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September, 2010

Am I the Mistake?

leah-85A stampede of freshmen entered the Lang Concert Hall for the formal welcome to Swarthmore College. I looked around and I saw nervous smiles, I heard small talk of “Where are you living?” and “What are you thinking of majoring in?” I was in a new environment where I knew no one, so of course I was a bit uncomfortable, yet that didn’t stop me from approaching people and introducing myself. As the Dean of Admission walked to the podium, the room fell to a silence.  His speech basically complimented the class of 2014. Before earning his round of applause, he said, “You all belong here and no one is a mistake. Welcome Class of 2014!”

Orientation went on for the week and it was fun. I met a lot of great people, participated in fun activities and got to know my roommate better.  But the dean’s words still lingered in my mind.  Could he have been wrong? Did I really belong at Swarthmore? During orientation, my hall mates and I had to participate in a workshop similar to a privilege walk where instead of taking steps forward or backward we stood or sat when we could affirmatively respond to a statement.  The facilitator said, “Stand up if in your household you had fifty or more books.” Everyone, but I, stood.  I was embarrassed but then I kept thinking I am here and I made it here and that’s all that counts.  I have the potential, brilliance, and the determination to succeed at Swarthmore!

The first week of class was not how I expected it to be. I thought I would grasp the topics easily and be the head of the class like I was in high school. During class, I felt discouraged. Everyone was saying brilliant things and I felt like I didn’t belong. I was really down on myself because I had a lot of catching up to do. Again, I kept thinking, “Am I the mistake?” “Can I handle it here?” and “Am I worthy of having the repertoire of being a Swattie?”

But, I realized that a lot of people were feeling the same way.  I was not alone and that gave me a lot of confidence in my abilities. The first week of classes was a shock, but I am adapting to the academics.  I advise you, future student, to meet with your professors so they can help clarify the concepts covered in class. Professors are very accessible and approachable. Other resources are your peers-whether it’s people in your class or an upperclassman who can be a tutor. Also, use your resources as soon as possible or else the semester might not turn out so well.  Even if you think things might go fine don’t be ashamed or nervous to ask for help.

Don’t worry there are more blogs to come!

-Leah

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Most Terrifying of Times

shaun-85It is incredible how long we dream of and prepare ourselves for college. By the end of our senior year, it seems as though after four years of blood, sweat, and tears, we have made it to the end of a grueling race and are now ready to receive the greatest award of all: our matriculation into a place of higher education, which has been a beacon of hope, freedom, and success for as long as we can remember.

This romanticized notion of college all but deserted me as I twiddled my thumbs and wiped my sweaty palms on my jeans the bright morning in September that my father drove me to the Washington and Lee University campus. All of my dorm room designing and course selecting did nothing to quell the nagging fear that all college freshmen—no matter the level of their mental preparation—inevitably feel the first day of their college orientation. Did I bring everything I needed? Will I even be able to make new friends? What if I don’t get the classes that I want? My nerves skyrocketed as my residence hall came into view.

I was immensely relieved when four upper-classmen immediately offered to help carry my two-ton load of personal belongings to the fourth floor. With their help, I was moved in within minutes, and had completed the check-in process within an hour. I realized that Washington and Lee had indeed successfully completed the move-in process with two hundred and seventy-some classes before mine, so there was no need to worry. It’s important to trust that during orientation week, the university as a whole will achieve their goal, which is exclusively to take care of new students.

With a small student body of less than 2,000 undergraduates, 450 of which are freshmen, it was instantly apparent that I had entered a community that knows and cares for each other well. Within an hour of my arrival, I was already told about and encouraged to participate in W&L’s “Speaking Tradition,” in which all members of the community are expected to greet each other on campus. This made me feel welcome, and gave me several chances to meet new people right away.

It’s comforting to know that everyone here is in the same boat, and we will all be working together in beginning classes next week, making new friends, and creating new routines. Though I still view college as an icon of freedom and success, I realize that the most valuable experiences of these four years will be the relationships that we form within the community, and our efforts to shape a more conscientious and independent lifestyle.

Bye Bye Birdie

abigail-85“Wait until I’m 18; I’ll be outta here!”

Whenever I used to get into an argument with my mom it wasn’t uncommon for me to tell her those exact words and the same holds true for a lot of high school students. But the truth is that I’m not even 18 yet; I’m 17 and tonight I’ll catch a red eye flight to Boston. From there, I’ll wait to board the Dartmouth Coach which will take me to my new home, Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.

