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Posts Tagged homesick

Reflections On The First Semester

joseph-85Wow!  Like everyone else has said, this semester has absolutely flown by.    I remember during the first few weeks of school wondering whether or not I was going to handle the social situation of all these kids that I had very little in common with.  I did miss my family, my friends, and my comfort back home for the entire semester, but that feeling was especially strong in the first few weeks.  My peers at Oxy had all been extremely friendly, and almost without exception, they have proven to be caring, compassionate, and outgoing people.    Now, I understand that people at any college are probably more friendly than the average population, however it took a while for me to come around the realization that this is how ALL people CAN BE. What’s more, I had always imagined that the historic class struggle would keep me from ever really penetrating their ranks.

With this realization it was very easy for me to make friends.  I’ve never been, by any means, a socially estranged person, but I think I can finally understand how some might sense an alienation and let it confine them.  For me, it was that a few people went out of there way to be kind to me that this became possible.  They were my gateway to a larger population at the school.   While still existent, those feelings of loneliness and distance from familiarity were significantly downplayed.  I am appreciative then for my new friends who have made being away a genuinely great experience and who have taken the pain out of it.  I genuinely believe that without them I probably would have performed much worse this semester (grades were 3 A’s and a B — the B was in a math class).  I guess what I’m saying is that, especially at a residential college, social interactions are a part of the equation. I would caution all people though to watch the company you keep because new friends might be detrimental to your success, something thus far I have tried to avoid.

Thriving First Semester

lysa-85You’re probably wondering why the title of my blog is “thriving” first semester rather than “surviving” first semester. Well, that’s because a dean at my college once told me, that college is not merely about doing what you have to do just to get by or in other words, just surviving, it’s about thriving in a place that you can truly call your own.

Upon the end of my first semester of college, I’ve realized that with greater freedom, comes much more responsibility. In college, there’s no one there to hold your hand or tell you what to do or what not to do. While this may seem appealing, at times it can be difficult. Being so far away from home I’ve grown much more independent and learned just how essential time management is! Think about it: everyday, we each have the same amount of time handed to us. However, how we each utilize our time varies significantly. While some people spend their day “thinking,” others spend it by “doing.” Learning to balance everything you must do is the key. Yet, this is not always easy. So my advice to you is to always place all of your attention into whatever you are doing at the moment. There will always be distractions to get you off track in life, but one of the most important lessons college has taught me is that if you work hard when it’s time to work, and relax when you have the time to indulge in other activities, you can successfully survive the temptations of a college surrounding. It’s so easy to walk out of your dorm room and become engrossed in some kind of conversation in a nearby common room, or to want to take “breaks” in between assignments. With this method, one thing leads to another, and eventually NOTHING seems to get accomplished.

This semester has also taught me that not everything in life will just be handed to you. Specifically, college is a melting pot, and everyone is nervous when they first arrive. Therefore, not everyone may seem approachable at first or as friendly as you may like. It may be up to you to introduce yourself to your dormmates or classmates. Don’t be afraid to get to know the people you will be sitting in classes and living with for a whole year! Afterall, NO ONE can make it through college alone! Everyone needs someone, it’s just that the “someone” you may need may not be the first person to approach you on move in day. So, take a chance, and make it a point to get to know people as soon as possible: it will make your college experience that much easier and more enjoyable.

Furthermore, I’ve learned that it’s okay to miss home. Everyone starts to feel a bit homesick their first semester of college, even if it doesn’t seem like it on the surface. No one can tell you how hard it will be to so far from home, and no one can truly prepare you  for the emotions you may feel your first few months of college. It can be a roller coaster. I even questioned if Williams was just too far from home for me, and maybe what I thought may be just  be what I needed, wasn’t. I really missed home, my friends, family, and my boyfriend. It’s not easy to maintain friendships or a relationship living more than 1300 miles away from home.  But, I know now  that it’s normal to feel out  of place at first, or like you’re missing something back home. It took me a long time to realize that I truly could make Williams my home if I just allowed myself to open up to people and to college life in general. So, I promise you…. YOU WILL SURVIVE FIRST SEMESTER….even though, at times it truly seems like there’s NO WAY POSSIBLE that you will make it out of finals week alive.

