As the semester is coming to a close and everyone is occupying the library, battening down the hatches, and cramming as much knowledge as they can in their brains for finals, it’s important to relax for a second, breathe, and look back on the road we’ve traveled to get to where we are now.
As a sophomore, I like to think back not only to the beginning of this semester, but also to the beginning of my college career entirely. After my very first semester of college a lot of thoughts were swarming through my head about all I had accomplished, the things that were completely different from how I had imagined them being, and how much closer I was to reaching the real world (dun dun duuun!)
Here are the seven things I think every Penn State freshman should have learned by the end of their first semester.
1. College is not the same for everyone.
Despite what the movies may show, college is completely different then what you may have thought it would be like before coming to Penn State. That’s why your preconceived notions and newfound realities vary from person to person. College is different for everyone depending on the friends you make, the groups you’re involved in, the classes you take, etc. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just something to keep in mind if it seems like other people are getting more or less out of their college experience than you.
2. College is what you make it.
If you haven’t already realized it, I’m here to tell you one last time: Your college experience can be whatever you make it. Penn State is a humongous university, but it can easily be made smaller by the choices you make. Getting involved is the easiest way. Find a club or organization that you will enjoy being a part of, and you will likely find friends there. It’s always tough to initially put yourself out there, but once you do I guarantee it will pay off. Everyone is in the same boat; don’t forget that you aren’t alone in your search for the right friend group. Don’t give up if you haven’t found your niche yet, it takes time to find friends that are the right friends for you. They’re out there.
3. We are all Penn State.
Every last one of us is Penn State, even the Willard Preacher. Once you’re here, you’re family. You can transfer, you can graduate, you can even drop out, but you will always be a part of Penn State. Going here is like joining a lifelong brotherhood that will follow you everywhere in your life. You can try to escape it, but Penn Staters can sense each other from a mile apart, so good luck avoiding it. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing; it will most likely come in handy in job interviews or in breaking the ice with people you’ve just met. Be proud of where you come from, it can only do you good.
4. Football games are the place to be on Saturdays.
And that means no matter the weather either. The last home game of this year which was against Nebraska was freezing cold and snowing for most of the game, but it was one of my favorite games of the year. It was a great way to send off the seniors and a great way to start Thanksgiving break. And don’t even get me started on the Michigan game this year. The best game of the past few seasons by far. For those who went, you will be telling your grandchildren about how amazing it was (well maybe not, but you get the point). If you didn’t buy student tickets this year, you might want to reconsider your life choices and buy them next year.
5. The Freshman 15 isn’t just a rumor.
Personally, I only gained 12 pounds my freshman year, so I consider myself one of the lucky few. But the easy access of food nearly everywhere sure doesn’t help keep the pounds away. It’s tough to have some self-control when you can smell the Grilled Stickies from across the street or when you see fresh west cookies come out of the oven. Thankfully, the dining commons do offer healthy food options every single day. Whether you choose to eat those options instead of a bacon double cheeseburger is up to you though. Just remember, new eating habits can start anytime, and they can benefit or hurt you down the road. And for goodness sakes, skipping a meal is never ever a smart way to stay healthy or skinny (take NUTR 100 and thank me later).
6. Penn State is the beginning of the real world.
Time to face reality, because it’s been knocking on your door all semester. College may be the first time some people have ever lived away from home for more than a week of summer camp. It’s extremely scary at first, knowing your family isn’t just in the room next door, having to make all the important decisions without your parents by your side, and having to make a whole new friend group. I found trying to be self-motivated to be the toughest thing about college. Along with all the added responsibilities to your life, it’s tough to stay sane. But for all those freshmen reading this, I promise it only gets easier. As you get more comfortable with college, these problems will start to disappear and become simple realities. One day you will look back on your first semester and laugh at your freshman self for thinking CAS 100 was a tough class.
7. College is a blessing.
We all have those days where we don’t want to get out of bed and go to class, where we wonder why we are even at college, paying x amount of dollars for a degree in whatever subject. But then there are the days where we realize how lucky we are to be going to such a great university. College may not seem important now, but you are learning for the future every single day in every single class. Studies show that a college degree increases your salary and decreases your chance of unemployment. And once you graduate, the degree you will have with you will carry the best name along with it: The Pennsylvania State University. So savor the short amount of time you have at Penn State, be thankful for the fact that you are attending such a prestigious school, and never forget to relax, live in the moment, and the future will fall in place as it is meant to be.