Yes, I'm About To Start The Second Half Of College, And No, I'm Not OK

Yes, I'm About To Start The Second Half Of College, And No, I'm Not OK

I honestly don't understand how I'm just as close to finishing as I am to beginning.


Time is weird. It seems so slow while you live through it, but then, when you look back, it's like you blinked and years passed. I still don't understand how that happens. My most recent experience with this has been packing my bags to move back to college. I'm about to start my third year and I'm so not ready for it — not because I don't want to go back to school, but because I don't want to be a third year.

I love UVA. I love Grounds. I love basketball games and late night Cookout runs with my friends and the way the library smells and curling up in the window seats in the building where I have most of my classes on a rainy day. I love living with seven of my best friends and having more live just across the street. I love my church and my classes and the city itself. The more I think about the fact that I'm halfway done with this experience, the more I realize that I'm not ready for it to end. Sure, better things are probably coming, but I'm not sure I'm going to be prepared to leave my second home when the time comes.

All of a sudden, I'm flooded with panicky questions: what do I want to do with my life? Where do I want to live after graduation? Do I want to try and go to graduate school? Should I stay at UVA an extra year and get my masters? What am I going to do? Because, unfortunately for me, I'm no longer a second year thinking to myself "heck, those are questions for third years to worry about." Instead, I'm a third year thinking "HECK. Those are things I need to be worrying about." And I'm stressed out.

"Adult-y" questions are now something I have to deal with too. What kind of job do I want? What do I need to be doing now to prepare myself? Should I have taken on an internship this summer? Should I be getting a college job so that I have some money saved up for when I do graduate and go to real life? All of these things and more take over my thoughts when I'm not paying attention.

And then, the biggest issue of all, several of my friends are going into their last year of college and I'm just over here wondering "how am I going to do this without them? How can I not live with them anymore, these people who have been my second family?"

I'm sad to be going into my third year. I know that big things, good things are ahead of me, but I have some pretty good things right now. It seems bizarre to me that when I tell my kids "when I was in college" stories, I'll be telling them about right now, about this time that is slipping away so fast in a haze of happy memories and schoolwork. So this year, on top of doing my work diligently and hanging out with friends frequently, I'm going to remind myself to savor the little quiet moments that don't mean a lot until you look back on them — when my favorite tree on Grounds turns orange in the fall, or the rain makes my window seat the perfect amount of cozy, or our friend squad decides to have an impromptu s'mores night — because going to my third year has made me realize that those moments are some of the most important and that, while they come frequently, they go quickly.

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What Nobody Is Going To Tell You About Freshman Year

What no one will tell you about your first step to adulthood.

Attending college for the first time is a time filled with high expectations, excitement, nerves, and a lot of hope for the future.

If you were anything like me, you were lucky enough to get accepted into your dream school with a lot of high hopes about the upcoming year. I couldn't wait to move into my freshman dorm, no matter how little or crappy it might have been, I was undoubtedly excited. The year was fresh (literally) and I couldn't wait to start living a college lifestyle and meet the people I was going to be friends with for the next four years of my life and hopefully even longer. I had never been so excited about going back-to-school shoppingand started packing and preparing for the move weeks in advance.

I had this image in my head of what freshman year was going to be like and it looked a lot like something you would see on an ABC Family or MTV show rather than what the reality of freshman year really was. I would be sitting here lying to you if I told you my freshman year was the best year of my life and to expect to have a year full of parties and fun with no responsibilities. The fact of the matter is, freshman year is your first real step into adulthood. It is your first unsheltered, uncensored, version of the real world that your parents (for the most part) have no control over. While this truly is an exciting thing, if you're not prepared for it freshman year can be a lot more stressful than expected.

I wish someone told me that the people I met the first week of school weren't going to be my best friends the whole year and not to take it to heart when they stop talking to you. You meet SO many people your first few weeks of school and you want to be friends with literally all of them. But in college, unlike high school, you probably won't see those same people every day so maintaining relationships takes a lot more work than before. To be honest, you may forget what it was like to actually make a new friend, especially if you were friends with the same people all through high school.

I wish someone told me that my study habits in high school absolutely will not hold up in college. When you were told to “read the text" in high school for homework, you wrote “no homework" in your planner for that day. Reading your text book in high school was actually laughed at in most situations and if you didn't have an end of the year freak out about where your text books were, you were doing it wrong.R ead your textbooks, every page, every chapter. Write everything down, from notes to homework, it's all important.

I wish someone told me the “freshman 15" was absolutely not a myth. Despite the fact that I spent countless nights in our campus gym, the freshman 15 was still gained and stayed. I couldn't tell you why or how this happens, but expect to gain a few pounds your first year of college. Whether it's from all of the campus cookies you couldn't have passed your final without or from all the delicious new food options, expect to be a few pounds heavier when returning home for Thanksgiving. And most importantly, know that you don't look any different despite how you feel, and know that this will most likely happen to everyone.

I wish someone told me that it's OK to say no to people. After you get to know your hall mates and become closer with the people you've met your first few weeks of college, you quickly learn that there is always something going on. Learn that you don't have to agree to attend everything someone invites you to. If you need to stay home and study, speak up. Don't just say yes to please someone or because you feel like you will lose that person as a friend if you say no. Learn to put you and your needs first, and if someone judges you because you decided to study rather than go out, so be it. You're here to learn not to socialize. It's OK to decline peoples offers.

