Picture this: a wide-eyed first-year, getting lost constantly, always managing to hop on the wrong shuttle bus, and struggling to fit all of her clothes into a miniscule amount of closet space. That was me, a confused but hopeful girl from suburban Missouri. Everyone’s first year is different, and that is OK. My first year certainly did not go as planned, but I don’t regret one second of it.
- (Almost) everyone is as lost and confused as you are. UC San Diego is a huge campus. It is easy to get overwhelmed, but know that this is a new experience for other first years too. Look up the locations of halls or buildings before you go to class, and don’t be afraid to ask people where places are.
- You are just as competent as everyone else there. I remember thinking, “Wow, everyone here is so smart. I have no idea what I’m doing!” Looking back, though, I was doing well in my classes and got good grades. You got into this school for a reason, don’t forget that.
- Do not slack, but also do not overwhelm yourself. On one hand, it’s not beneficial to take it easy and always go out and have fun. On the other hand, staying in all the time to study isn’t great either. Find a balance. If you’re all caught up with schoolwork, go out. If you’re falling a bit behind, catch up. Learning to reward and discipline yourself is an important skill in school and in life.
- Look for ways to get involved. Go to organization fairs and look up school organizations that you think you would enjoy. Also, go to as many first club meetings as possible to figure out which clubs you want to join full-time.
- You don’t have to do it all. I understand wanting to have perfect grades, being involved in multiple organizations, getting a job, and so on. Hate to break it to you, but perfection is not realistic. Reach for the stars, by all means, but don’t be so hard on yourself for getting one bad grade or missing a couple of dance practices. Being a well-rounded student is important, but know when to take a step back when there is too much on your plate.
- You have to put extra effort into making friends. Making friends in high school was easy because everyone was stuck in the same place for eight hours, five days a week. College is different. You have to put yourself out there and ask people to hang out. Get their numbers, set up a little lunch date, and follow up after. Don’t be afraid to ask people to hang out.
- No one cares. Don’t be afraid to wear that outfit or join that club in fear of being judged because I guarantee you that no one cares. UCSD is massive and people mind their business. Life is too short, do the things that make you happy.
- Explore the city. San Diego is beautiful and has so much to offer. Convoy Street has great Korean BBQ and boba. Little Italy is beautiful at night and has delicious calzones. Torrey Pines State Reserve is a really good hiking spot. Mount Soledad has the most beautiful view of the sunrise. Fashion Valley Mall has the best selection of stores. Balboa Park has an array of interesting museums and gorgeous gardens. And, UCSD is right next to Black’s Beach.
- There will be tough times, but you will overcome them. Your first year of college is not only an academic learning experience but a life learning experience. You are going to experience many things for the first time — first party, first failing grade, first time eating IHOP at 3 a.m., first heartbreak. Some things will be fun, others not so much. Nonetheless, with the help of friends, a few calls to Mom or Dad or another loved one back home, and time, you will get through them.
- Everyone has different experiences, and that does not make yours less valid. You don’t have to make a bunch of new friends or go out all the time or visit a new place every week — there is no set list of things you have to do. Refrain from comparing yourself to others because everyone is different and lives life differently, and that is a really cool thing.
Good luck on your first year, freshmen. Don’t worry, it’ll be great.