Just eight short months ago, I was still a nervous, shy, and fresh high school grad who had no idea what she wanted in life. But, she knew where she could start, and that was at the U of I. Even though my freshman year has been cut short due to the pandemic caused by COVID-19, I was still able to have a 'relatively' normal first year in college. Although it was not all sunshine and rainbows, I learned a lot of things about myself that I probably would have never realized under the wings of my parents.
1. Put yourself out there, and don't be afraid to be yourself.
One of the things I am so happy I did in the first couple weeks of college was put myself out there and make new friends. I was so nervous about meeting new people when I first arrived, but I found that everyone is welcoming and truly wants the same thing as you. As long as you be yourself, you will find the right people who compliment your personality.
2. Don't be shy! Be a yes man (or woman).
Say yes! If you are an introvert like me, staying in your dorm and keeping interaction to a minimum seems like the safe and best way to avoid awkward social interaction. However, you only grow by experiences and you only improve by doing. I encourage you to go out and do fun things with your friends and don't limit your time in college by staying to yourself. There will be so much more time for that afterward.
3. DON'T SLACK OFF!
For me, a person who obsesses about grades and schoolwork, not slacking off was a given. But, through all of the fun, late nights, and adventures it's easier to slip on your studies than you think. I urge you to not be the person who has to cram two weeks of lectures and material into two nights before a midterm. TRUST ME, it's not fun.
4. Get enough sleep!!
This is one of the things I ended up struggling with the most. Getting enough sleep in so important to your health and ability to function. Without sleep, your focus will be off in class, studying becomes extra hard (especially in a quiet library—I recommend ACES btw), and when your friends want to go do something you will be too tired to join. Sleep is the ultimate nourishment for success in college—you can't get enough of it.
5. Don't forget about friends and family back home.
No matter how far away you are or how busy, try to make time for friends and family back home. I struggled with balancing the relationships I made at school with the ones I've had for life. My only advice is to make time for the ones that matter most to you.
6. Transit will save you in the winter.
I totally recommend that you figure out the buses by the time second semester rolls around because it gets COLD in Champaign. If anything, make sure you've got a direct route home when you are done with classes in the evenings.
7. Opportunities won't be handed to you—you have to take them.
Another thing I'm so glad I did was getting involved at UIUC. The only way to start making connections with other students, professors, and advisors is to put yourself out there. Whether that be in an RSO or your major, don't sit back and let all those opportunities pass by.
8. Try all the dining halls!
This one is kind of silly, but I urge you to try each dining hall on campus. Grab some friends and make it fun!! I recently met a senior in my RSO who had only eaten at the Ike in all 4 years she's been on campus. There are so many hidden dining halls that have good food, I especially recommend Late Night at PAR (Stir fry!!!).
9. Be kind to your roommate.
Each of us think of our sleep space as a safe area we go to when we are too tired or need a break from the world. Now that you are sharing a room with someone else, it's important to respect them and their belongings. Of course, if there is something that is bothering or annoying your PLEASE talk to them about it first. Other than that, go to your RA for help because that's what they are there for.
10. Take time for yourself.
College can get really busy and overwhelming. There will be so many things to do and choose from that it can start to feel like you are falling apart. It is always best to take time for yourself, doing whatever that may be, to recharge and come back to a positive state. Also, self-care is really important! Make sure you still have time to shower (funny, but true)!
11. Enjoy all of it, even the hard and frustrating parts.
College is an experience. And the only way you will be happy is if you open up yourself to change and try to see the best in everything that comes your way. There will be hard nights full of studying, late papers, disagreements with others, and homesickness. But what trumps all of those negative feelings and events is the fact that you are there to learn. You are there to learn about it ALL - even the parts that might not seem so fun. And trust me, I miss those late nights now stuck in quarantine a lot more than I thought I would!
I hope these tips will help you during your freshman year—I sure wish I knew some of these things before I started. Overall, college is a good time. I've been the happiest I've been in my life, but also the most stressed. I guess it's a balance of life. I wish you all the best freshman year possible!! Stay healthy and safe!