Most people will tell you, college is exhausting. THAT IS VERY TRUE. But finishing first semester was one of the most rewarding and satisfying experiences of my life. Yes, you will probably  pull at least one all nighter your first semester of college, but that’s what makes college memorable. It’s the staying up late, the bonds made with your roommates, the stressful weeks that make each weekend worthwhile, the trips to breakfast and dinner where we all gather around to swap stories, the weekly laundry run, where no washers or dryers are left empty for you to actually do laundry, late night snacks, caffeine rushes, “crunch time”, and the most important lesson of all: YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Whatever you’re feeling, someone else their first year, has felt that very same thing. Each of you will survive your first semester of college differently, but once you complete it, you will find yourself gradually growing up,and realizing your place in the world. And that itself, is the true meaning of an education, to find your place within society; looking back one day on all the memories you made along the way.

BEST OF LUCK to all of you who are finishing up your college applications! I will posting again soon, about a unique program Williams offers its students during the month of January, as I head back to campus January 3rd. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

TTBFS-The Truth Behind First Semester

seanna-85I wanted this piece to be especially powerful, since I can now say that my first semester of college is over.  I’m half-a-semester closer to sophomore year, and 12.5% of my college undergraduate experience is over.  But I couldn’t determine what message would perfectly coalesce into what I want to express.  So in order to move past my creative writer’s block, I decided to do a three point “In-Retrospect-Guide” on outstanding factors of my freshman first semester.

1. College is about learning.

First week on campus = placement exams.  Second week on campus = class registration.  Throughout high school, I took many advanced placement courses, similar to the majority of the other students at Pomona.  And for some reason, a reoccurring statement that I heard after placement exams was, “I forgot all of that stuff during the exam, but I know that I can handle the honors level class.”  Personally, not only had I forgotten all of the stuff during the exam, but I was suddenly unsure of the fact that I’d ever known it.  In fact, I started thinking that admissions had made a mistake with letting me in.  OBVIOUSLY, I was not prepared for college. 

IN-RETROSPECT-#1-Breathe.  Not only was I ready for college, I settled into a groove of working and study habits that have allowed me to smile now that it is Christmas break.  Advanced courses in high school are wonderful classes to take in PREPARATION for college, but college classes are more difficult and may require different study techniques and habits.  That’s okay.  Learn what works for you, and be flexible until something clicks…I study for math in an entirely different way than I study for Latin…and that’s okay.

2. Getting involved provides community.  

Although this was not the best mindset to have at the beginning of school, sometimes I felt that undergraduate was a burden that I had to shoulder before I could return closer to home for medical or graduate school.  I was leaving behind friends and family for a great education, but I found myself breaking the year into four-month segments that I’d just “have to bear”. 

IN-RETROSPECT-#2-I was wrong.  Life at school developed into something incredible.  I made friends unlike any that I’d made before.  As an active member on Student Diversity Committee, I helped make decisions concerning campus climate. My intramural volleyball team placed 3rd, and the gym was not a legendary place for the “in-shape”. Although my friends and family remained at home, I was okay. I was happy. All in all, I was living life.

3. Life is still not perfect.

This was most likely the hardest lesson for me to learn and accept.  Despite the glamorous campus, amazing dining halls, nice-sized rooms, wonderful people, and remarkable classes…I still had down days.  I did occasionally get homesick.  Sometimes, I didn’t want to do homework.  Even worse…sometimes I was not enthralled with my seemingly endless to-do lists.  I just wanted a break. 

IN-RETROSPECT-#3-College life is still life.  With demands, stresses, and problems.  Although you may want to participate in a million interesting and extraordinary opportunities, an occasional nap may be more beneficial.  Allowing your initial experience of college to overburden your work load and cause excessive strain hurts one person-you.  Finding a balance is very important…perhaps one of the most important for this first semester.  And admitting that you are unhappy with something is also okay…that’s one reason many colleges provide sponsors and mentors.  Everyone wants your adjustment to college to be as smooth and enjoyable as possible.  There will be road bumps and obstacles, but understanding how to meet those head-on will eliminate their severity and possible future harm.

So on top of learning basic Latin, how to find angular diameter, and the reasoning behind Christian attacks on Jews in 1096…I also discovered the truth in these three small tidbits…and perhaps this post will help you keep them in mind, as well.  Happy Holidays!!