reality, at least from my personal experience, is neither of those ideas. College life can often be hyperbolized to fit a narrative most appealing to the average youth, some more ridiculous than others. Yes, there will likely be times where you’re sleep deprived from studying or working on a project. Yes, there are parties on campus and shenanigans. The difference is there’s a hearty balance between the two: the studious, head-in-your-notes reality and the fun, sociable, this-is-the-best-four-years-of-your-life reality. 

If you’re like me, you’re going into college with no idea what you’re doing. By that, I mean you were given a lot of ideas of what it was like to place you in a false sense of security, only to realize once you’re settled in your dorm that you don’t even know where to start. You’ve probably been slammed with a lot of information at once, and your first couple of weeks will likely involve a lot of bumbling. Personally, my sister and I spent a lot of time wandering the campus, pointing out notable buildings for courses. Bumbling, in essence, is part of the journey. 

Confusion is incredibly common, as well as an intimidation of what’s to come. I have never been one to jump into the party atmosphere, so I found myself hesitant to join some student organizations. I can be withdrawn, but I’m not content with doing nothing but studying, reading and doing homework. All my focus for my first year landed squarely in keeping my grades up, but not sinking into the void of my room, only emerging to keep missing posters coming up for me. 

And that’s the crux of this story: it’s important to have balance.  

Opportunity is not only readily available but also encouraged as a way to get a break from courses or to earn experience in your field of study in an engaging way. Again, however, balance is key. Don’t feel like your have to do everything at once to get the full ‘college experience.’ If you take on too many responsibilities at once, you may find your personal health suffering, as well as each obligation getting less and less attentions as you’re pulled in different directions. As a freshman that’s already just trying to find their footing, you don’t want to burn out early.

I developed a slow build up to what I took on. My freshman year, I didn’t really jump into any organizations. I kept my grades up, spent a lot of time in my room getting readings done. However, I also taught myself how to manage my assignments, how to properly find rooms and estimate the time it takes for each paper or project. I came up with an efficient system of finishing coursework in time to have the weekend to indulge in the vice known as video games. 

But I also went out for the occasional Friday night movie at the student center. I attended a couple ballroom events and went out with friends. It was my sophomore year that I started writing for the paper, when I joined Dungeons and Dreadnoughts (EMU’s student organization for roleplaying games such as Dungeons and Dragons) and made some of the best friends I have now. It was a slow build, but it’s what made me comfortable. 

College life, you’ll find, is an endless scale of balancing personal health, fun social outings and coursework. Don’t feel like you have to fit into a specific box of what the ‘college experience’ is supposed to be. Push yourself to step outside your comfort zone, try new things but don’t stress yourself out, especially in your first year. Ultimately, a successful college career is what makes you the happiest, healthiest and safest. Go with the flow, be bold, be yourself, and this really will be four years you’ll remember for a lifetime. 


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