By Cara Beirne
I was a bit of a wreck leading up to the beginning of my freshman year. The longest I had been away from home was two weeks (when I was 11…), and in addition to my fears of homesickness, I had so many questions. So, behold! I’ve created a list of all the things I wish I had known before starting my freshman year. Good luck, learn a lot, take a deep breath, and have fun!
1. Don’t worry if you haven’t decided on a major yet. Many people are still unsure of what they want to study, and a lot of people end up switching majors over the course of their undergraduate careers. One of my friends entered as a Chemical and Biomolecular Engineer and after an intro fiction and poetry class switched to Writing Seminars. No judgment. And for those of you who have decided on a major, don’t confine yourself solely to classes within that field, at least at first. I came into Hopkins knowing that I wanted to study International Studies—it was one of the reasons I was interested in the school in the first place. But I made sure to carve out the time to take fiction writing courses, classes in psychology, Earth science, and philosophy. This exploration will make your education all the richer.
2. Don’t hesitate to ask for help; college is a lot harder than high school. If you’re lost, as an upperclassmen. If you’re struggling in a class, talk to the professor during office hours. If you’re having difficulty adjusting to your new environment, talk to a counselor or a friend. You’re an adult now, and it’s important to take responsibility for your strengths and weaknesses. Most people love giving help, you just need to ask for it.
3. Make sure you explore more than just your campus, especially if you’re in a big city. I go to school in Baltimore, and I cannot count how many people have avoided life outside our neighborhood. Learn the public transportation system, check out different restaurants, and gain an appreciation of the city’s history. I was a little wary of Baltimore at first, but now I love going out and exploring both with my friends and by myself. Often, when I feel like I need to escape the “Hopkins Bubble,” I hop on a shuttle and head to a coffee shop a few neighborhoods away. It’s great to have that sort of flexibility and freedom—take advantage of it.
4. Bring shower shoes and use them. Please.
5. Check out cultural events, (concerts, plays, operas, etc.) in the area—students often get discounted tickets. The Peabody Institute is just a quick shuttle ride away from my campus, and one of my favorite things to do is to pop over and enjoy a concert for $5.
6. While it’s nice to head to school with some new clothes, don’t invest in an entirely new wardrobe. Wait a few months, and purchase pieces as you go. You’d be surprised by how much and how quickly your style may change once you start college.
7. I love coffee. It’s good for you, I promise. It blocks the production of beta-amyloid, the protein that accumulates in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. And more simply, it keeps you awake and is delicious. But drink it with moderation. Don’t let it get to the point where you get debilitating withdrawal symptoms if you go a little too long without a cup. Trust me, it’s less than fun.
8. Include peoples’ last names in your phone contacts. After a frenzy of number exchanges my first day, I looked down at my phone and realized I had 3 Alex’s.
9. Sign up for a lot of different clubs. Most schools will have a student activities fair at the beginning of the school year at which you can sign up or apply for different groups. You can always cut out a few later on if you feel pressed for time, but it may not be as easy to join a group midyear.
10. And finally, leave your door open (but only when you’re in the room!). I had a really social hallway my freshman year, and I absolutely loved it. During the day, people would float down the halls, popping into different rooms, introducing themselves and chatting. At night, we would all congregate in the hall, playing music, eating food, and studying together. It was really nice to go back to my dorm and feel like I was going home.
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