Freshman Year First Semester Was A Whirlwind, But Oh How You Learn

Freshman Year First Semester Was A Whirlwind, But Oh How You Learn

"Welcome to the real world! It sucks. You're gonna love it!"
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The last four months of my life have been a complete whirlwind. I left my small town of two stoplights, a FasMart, and a Bojangles, said goodbye to my best friends and moved to a completely new place where I knew very few people.

On top of that, I was greeted by these two overly excited college students who called themselves "FrOGs" (Side note: my hall had the best FrOGs ever). I have come a long way since move-in day, and, even though I have a long way to go (because I am still just a freshie after all), I feel that I have had a lot of personal growth and have learned so many things, aside from what I learned while listening to professors in giant lecture halls.

Sleep is important.

Looking back on high school, I have absolutely no idea how I survived. From waking up to be at school by 7 a.m., and doing sports and extracurricular activities in addition to 8-hour school days, I am convinced my nonexistent sleep schedule took years off my life. Now, I get more sleep than I have in years, and, I will admit, I sometimes had trouble waking up for my 10 a.m. class this semester. I have also learned that sometimes getting plenty of sleep is more helpful than staying up all night studying.

I am so thankful that I have more time to sleep because I feel much healthier than I ever have before.

Being healthy isn't always easy.

I was very active in high school; from cross country and track, and many hours of dance, I had no choice but to stay in shape. Now, I am not on any sports teams, so finding time to stay in shape is my own responsibility. Also, thanks to JMU Dining, I could eat pizza, chicken nuggets, and dessert every single day if I wanted to (in love with chicken nugget Thursdays) I've learned that you must limit yourself, have self-control, and be conscious of whether your diet is balanced and healthy.

In addition to physical health, mental health is also important. There are so many things to do and ways to get involved in addition to your classes and workload here at JMU. However, it is SO important not to get too over-scheduled, because it is very important to take time for yourself to keep a healthy mindset and lifestyle.

Most professors aren't as intimidating as everyone says.

Before I came to college, I had an expectation of professors to be very difficult to work with, and mostly unconcerned with the success of their students. While much more responsibility is put on college students than high school students, and I didn't exactly 'love' all of my professors, I have overall had a better experience than I expected. Most of my professors have been kind, caring and supportive of their students, and as students, we need to remember that they are human, too.

Adulting is hard.

This semester, I have:

Changed my major

Applied and been hired to a job

Signed a lease and paid a deposit to live in a house next year

College is hard, not only because of the workload but because there are SO many things to do on top of that. We are expected to have a good GPA, while also being involved at our school to build our resume, learning how to live on our own, and, all the while, figuring out how we are going to pay for all of this (#broke). Adulting. Is. Hard.

College is where best friends are found.

While my best friends at home are still a very important of my life (doesn't everyone have that best friend from home that they call and talk to for hours?), I have made some wonderful friendships with people who were complete strangers just a few short months ago, and I know these people are going to be friends for life. Taking on all of the challenges that college brings is truly a bonding experience.

JMU really is the Happiest Place on Earth.

From throwing streamers at football games, to enjoying sometimes a little too much food at E-hall brunch, to taking lots of workout classes at UREC, to simply staring in awe at the beautiful mountainous views that surround our campus, I have made so many happy memories at JMU, and I can't wait for many more.

Go Dukes!

Cover Image Credit: Dakotah Smith

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Working With People Who Are Dying Teaches You So Much About How To Live

Spending time with hospice patients taught me about the art of dying.

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Death is a difficult subject. It is addressed differently across cultures, lifestyles, and religions, and it can be difficult to find the right words to say when in the company of someone who is dying. I have spent a lot of time working with hospice patients, and I bore witness to the varying degrees of memory loss and cognitive decline that accompany aging and disease. The patients I worked with had diverse stories and interests, and although we might have had some trouble understanding each other, we found ways to communicate that transcended any typical conversation.

I especially learned a lot from patients severely affected by dementia.

They spoke in riddles, but their emotions were clearly communicated through their facial expressions and general demeanor, which told a story all on their own. We would connect through smiles and short phrases, yes or no questions, but more often than not, their minds were in another place. Some patients would repeat the details of the same event, over and over, with varying levels of detail each time. Others would revert to a child-like state, wondering about their parents, about school, and about family and friends they hadn't seen in a long time.

I often wondered why their minds chose to wander to a certain event or time period and leave them stranded there before the end of their life. Was an emotionally salient event reinforcing itself in their memories?

Was their subconscious trying to reconnect with people from their past? All I could do was agree and follow their lead because the last thing I wanted to do was break their pleasant memory.

I felt honored to be able to spend time with them, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was intruding on their final moments, moments that might be better spent with family and loved ones. I didn't know them in their life, so I wondered how they benefited from my presence in their death. However, after learning that several of the patients I visited didn't have anyone to come to see them, I began to cherish every moment spent, whether it was in laughter or in tears. Several of the patients never remembered me. Each week, I was a new person, and each week they had a different variation of the same story that they needed to tell me. In a way, it might have made it easier to start fresh every week rather than to grow attached to a person they would soon leave.

Usually, the stories were light-hearted.

They were reliving a memory or experiencing life again as if it were the first time, but as the end draws nearer, a drastic shift in mood and demeanor is evident. A patient who was once friendly and jolly can quickly become quiet, reflective, and despondent. I've seen patients break down and cry, not because of their current situation, but because they were mourning old ones. These times taught me a lot about how to be just what that person needs towards the end of their life. I didn't need to understand why they were upset or what they wanted to say.

The somber tone and tired eyes let me know that what they had to say was important and worth hearing. What mattered most is that someone who cared was there to hear it.

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4 Things I Wish High School Me Knew

Every day has a purpose.

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People don't give high school enough credit for having the ability to shape your life. It can build you or it can break you and often times there is no in between. As I enter into my senior year of college I have reflected a lot on my college career and how it really has been the best years of my life up to this point, but I know that without a doubt my life would have been so different in I would have known these things as a high schooler.

1. Your life is valuable

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. - Ephesians 2:4-7

2. You aren't defined by your singleness. 

Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires. - Song of Solomon 2:7

4. You aren't going to fit in

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. - Romans 12:2

4. Your clothes aren't going to fit forever, don't spend all of your money on them 

Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions." - Luke 12:15

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