I wish someone told me to go to class no matter how tired I was. Fun fact about college: you don't technically have to go to class if you don't want to. But for the sake of your grades, please go to class. You only get the chance to learn the material once, and you will be tested on the lecture material whether you were there or not. One tired day may cost you a good grade in the class, no joke. Go to every class you can and take detailed notes. (Tip: you can usually take pictures of the slides/diagrams as well, it helps a lot.)

I wish someone told me that only my true friends from high school will remain my friends in college. Losing contact with high school friends is a given in college. Even the people you swore were your closest friends may forget about you in the craziness of freshman year. The good news is you are at a school with thousands of people looking to make new friends and they will fill the empty spaces that old ones left.

I wish someone told me to be careful at parties. Although it is very rare something bad happens, it is true that parties aren't the safest place. Especially for the freshmen, it's easy to just go to the party that everyone else is going to without knowing anything about the place or who is going to be there. Look out for your friends and stay together. Navigating a college town at night is scary and can be dangerous. Know where you are going beforehand and always have a way home. Don't always trust people you have just met and never leave a cup unattended.

I wish someone told me my grades aren't going to be as great in college as they were in high school. Expect your GPA to drop at least half a point, usually. You're going to have a lot of distractions in college and a lot less structure in your schedule. Keeping a balance truly is a difficult task and your grades aren't going to always be what you want them to be. You will learn the perfect combination to keep your grades and yourself happy. Give it some time and don't beat yourself up if you get a C in a class or two. You have three years to make up for it.

I wish someone told me that getting homesick is completely normal. The first few spells of homesickness I had scared me to death. I was afraid that if I was homesick it meant that I didn't like the school I was at or that something was wrong or missing. This is usually not the case even though it may feel that way at times. You're going to miss home no matter how much you wished your way out of it from day one. Home is what is familiar to you and what you know and it's easy to crave that when you're somewhere completely different. Don't let it get the best of you and just know that a call home will fix anything and everything. Don't be afraid to call your parents and friends from home. They miss you, too.

I wish someone told me that you only get one freshman year at the college of your dreams so live it up and learn your lessons. Have the time of your life, make all of the friends you can, join clubs and organizations you're passionate about, get involved on your campus and in your community, and take nothing for granted. You only get to do college once (if all goes well) and you're paying to be here and get an education. Make the most of every situation and learn about yourself and the people around you. There is so much to be done and so much to learn in your four years here but especially the first. Make the most of it and don't forget your morals or who you are!

Cover Image Credit: Cailin Austin

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How French 1 Reconnected Me With My Mother Tongue

Learning French makes me appreciate Vietnamese even more


I took French I this semester, and it has changed my entire perspective. Let's start with some context: despite my major being in the STEM field, it's a Bachelor of Arts, so I must take a 2 language courses. USF offered more than enough choices for my taste, but 3 choices stuck out most: German, Japanese, and French. I was a little reserved at first because my last language course, which was Chinese, ended in a disaster; that, and the fact that I'm on the fence about choosing between my 3 favorite languages.

On the fence about taking one of 3 languages? Close your eyes and take a leap of faith!WikiMedia

One night, in a dream (not even kidding), I was told that I should take French to complete my family's trilingual legacy, one that was unfortunately ceased after the Vietnam War. The next morning of December, I went straight to Schedule Planner and chose French I. It was anxious not knowing what to expect, especially when classes don't start until January. When it did start, however, I felt as if a bond has formed between me and my mother tongue - Vietnamese.

The first classes didn't offer much. The classic "Bonjour, ca va?" was not the determining factor that made me love this class. Once the vocabulary started rolling in, foreign words naturally made sense to me, because I have seen them in Vietnamese before. Take savon for example, it means soap. In Vietnamese, especially in my region, it's called xà bông. Similar? Here's another example: plafond - ceiling. Guess how it's pronounced in Vietnamese: la-phông! (the ph- is pronounced as f-).

"Why is there this difference," you may ask. This came about due to colonization, specifically, the Indochina colonization of France during the 19th century. Prior to that, our language was a hybrid form between Vietnamese pronunciations and Chinese annotations (this is an overly simplified explanation, for more details, please read National Language Script). In order to eliminate Confucianism and cut the Vietnamese's ties from their heritage, the French decided to altogether remove Chinese from our daily lives, opting for the Latin alphabet. They took parts of the aforementioned pronunciations and transcribed them with the Latin alphabet. In addition, they also added French words into those that we don't presently have within our own language.

The Tonkin Campaign - an invasion has begunWikiMedia

This led to a plethora of French words being present in Vietnamese, many of which are used in present day. Some of my favorites are tournevis - tuốc-nơ-vít - screwdriver, volant - vô-lăng - steering wheel. This is accompanied by an alphabet whose pronunciations are exactly similar to French! This trend is inconsistent, however, and this inconsistency varies between regions. The difference is the most apparent when comparing Northern and Southern Vietnamese speech. The North (not all of them) tends to use more French in their speech while the South tends to use more Cantonese in their speech. This makes Vietnamese such an unusual language whose beauties are multi-faceted.

My French course is closing to an end soon, and I have learned a lot from it. It has also given me a new look into my language, giving rise to an appreciation I never had before. Culture is awesome, but it's even more so when one sees a familiar word in a foreign land.

Until next time, a bientôt!

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