Living Off-Campus Has Been One Of Most Defining Moments Of My Freshman Year

Living Off-Campus Has Been One Of Most Defining Moments Of My Freshman Year

Live alone, explore, and be enlightened.


Before I left for college, I knew that I wanted to live off-campus but I feared that I would be missing out on one of the most defining features of freshman year: dorm life. Before classes officially began, I moved all of my belongings into my new apartment and felt excited but incredibly overwhelmed. Doubt-filled questions cluttered my mind: "how am I going to make friends" and "what am I going to eat?" I am not going to lie, seeing pictures of my friends and their new roommates flooding Instagram stung a bit.

However, after the first few days of being in my new place, I felt a sense of comfort and belonging. Growing up as an only child, I knew that I operated best when I was confined to my own space. One of my other fears, not being able to make friends, quickly dissipated as I ventured out of my place and into the heart of Gainesville. I eventually got involved with a political campaign and UF's TEA literary magazine. This is where I found all of my closest friends and I wouldn't have found them if I didn't have this fear of missing out in the first place.

Living off-campus also forced me to learn the city I reside within. Now, I am proud to say that I know Gainesville better than any of my friends, especially the ones living on-campus. At least to me, I have found that a lot of people are not familiar with anything surpassing University and 13th Street. There is so much more to Gainesville than midtown, campus, downtown, and Butler Plaza.

Photographed at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville, Florida. Photographed by Darby Webb.

In addition to meeting new people and discovering new places, I was also able to discover myself. Living alone has shown me who I am as an individual. While I did not discover too many new, groundbreaking traits, I did find out much more about how I operate in terms of school, work, and play. I have discovered that I am more of a homebody and introvert than I once thought. I absolutely recommend living alone at some point in your college career. Living alone will open your eyes and allow you to see a different part of yourself that was once hidden before. Adopting new ways of thinking requires adopting new ways of living.

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So, You Want To Be A Nurse?

You're going to find that nursing isn't really about the medicine or the assessments. Being a nurse is so much more than anything that you can learn in school. Textbooks can't teach you compassion and no amount of lecture time will teach you what it truly means to be a nurse.


To the college freshman who just decided on nursing,

I know why you want to be a nurse.

Nurses are important. Nursing seems fun and exciting, and you don't think you'll ever be bored. The media glorifies navy blue scrubs and stethoscopes draped around your neck, and you can't go anywhere without hearing about the guaranteed job placement. You passed AP biology and can name every single bone in the human body. Blood, urine, feces, salvia -- you can handle all of it with a straight face. So, you think that's what being a nurse is all about, right? Wrong.

You can search but you won't find the true meaning of becoming a nurse until you are in the depths of nursing school and the only thing getting you through is knowing that in a few months, you'll be able to sign the letters "BSN" after your name...

You can know every nursing intervention, but you won't find the true meaning of nursing until you sit beside an elderly patient and know that nothing in this world can save her, and all there's left for you to do is hold her hand and keep her comfortable until she dies.

You'll hear that one of our biggest jobs is being an advocate for our patients, but you won't understand until one day, in the middle of your routine physical assessment, you find the hidden, multi-colored bruises on the 3-year-old that won't even look you in the eyes. Your heart will drop to your feet and you'll swear that you will not sleep until you know that he is safe.

You'll learn that we love people when they're vulnerable, but you won't learn that until you have to give a bed bath to the middle-aged man who just had a stroke and can't bathe himself. You'll try to hide how awkward you feel because you're young enough to be his child, but as you try to make him feel as comfortable as possible, you'll learn more about dignity at that moment than some people learn in an entire lifetime.

Every class will teach you about empathy, but you won't truly feel empathy until you have to care for your first prisoner in the hospital. The guards surrounding his room will scare the life out of you, and you'll spend your day knowing that he could've raped, murdered, or hurt people. But, you'll walk into that room, put your fears aside, and remind yourself that he is a human being still, and it's your job to care, regardless of what he did.

Each nurse you meet will beam with pride when they tell you that we've won "Most Trusted Profession" for seventeen years in a row, but you won't feel that trustworthy. In fact, you're going to feel like you know nothing sometimes. But when you have to hold the sobbing, single mother who just received a positive breast cancer diagnosis, you'll feel it. Amid her sobs of wondering what she will do with her kids and how she's ever going to pay for treatment, she will look at you like you have all of the answers that she needs, and you'll learn why we've won that award so many times.

You'll read on Facebook about the nurses who forget to eat and pee during their 12-hour shifts and swear that you won't forget about those things. But one day you'll leave the hospital after an entire shift of trying to get your dying patient to eat anything and you'll realize that you haven't had food since 6:30 A.M. and you, too, will be one of those nurses who put everything else above themselves.

Too often we think of nursing as the medicine and the procedures and the IV pumps. We think of the shots and the bedpans and the baths. We think all the lab values and the blood levels that we have to memorize. We think it's all about the organs and the diseases. We think of the hospitals and the weekends and the holidays that we have to miss.

