University Life: First Semester Faux Pas

In late August, I moved out of my home in Spokane Washington and headed to Washington State University (WSU). I was finally out on my own, leaving behind the town I’d resented for the better part of three years and entering a part of my life that, while excited for, I was also really unsure of. Having visited my sister while she was in college, I came to university expecting my experiences to be much like hers.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

My sister’s college was small, consisting of around two-thousand people at its height. In contrast, WSU’s population wavered around thirty-thousand, with ten-thousand in undergrad alone.

The first thing that got to me was the size of the campus. While the area where I’d lived in Spokane had been much larger in terms of area and consisted mostly of retirement homes, WSU was jam-packed with buildings full of people my age, creating a much more vibrant and active community. The University’s extensive list of clubs also presented me with a problem I hadn’t dealt with before: having too many choices.

One of the first pieces of advice I’d received from upperclassmen was to not get overinvolved. Despite this, I joined two clubs, entered an extra-curricular language course, and picked up two jobs. I also enrolled into a special language immersion program that spanned two weeks at three hours a night, starting the second week of school. Between all these activities, school, work, and otherwise, I began to drown.

Even after the language immersion course had ended, I was still struggling to catch up with regular work, and I’d fallen dangerously behind on sleep. Even so, I kept up my schedule and continued to scrape by. Around this time, I began to have roommate troubles, which only continued to escalate as October went on.

As the sleepless nights and overload of homework, brought on by being woken every night at 1AM by my roommate, compounded, I finally reached the conclusion that I needed to move. I talked to my RA and began the process of changing dorms. By some stroke of luck, the move date assigned to me aligned with Dad’s Weekend, a weekend full of events targeted at students and their fathers, when my parents would be in town.

All my problems were self-manufactured.

After getting some much needed sleep and catching up on homework, I realized some things needed changing. I dropped my extra-curricular language course, left one of the clubs I’d been participating in, resigned my campus weekend job, and started putting proper sleep first.

Doing all this made realize something that I seemed pretty counterintuitive at first: all my problems were self-manufactured. Yes, there were other people involved, and of course not everything was within my control, but all of my problems were at least partially created by me, or influenceable by me.

Even in your first semester, college is what you choose to make of it. Be it how many clubs or what club you join, where and when you do homework, or even what dining hall you choose to eat at, all of these things shape your college experience and each and every one of them is up to you. Sure, things doing homework in the library vs. in your dorm room may seem like a small difference, but actions like that determine how often you run into people, and how many people recognize you. Those kinds of details grow to shape who you are in light of the social system of universities students, and define who you are in your college career.

If there’s anything at all to take away from my first semester in college, it’s the this: study somewhere other than in your room; join a club, but just one club; only work one job; and, most importanly, give everyone a chance. You’re not going to like everyone you meet, but every friend you make is going to be worth all the uncomfortable interactions you went through to meet them.

And don’t be afraid to be You.