Whoopee. Don’t get me wrong; I am excited for the new people and experiences that await me, but having my mom cry about me “leaving the nest” is not pleasant and I’m not sure how thousands of freshman do it each year, especially those who are the first in their family to attend college.

So, if you find yourself not being able to console your mom or anybody else afraid of letting you go out into the world alone, start by reassuring them that this new beginning doesn’t mean that you’ll forget about those who helped you get there in the first place. Cell phones, Skype, Pictures, AIM, Facebook, etc. there are tons of ways to keep in touch; try to find one that best works for you and your loved ones. I bought my mom a webcam and now she can’t wait for me to tell her about my first day on campus.

I’ve packed up all my things but it probably won’t sink in until I’m 10,000 feet in the air. Remember, college isn’t a complete good-bye, more of a “see you later”. Have fun and make the most of it!

A Magical Place Called College

sophia-85Independence, responsibility, freedom. That’s right, college is more than I imagined it to be and I cannot get my mind around the experiences I have already been through. It is a fresh start and I have never been so excited.

On the drive up to Chico State, I honestly thought to myself, “I’m not going to make it. I’m going to end up transferring to a school closer to home by second semester.” I was pretty pessimistic and went into Chico, California with the mindset that I would not enjoy any minute of my time there. Fortunately, I was completely wrong.

On move-in day, I was nervous to see who I’d be sharing my apartment with. I have a single room, but the kitchen is connected to four different rooms, with a total of 6 people in the apartment.

I walked into my room and embraced the sight. I felt like a child getting so giddy over having my own personal desk and immediately set my laptop on it to make my room a home.

I then introduced myself to the students I share the home with. I was scared that they would not understand my personality or humor. However, it’s only been a few weeks at school, and I feel as though I made life-long friends. I’ve become extremely close to everyone in the building.

I also fell in love with the town itself. Chico, California is truly a college town. The streets are filled with students and I’ve never felt so welcomed to be a new Chico State Wildcat.

I have a feeling this year will only get better, and I cannot wait to share more. So bookmark this page, I’ll be writing all year.

Empty Rooms and Carton Boxes

irvin-85The melodies of The Killers play in the living room as I stand in the middle of my bedroom. Scattered around me lay five cardboard boxes, each hopefully holding everything I will need during my first year of college. The excitement of going to college was suddenly met with the nostalgia of packing. Who knew putting your life into cardboard boxes would be so difficult?!

As I admire the sight of what used to be my room, I can’t help but feel a bit of sadness creeping in. I have lived in this house for four years. This house has witnessed my successes in high school as well as my coming of age. I will leave all of this behind in just a few days and it will forever be a part of my past. I am sure that as you begin to pack, you will experience similar emotions. This is totally natural and it is expected.

Many of my friends were happy to leave home and had no second thoughts about it. I, on the other hand, had mixed emotions about leaving. Yes, I want to be at Dartmouth as much as my future classmates, but I am going to miss home. My advice to those who are like me is the following: enjoy every moment that you have left with your family. Hug them while you are close because you will be missing those hugs when you are miles away. Share your excitement with them since I am sure that they are as excited as you are for college.

Lastly, do not let the feelings of sadness overcome the feelings of excitement and expectation. The next step that you are about to take in your life is a very important one. You should be excited. I know I am. Yes, it is hard to see most of your life being placed in boxes and to hear what the future use of your room will be, but over the horizon, lays a more exciting picture. Those carton boxes are a temporary container to your life and soon, you will be standing in an empty room wondering how to make that room your home.

I will end my post with a few words from my dad that surfaced during a conversation about leaving home. “No matter how far away you are going, we, as a family will always be together in mind and in spirit.” With these words in mind, I will embark on my journey to Dartmouth knowing that I am taking more than five cardboard boxes. I am also bringing my family along for the voyage.

Truth Be Told: Welcome Week

darius-85Wow, what can I say about going to college in New York? It’s amazing! Such a wonderful experience and I’ve gotten to know some really amazing people!

During welcome week I was bombarded on facebook and around campus about “welcome week parties”! Do not attend. These parties are just a fun way to blow all of your money before classes even begin. I made the mistake of going to four of these parties, and now I’m struggling to eat because I have very little money. Lesson learned.

I had to remind myself that I am here for school, not just to have fun. As a college student, it is crucial that you utilize healthy consumer habits, finding cheap places to grab a bite, see a show, shop and even party. Assign yourself a specific amount of money each week that you are allowed to spend on each. And if you must party, find cheap or free places to go. Of course I should be saying “Don’t party, it’s bad!”…but this is college, it’s going to happen.

