After being away from school for 8 months, in a completely new state, job, and lifestyle, it feels like such a long time since I was last taking classes. Coming back to the school school and seeing campus again after my time away was a great feeling. When I drove onto campus memories of my freshman year, the first time I had come to ERAU Prescott and seen it as home, seemed to flood my brain. I couldn’t help but smile at how much I have changed in the last two years, my first two years of college. In fact, I can confidently say that I have changed more as a person in my first two years of college than I changed from the end of the 4th grade to the end of the 12th grade.
In this blog entry, I’d like to take a chance to reminisce about the beginning of my freshman year, when my transformation truly began.
College is very different from high school. It is way better. Like many high school seniors plagued with senioritis, I was “so ready to leave” and “uber sick of” high school. I remember getting so excited when my schedule came in the mail for my first semester of college. I went right to my brand new computer with my course catalog in hand and looked up the description of each class while I typed each day’s schedule into an excel spread sheet, like the nerd that I am.
The freshman year of college is a huge adjustment and it’s all about learning how to prioritize your time, live on your own, and a little about your coursework too, I guess. College gave me the chance to start over and be myself in a very accepting environment. Embry-Riddle gave me the chance to go to a school where everyone, like me, has a dream that they are working towards.
It was so exciting to move into my dorm room and meet my new roommates. I was so anxious to get started with my new life that I slept in my room the day I checked in. Most of my roommates stayed in the dorm that first night, although I think one or two went to stay with their families in their hotels. I remember looking up at the ceiling that was about two feet from may face in my loft bed, trying to go to sleep but staying awake thinking about how this was where I was going to live for the next four months, the first time I’d live away from home, and how strange, new, and exhilarating it was.
Rooming with students of my major gave me an instant group of friends that I have so much in common with. Traits and quirks that I had always exhibited, I found I shared with several of the students in my classes.
I don’t know that I have ever felt as good on my birthday as I did on my first birthday at Embry-Riddle. I am a September baby, and after a couple weeks into the school year, I was prepared for a little sadness on my first birthday away from home. Unexpectedly, my roommates went all out to make my birthday outstanding. They all went and painted the rock for my birthday, bought me a cake, and a gift, decorated my room with streamers, woke me up by signing “Happy Birthday” to me, and made sure that I couldn’t feel an ounce of remorse at not being home for my birthday. It was a very uplifting experience.
As I assume it is for almost everyone, my freshman year in college was very different than anything else that I had experienced before. It was really surreal. At first, it didn’t feel like school at all, actually it felt like I was at summer camp. I remember sitting in class on my first day and watching the clock as it approached 9 am, the end of my 8 am class. It may sound silly, but I was actually expecting to hear a bell ring at the end of the hour, but instead the professor simply announced that class was over. I walked out of the classroom in a daze. On the one hand, I felt a little weirded out that there was no bell in college, and on the other hand, I was excitedly reveling in my liberation from the bell.
For the first two months of school I was so wrapped up in all of the new people, clubs, classes and experiences that I didn’t have time to really miss home.
After a while though, it sets in that this isn’t summer camp. Not only is this still school (but don’t get me wrong, it’s way better than high school), it is your home for eight months out of the year, and you change so much over your first few months without realizing it. Until you go home and see how little has changed there, you don’t realize how much you as a person have changed.
College changes your entire outlook. While you are in school you are free to be whoever you would like to be. For the most part, the parental control in your life is switched off. The final say on when you sleep, when you eat, when you go to class, what clubs you join, whether or not to go to parties, even what brand food you eat is your choice.
During a summer internship at the Johnson Space Center in high school, one of my mentors told me that “There are three things you can do in college – sleep, study, and party. Now pick two.” For the most part I have found this to be true.
Balancing all three is very difficult because the more time you spend on one activity, the less time you have for the other two. If sleep and grades are your priorities, you can get 9 hours of sleep every night and make the Dean’s List, but you don’t have much time for partying.
You will also learn to live on a budget in college, basically dirt poor for a few years. One time, during my freshman year, my mom sent me $50 in the mail. I thought “Awesome! Now I can go out and party with my friends.” But as I was getting ready I realized that we were on our last roll of toilet paper so I decided to go grab some before the evening started, but then as I got into my car I saw my gas tank was empty. Well, there went that 50 bucks.
Although I love my life as a free college student, I miss the days when Pop-Tarts and Fruit Loops replenished themselves in the cabinet, doing my laundry was free, I ate name brand food, and I had great water pressure in the shower.
In college, for the first time ever, you don’t leave peer pressure when you go home at night, because you live full time with your peers. You learn about how people with completely different upbringings compromise to get along. You will have roommates that you love to hang out with and others that you will have to work through minor to major annoyances with.
One thing a freshman never needs to worry about at Embry-Riddle, is feeling welcome and finding a place at school. It is very easy in this small school to get involved in clubs and organizations. In addition, fellow students are friendly and looking to make new friends just as much as you are, and the faculty members are extremely supportive and willing to help you succeed in any way that they can.
My freshman year at Riddle was nothing short of amazing. Although my life has continued to change, and in some ways get better, I am sure that I will remember my freshman year of college as one of the best years of my life.