But, you're going to find that nursing isn't really about the medicine or the assessments. Being a nurse is so much more than anything that you can learn in school. Textbooks can't teach you compassion, and no amount of lecture time will teach you what it truly means to be a nurse.

So, you think you want to be a nurse?

Go for it. Study. Cry. Learn everything. Stay up late. Miss out on things. Give it absolutely everything that you have.

Because I promise you that the decision to dedicate your life to saving others is worth every sleepless night, failed test, or bad day that you're going to encounter during these next four years. Just keep holding on.


The nursing student with just one year left.

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17 Things I Learned My First Year of College

Everything I learned and more my freshman year at Penn State.


I know freshman year is quickly ending and it's sad to think about. But it was honestly one of the best years of my life, and I am so thankful I was able to experience it at the school of my dreams!

Here's a little reflection of everything I've learned my first year as a college freshman:

1. There is no reason to bring your whole wardrobe to school.

In all honesty, you will probably only wear the same 3 sweatshirts and 2 sweaters because you will have no energy to look nice when you have to walk 20 minutes to class.

2. Call your family.

This should be a given, but, call them. They miss you more than you even know, and you can always make time to call them, even if it's just to say hello.

3. Go to class.

Yes, I am guilty of skipping class every now and then, but it actually shows when you don't go—either by a poor participation grade or bad test score from missing critical information. Even if you are having a bad day, going to class and getting some fresh air on the walk there will help you. And if you are tired, treat yourself after class to Starbucks so you have something to look forward to.

4. Explore.

You are in a new place surrounded by complete strangers. Go to different places on campus, just for a walk or to go to study or get food. It's amazing the places you'll find just by taking one hour out of your day to discover something new.

5. Join clubs.

Whether it's for your major or just something you thought looked interesting, I promise you this is a great way to make new friends, build your resume, and have a ton of fun. I would be lost if I wasn't part of the clubs I am a part of this year. They have really helped me find myself and my place on this campus.

6. If you don't want to drink, you don't have to.

I know the party scene is a big deal in college and a lot of people do drink, but do not feel pressured to — even if your friends do. It's so easy to have fun sober if you surround yourself with the right people.

7. Take advantage of the gym.

It's completely free... So why wouldn't you use it? Even if you go just for a 20-minute ab workout, it'll be so beneficial to your health in the long run.

8. Don't walk alone ANYWHERE alone at night

I know it's hard, especially if your friends want to stay at a party and you are tired, but have someone meet you or set a time you want to be back by with your friends. A lot of colleges have systems in place on campus if you feel you are being followed or are just uncomfortable, but, trust me, it's just easier to walk with a buddy. You'll feel 10x safer that way knowing you are with someone you trust.

9. Ask for help.

As intimidating as some professors are, they really do want to see you succeed. They aren't here to fail you, they are here to help you get your degree just like they did at one point. So don't be afraid to go to office hours and get a little guidance on an assignment or review before the next exam.

10. It is okay to eat alone.

No one is going to judge. Go to the commons or any restaurant on campus the first week, you'll see so many people eating alone and find that it is completely normal and okay to do so. I do it all the time, and it's honestly so relaxing to have your own "me time" to eat and study between classes.

11. You will find friends.

I know it's scary and you'll think it'll be impossible to find a good group of friends. But you will. I was in the wrong group for so long my first semester and finally, I stepped out and found my best friends for life - literally. It might take some experimenting but don't rush it. You'll know the right friends when they come to you.

12. You might not like your roommate, and that's okay.

Everyone has their fair share of roommate problems, it's bound to happen. Living with someone entirely new isn't easy. But it is easy to coexist with them. You don't have to be best friends, you don't even have to talk. As long as you have a mutual understanding between each other it'll be okay. And your RA is there to help you. I've had to talk to my RA about some issues, and he's been so helpful. They just want to help you adapt and have a good freshman year, so don't be afraid to go to them if you have a pressing issue.

13. You can't focus in your bed.

All you'll want to do is sleep and watch some more Netflix. Hop off the bed, go to the library, and get some work done. You'll thank me later.

14. Keep up with your laundry.

Sunday is laundry day for everyone. Don't do it then.

13. Learn to save your money.

I know it's hard because there are all these new shops and new restaurants surrounding you. But give yourself a budget to spend every semester and don't go over it. It's really sad to look at your bank account at the end of every month and see that you've spent almost 100 dollars on food delivery.

16. Learn responsibility.

There is no one here on your back making sure you are doing everything you need to be doing. So stay organized and make a list of everything you need to do for the week and keep up with it so you don't fall behind.

17. Have fun!

It's your first year of freedom! Have fun with it! You'll have so many amazing opportunities and new chances, take advantage of every single one. Freshman year goes by so fast, and soon you'll only have 3 years left at the school of your dreams, so don't let it fly by without making the best memories of your life.

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