I’ve recently learned what it meant to budget your money wisely. I find myself going to restaurants that accept my school meal plan, and shopping at thrift stores (you can find some really amazing stuff there!), and to make the experience more enjoyable, I go with friends. It is of the utmost importance that you build a strong support group or group of friends who you can go to for any and everything. Trust me, college life is so much easier if you’re not alone. This is really helpful for those of you going to school in a state that you’ve never been to and have no familial connections, like me. New York is the greatest, but I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy it without my college friends!

New Kid on SCampus

jordan-85To explain the title, at USC they put and “SC” in front of everything they possibly can, such as SCatalogue and SCampus. I think it’s a little funny, but so far, my college experience has been great! I moved into my dorm here at USC on Wednesday, August 18, and the past few weeks since then have been fantastic.

My first week here was called “Welcome Week.” This involved many activities to welcome all of the new freshman to the University. I took part in events such as a pancake breakfast, a dive-in movie where hundreds of people went to the school’s pool where they screened a movie, a carnival in the main quad, many events where free food was given, such as barbecues, and also attended a full-on concert that they put on every year. This year the headliner was a band called Ra Ra Riot.

Another thing that made my first week even better was the friends I made. I had been talking to my roommate for some time before we came to school, and he’s a cool guy. We met the rest of the guys on our floor on the first day and immediately made friends. This may have been partly because we have a 32 inch TV in our room and xbox, but hey whatever works right?

After Welcome Week concluded, classes began. This semester I am taking three general education courses: Earthquakes, Exploring Culture Through Film, and The World of the New Testament. I am also taking Calculus. So far I would have to say Earthquakes is my favorite class. The professor is a funny guy and he makes the material interesting.

One piece of advice I would have to someone wanting to attend a college with a large campus is BRING A BIKE. This has been amazingly helpful to me in getting from class to class and anything else I need to do throughout the day.

I can’t wait to experience more each day, and I look forward to sharing with you!

Which way is “that way”?

jenny-85Okay, so I’ve already gotten to the college. All in one piece. It’s been a good week of orientation. I met a lot of people. Half of which I won’t remember their names, but I’ll walk past them and still wave. And then whisper to a friend, “What’s their name again?”

But my biggest problem is not knowing everybody’s names. No, not at all. There are always going to be people you won’t know or haven’t met. It’s perfectly normal. In fact, it’s a great chance to make friends.

My BIGGEST problem is my severe lack of a sense of direction. Oh yes. Amherst College isn’t that big. But I still get lost. I have a map, but I still end up going in the wrong direction.

The thing is, when you’re a freshman, you have the right to have a map on you at all times. It’s perfectly okay. You know why? Because you don’t want to end up like me: in the middle of the athletics field at 11:30 PM, with no one else around, trying to find your way back to your dorm. I didn’t even know how I ended up there. I just thought I’d go for a walk…

College can be fun. It can be crazy. I’m having a great time, randomly deciding to get up and go on a walk (with a friend that actually knows where we’re going) and explore the campus and town. Misadventures happen. Some other freshmen and I decided to walk all the way to Walmart because “it’s not that far.” No. No. In fact, it is really far. I have flipflop blisters now.

Classes are just starting. I’m worried about how hard the classes will get. But that’s okay, everybody tells me. The college has resources and tutoring centers. Relax. It’ll be fine.

Everything is happening all at once. It doesn’t stop. And sometimes you may feel a little overwhelmed. I sure am. But keep an open mind. I like to think of everything as an adventure; as experience, something that I can learn and grow from. Be open. Be patient. Take things as they come and then slowly adapt.

Oh yeah. For many of you high school students: make sure you ask your parents to show you how to wash your clothes. Ahaha.

Welcome 10 new student bloggers!

CSOlogo85x85We’ve added 10 fresh(men) faces to the blog for the new school year—all beat the odds to become the first in their family to attend college and began their first semesters this fall! They join our original 10 student bloggers, now college sophomores, who together will be using this blog to diary their college experiences—the good and the bad—and to offer advice to college-bound students like you on preparing for college.

Meet the Opportunity Scholars Bloggers here. Follow these students closely because they are truly role models from whom we can all learn. And leave us comments and questions by clicking “What do you think?” at the bottom of each post. We want to hear from you!

You too can become an Opportunity Scholar by completing a ConnectNow profile on CSO College Center and using the website to research and connect with colleges active in the recruitment of first-generation, low-income, and minority students. At the end of your senior year, Opportunity Scholars have a chance to apply for CSO’s $2,000 Opportunity Scholarship and become one of our future bloggers.

Best of luck on your journey to college!