A quick reflection on my freshman year of college.
It’s almost a month since I finished my freshman year of college, and I’m finding it difficult to generalize the year in a few words. It would be wrong to say that it was “the best and one for the books” or “the worst school year of my life.” Like most school years, there were ups and downs that made it memorable, especially as my first full school year during the pandemic.
While it might have been more of a controversial choice last summer, I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to go and live on campus for the school year. I don’t know what my psyche would have been if I spent my first year at home (not to say anything about my family because I love them, but I was preparing and so ready for something new). And even though we were on campus, the majority of my classes were still over Zoom, but just being in a new place and getting a sliver of the college experience was enough for me. While I was on campus, students had to take a covid test every three days so I felt more reassured to leave home anyways.
In the quickest way to recap the whole year: I spent a lot of time in my dorm room taking classes, doing homework, and binging TV shows aside from my eight-minute walks to the testing site (shout out to every streaming service out there that I started consistently using only this past year). There were also lots of Saturdays spent walking around Boston, taking mediocre pictures of the sights, and trying new food.
And now, a few paragraphs of my more nuanced thoughts of the year.
A transitional year of schooling in a non-traditional setting
Freshman year entirely in the hybrid format was far from the traditional setting I was expecting of my first year of college. This first year was meant to represent new beginnings academically, socially, and mentally because I left my hometown for four months before coming back home for winter break. It was the longest I’d been away from home and anyone I knew. I also saw the year as my transitional year from high school to college. Unlike the upperclassmen, most of the class of 2024 were jumping into a new type of learning with lectures for a few hours at a time from the six- or seven-hour school days of public high school. And since I did go to a typical public high school, the college academic lifestyle, at least, was much different from anything I had done before. As we go back to school in the fall to a fully in-person environment, there will be another learning style shock as we experience what a typical college class is really like. While I had a few classes in person this past year, most were still on Zoom, so it wasn’t exactly what I had been expecting, of course.
More burnout, procrastination, and freedom.
These three words demanded all of my attention throughout the school year. I was feeling the most academic burnout I’ve ever experienced (especially in spring semester), I procrastinated work down to the last hour, but I felt the most freedom to do whatever I wanted at the same time. While I don’t think you’re a full adult in college, being in this in between lifestyle of having freedom from being a kid and the stress of living completely independently allows you to have a lot more time dedicated to absolutely nothing. On the off days that I finished all of my homework for the week (or was just extremely procrastinating it because I was burnt out), I was able to easily take the subway into downtown and walk around for a bit and get food. I spent a lot of my Saturdays like that because it was a good break from being on my computer all day. Being in the city really brought out the tourist in me that I didn’t know was there. While I didn’t get to do all of the touristy things in Boston because some things were still closed, I got enough in just walking around and seeing how old the city is. I was also constantly telling myself that there are still three more years to see everything else so I’m not too worried (knock on wood).
And an introduction to LinkedIn, hustle culture, and competition.
The one negative introduction to adult life that I was not entirely privy to was the intensity of hustle culture and LinkedIn. Sure, I had an account filled with my resume points and I was aware of the idea of hustle culture, but to see in action by those around me and read everyone’s post was a wake-up call I really didn’t want. It was basically everything about comparing yourself and your looks to other pretty people on Instagram but applied to the kid who had an internship before their freshman year that you didn’t even realize was possible. (I try not to be bitter though because that’s good and all for them.) I was also exposed to how competitive the journalism and communications industry is when it comes to finding internships and just being around other people who seem more ambitious than you. But again, that’s just something I need to work on in my personal life to get better.
So, my freshman year of college wasn’t perfect, but I wasn’t expecting it to be after how senior year ended. While there are little things that I would want to do differently, it was overall a good experience that is still leaving me excited to go into sophomore year. And who knows? Maybe I’ll feel differently once I really get into the thick of it, but right now, on a Wednesday afternoon when I’m writing this, I feel like and can confidently call myself a fully-fledged college student.