My first day on campus, my mom and I ventured between my room in Mckay, Plant Hall and the Vaughn Center collecting maps of the city, information about local banks, rules for my dorm, McNiff fitness center schedules and every other piece of information any adult in authority might think necessary.
Over the next few weeks, I found there was a lot more I needed to be filled in on regarding the college world. I was fresh out of high school and fresh out of Tennessee, where I had lived in the same house all of my life.
Speaking of home, let me offer you my first piece of advice; keep in mind that your fellow students come from every corner of this country and globe for that matter. The minute you enter your dorm, which houses hundreds of wonderfully diverse students, keep in mind that you are facing hundreds of not so wonderfully diverse bacteria, germs and antigens.
Granted you’ve just left home and now have the option to eat pizza, French fries and ice cream as your three course dinner. However, it really will make all the difference if you help your immune system out a little and eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible.
Exercising really helps the body. Not only are you keeping your body strong and your metabolism high, but you are spending time outside of your dorm room.
Do not jump in the river.
I don’t think I have to stress this one too much, but there are always the few who decide to attempt this idiotic feat. Let me reassure you that not only have I witnessed someone jump in the river, but as a result, I witnessed this person damage his feet on the barnacles below, as well as endure tetanus shots from one of our lovely school nurses.
As for our next preventable illness, alcohol poisoning is something many of you should take seriously. While I am not promoting any illegal behavior, I don’t think I would be properly preparing you for your freshman year without touching on the subject of drinking.
I will never forget my first semester, when my roommates and I had to spend nights taking care of a girl we barely knew. We dealt with numerous security guards and explained the night to an ambulance full of paramedics.
I want to caution all of you to be smart about your decisions. You are away from home and as nice as these new people seem, don’t count on anyone to take care of you. You are living on your own now,and if there’s anything you should learn right off the bat, it’s that you and only you, are entirely responsible for yourself in this setting.
Don’t be stupid, don’t be reckless and if you are going to drink, make sure you are going to respect yourself and your actions in the morning.
Balancing school and a social life
On a lighter note, go out and get to know people. It’s the beginning of the semester, and you’ve started a new chapter in your life. Now’s the time to reinvent yourself!
Get involved and go to sporting events. No, we don’t have a football team. But guess what? We have phenomenal boys and girls soccer teams and a beautiful stadium at that. Our girls on the volleyball team have acquired quite the crowd and our boys on the baseball team host numerous fun events.
I specifically mentioned sports because I believe students enjoy the college experience more when there is a general air of school spirit and sporting events really bring everyone together. At the same time, there are numerous clubs and organizations to get involved with. Whatever you choose to do, I think it’s truly important to get involved!
Freshman year is not the best time to ignore the importance of grades. If anything, it should be the time you work to build a strong GPA, as courses will only continue to get harder. Trust me, those 8:30 a.m. classes will only seem to get earlier and earlier as the semester goes on, so try to stay on top of things from the get-go.
Also, go to Gateways! The only thing you really have to do to pass this class is show up, and you wouldn’t believe how many people end up failing. If you can’t even show up to a class, you might want to re-evaluate your priorities.
When it comes to buying textbooks, buy them online! I use Amazon, Ebay, Powell’s, Alibris and others, and end up paying about a quarter of what others pay for books at the school. There are also websites which now offer the option of renting textbooks for a semester.
Now, onto the most important advice I can give you as an incoming freshman. As I said from the beginning, you are going to meet people from all over this country and all over the world. You’re going to be exposed to a lot of things you have never seen before: accents, religions, ways of thinking and moral choices. Have an open mind and take it all in.
Get ready to appreciate music, cultures, food and numerous other things you never thought you could. If you can approach everything with a positive outlook, you will be better for it, I promise.
Growing up, we are told we go to college to learn. As freshmen, you start out assuming that you are going to learn from textbooks. After becoming college students, you come to find that you learn more both from the people around you and from yourself than anything else.