Advice I Would Give to Freshmen
I would like to tell you, an incoming freshman, several things that I wish someone had told me, although I would not have listened, and you probably won’t either. But still, I am clearly very seasoned and experienced, and you should listen to me. This is what I would like to say:
First and foremost, that everyone is in the same position as you, and so stop thinking you’re special. When I came to the University, I so scared. Plain and simple- I was scared about everything, from doing my own laundry and missing my family to cleaning my toilet and not making any friends. These are things that everyone goes through, and if they tell you they don’t, they’re lying to you. Everyone is nervous and frightened and excited. Everyone gets homesick at least once or twice, and everyone feels at some point like they don’t belong- even if it’s only for a second. The important thing to remember is that you’re not alone. You have hundreds of other people who got plucked from their safe, warm comfort zones and thrown into this brand new world. Maybe some of them brought their best friends or already lived in Tuscaloosa; perhaps that made the transition easier, but they still dealt with same emotions. And even so, most people didn’t. Most people left their friends at home and are here alone. So, my advice would be to leave that stinking comfort zone behind. Jump into the water (warning: it is cold!) and introduce yourself. At first, it seems so silly, because you’re not used to doing it. But before long, it will become second nature for you to introduce yourself and jump into the conversation. Before you know it, you’ll have friends who, although they don’t really know what they are doing either, will help you figure it out. You’ll do it together.
Secondly, find something to get involved in. That’s the most cliché advice out there, and I know that, and I rolled my eyes every single time someone told me that, but it’s true. I was forced to get involved through the Coca-Cola scholarship program, and it was one of the most beautiful gifts I received. I participated in Alabama Action, a service-minded week, and met some of my best friends (I promise!). Maybe you absolutely love Ultimate Frisbee or football- there are intramurals for you (I don’t see the draw of throwing a piece of circular plastic or a hard ball, but I’m sure it appeals to some people.) If that’s not you, look up some clubs or organizations. There is something, I promise, and if you can’t find something, join a club and feign interest. It will force you to meet people who have the interests, or at least someone who also has impressive faking skills.
Thirdly, bring an umbrella. It rains, the buses are running late, and you walk to class. It rains a lot. Trust me. Bring an umbrella. (And not one of those puny dollar-store ones, either. You think it only happens in the movies, but there will come a monsoon one day, and it will take you and your umbrella by storm, literally. You want a strong one.)
Lastly, decide who you want to be. Almost upon the moment you arrive, you will have to start making decisions. Some of them will be simple, no-brainers, and others will require some thought. Soon, you’ll be faced with moral dilemmas that never even touched you in high school. You may or may not have a supportive group of friends to help you make decisions and, and if you don’t, it will be harder, because you might be swayed by people who don’t have your best interests in mind. So decide what kind of standards you want to uphold, and then stick to them. Don’t be afraid to say “no”- and in the same breath, let me say, don’t be afraid to say “yes.” It’s a whole different world, one without your parents there to coach you, guide you and ground you, and you have to be careful. Enjoy your freedom, but remember that freedom walks hand-in-hand with responsibility. It is possible to have incredible fun and still maintain grades, as well as moral standards- I do it every day. Whatever you decide to do, and whoever you decide to be, make sure you’re becoming that person for yourself, and not for people who will try to convince you to be like them. It will happen, but if you let them know that you are who you are, you like that person, and you will not be persuaded to become someone else, thank you very much, you’ll find that they’ll back off. Love who you are, and if there comes a day you don’t, remember that anytime you decide to change, you can just start.
Depending on whether or not you feel like you need to look like everyone else, you may or may not want to invest in some Nike shorts, leggings, and boots. (I know you won’t believe me now, but these are clothing materials that actually go together, or at least, that’s what hundreds of girls around here believe. It only works on this campus, so if this is up your alley, take advantage.)
Best wishes for your freshman year,