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5 Things You Will Learn Your First Year of College

The first year of college can seem daunting. With a new environment, new community and new spaces to navigate it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Here are five things you should know as a first year to help make the transition a little smoother.

  1. Your personal style may change, but so will you.

Growing up, I never really had a strong sense of my own style when it came to dressing, music taste, even my hobbies and interests. Often relying on internet trends and pulling inspiration from the girls in my high school (that frankly looked nothing like me), I never really tapped into and developed a personal style. Coming to Madison as a freshman, I blended in with the majority of the girls here. Skinny jeans, basic tops, and beat up Air Forces (my Black Card will remain untouched, thank you) were my go-to. Now this would be fine if I truly liked that aesthetic, but in reality, I just wanted to blend in, and my lack of self-assuredness manifested in the clothes I wore. Nevertheless, like most things in life, good things take time. I now enjoy taking risks with outfits, pairing unlikely patterns and putting together unique silhouettes that freshman year me wouldn’t have ever dreamed of but it’s important to note that, parallel to my outward evolution, college has afforded me the opportunity to look inward just as much. Being away from home and the influences that accompany it, I have had the opportunity to think for myself and develop my own beliefs and views both on the world and myself. It’s safe to say my confidence has skyrocketed, as I now truly know who I am, what I like, and what I put forth into the world. Compliments on my outfits come occasionally, and while I make sure to smile and say thank you, I always give myself a high-five on the inside, because I know that the way I dress now is a manifestation of the internal work and development in my own self-image and confidence.

  1. College really isn’t about academics

Sure, it’s important to stay on top of your schoolwork and get the best grades you can. Sure, you’re here to get a degree or two, maybe a certificate, and head out into the “real world” in four years, give or take. And sure, school may seem to run your life while you are here, with late nights at College Library cramming for exams and catching up on weeks’ worth of schoolwork. However, you will soon learn that college is so much more than academics. It’s obvious that learning will happen inside the classroom, but the lessons that you learn outside of it are just as, if not more important. In this college bubble, you learn so many things. You learn discernment in who to let into your life. You see the best and worst in people. You learn the difference between relationships that stem from proximity and those that stem from genuine interest. You learn to advocate for yourself in any situation life throws at you. You learn to appreciate people for who they are to you in your life for the moments they are meant to be there and learn to say farewell with grace when their season ends. Most importantly, you learn who you are. You learn to nurture and appreciate your holistic self, as you navigate some of the most challenging yet beautiful years of your life.

  1. Cooking really isn’t that hard

When I moved into my first apartment off-campus, I was a bit concerned when I thought about just how often I was going to have to feed myself. After getting used to walking to the dining hall for all my meals, I knew I was kind of in a pickle. Now don’t get me wrong, I knew my way around the kitchen to an extent. I could scramble an egg, sauté a veggie and even bake a few treats here and there. But, other than that, I was screwed. However, I am here today to offer my testimony that it in fact does get better. Baking salmon is the same as baking a cookie. A salad is practically veggie cereal, and actual cereal can be a meal any time of day. Anything can be a pasta dish if you try hard enough, and breakfast for dinner is always a respectable option. As long as you have salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder, your food will always taste acceptable at the very least. Oh, and never underestimate the power of leftovers. You’ll be fine. Trust me.

  1. Trusting your gut is a MUST

Coming to college offers a plethora of opportunities and new experiences. Whether a party at a random house, a kickback at your roommate’s friend’s lab partner’s crib or anything like it, there will always be something to do and somewhere to go. That’s when trusting your intuition becomes vital! Thrusting yourself into the unknown in the name of spontaneity and adventure is admirable and quite understandable, but it is important to stay vigilant of your surroundings and trust the red flags when you see them. Trust me, missing one party because something told you to stay home is worth any potential harm to you and your friends. The FOMO will pass, I swear. Basically, #yolo, and because #yolo, you have to make decisions that keep in mind that #yolo and make sure that the life that #yolo is a full one with minimal trauma and horror stories.

  1. A mile walk isn’t that bad

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but after walking 0.7 miles to one class, just to turn around and walk 0.9 miles to the next, suddenly that 20-minute walk to your favorite restaurant seems more than reasonable. Madison is a true walking city, and we have no choice but to get used to it. While you may have cringed at the idea of walking a mile ANYWHERE before you came to college, you will soon learn that it’s truly light work. Trust me, your calves will thank you 20 years from now.

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