50 Things I Learned About College my Freshman Year

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Student-submitted guest blog by Dana G.

Knowing what to expect from your freshman year can be tricky. You hear things from friends, family and classmates… but ultimately, your experience is going to be your own. You make your own decisions and live your own life. As my first year at Oshkosh draws to a close, I sat down and thought about all the things I learned this year. And I’m going to share my list with you. It’s long, but I hope you like it anyway! (PS: These are in no particular order.)

  1. People are often uncomfortable to make eye contact, let alone smile at a stranger in passing. Smile at a stranger and make their day.
  2. Learn about current issues and actively participate in the activities, movements and causes that you believe in.
  3. The dreaded “Freshman Fifteen” is not something you need to agonize over. If you do not accept every part of yourself, you will never ever be satisfied with your mind and body, no matter the shape/size. Work out for your health and just be mindful of what you eat: a few scoops of ice cream or cake will not be the end of the world. And ice cream is pretty delicious and definitely worth it.
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  4. It is possible to find events on campus all the time. There is a lot to do here, so you can’t complain about being bored.
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  5. Don’t expect people to motivate you. To be successful, you need determination for yourself.
  6. There is this delightful pizza place in Oshkosh called Polito’s. GET THE MAC N’ CHEESE PIZZA… It is life-changing.
  7. If you know a friend who is having a hard time but is afraid to ask for help, nonchalantly do what you can to make their life easier: be it through an impromptu smoothie run, scheduled study time or excursion around town.
  8. Eat breakfast. It will kick-start your day. And the omelets in Blackhawk are amazing.
  9. The stress will subside in due time and the hard work will pay off.
  10. Love yourself and realize that like everyone else, you are not perfect, and no one expects you to be. Just do your best.
  11. Admit to your mistakes and realize you make them. Work to fix them and improve.
  12. In your first few days you will meet a lot of people and play “ice breakers.” One classic ice breaker is: “say your name and a random fact.” DO NOT BE THAT PERSON TO SAY: “I don’t know… I have a dog?” Everyone has something random about them, so be creative when you introduce yourself!
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  13. Ask for help: whether it be in school, work, etc. It is not uncool to admit you do not understand something as well as you could; it actually shows you have maturity and know that you don’t have all the answers. People are always ready to help you… you just need to ask.
  14. Go to class. It seems like this should be common sense… but sometimes people really do not understand you’re paying to learn. You need knowledge to back up your degree. View class as an opportunity, not an obstacle. (I know this is hard sometimes.)
  15. Do not judge people. You may not have been friends with “that type of person” in high school… but you may often find yourself growing close to people you never expected to. There are sooo many personality types in college that you never know who your new best friend will be.
  16. Your professors are actually people and care about you — that’s something I really love about it here. One of my best experiences from my first semester was when I went to see my math professor about some concepts I was not comprehending. After he clarified my problem for me, he and I had a 20-minute conversation about how my classes are going, how my transition into college is going, and he asked a lot about where I am from, why I chose Oshkosh, etc. It was amazing.
  17. Have some type of creative outlet you can go to when things get stressful and overwhelming: Watch poetry, doodle, get informed on something you were always interested in. (I personally always took on Netflix documentaries.)
  18. Random acts of kindness are awesome. I paid for people’s laundry occasionally this year or bought their Starbucks. It doesn’t have to be money-related either. Maybe just hold the door open for someone a few extra seconds or compliment someone.
  19. Working out makes you feel amazing and inspires you to be some kind of fitness expert. Plus the Student Rec and Wellness Center is a great place to go let off steam.
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  20. Finding someone/something that inspires you to persevere through anything is a key to success in college. I turned to watching people read their poems and writing some myself.
  21. Disassociate from people who bring out personality traits you do not desire to have.
  22. On one of your first days, find out where all the resources are on campus; I did not discover the Writing Center or individual tutoring center (Center for Academic Resources) until April and I wish I had found those places earlier.
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  23. Go to the random campus events that you (think you) have absolutely no interest in, because you might surprise yourself. For example,we have fun things like hypnotists. GO SEE THEIR SHOW because you’ll see the people who get hypnotized on campus the rest of the year and crack up because they have no idea what they did while hypnotized. I feel like I know secrets about some people on this campus that I’ve never actually met because of the hypnotist. Haha!
  24. Accept ALL types of people for we do not know the internal struggles everyone may be going through. Everyone deserves a good place to feel safe and welcome.
  25. Distinguish between what is necessary vs. what is wanted. Find a healthy balance between the two for optimum happiness and success in college.
  26. Connect with teachers, advisers, counselors, bosses, etc., as they will be wonderful mentors through your collegiate career. And if you’re lucky, maybe even your life!
  27. Wisconsin people call a water fountain a bubbler… (I’m from Illinois.) Regardless of whether or not you’re from out of state like me, everyone also assumes you know where their town is located… maybe study a map before you come!
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  28. If you’re from out-of-state or a random town, be prepared to explain your hometown. For example, being from Schaumburg, Illinois, I get one of two reactions: “Is that the place with Ikea?” and “Is that where the big mall is?” (Yes. And Yes. It’s the Woodfield Mall.) It’s OK though – you learn something new about people every day!
  29. I’m a big sports fan, but, again, as an out-of-state student, I’ve learned to avoid conversations regarding the Packers, Brewers and… the Bucks. (But that last one usually isn’t too bad. Haha!)
  30. Strangers will most likely not understand your sarcasm. Most of my friends still don’t. The main thing is, if you ever have a misunderstanding, don’t be afraid to clarify.
  31. Hunting in Wisconsin is a big deal and some students even miss classes at the beginning of hunting season. (I promise that’s my last Illinois commentary.)
  32. Find friends who are going to look out for you.
  33. Everyone has been through something significant in their life. Realize that and try not to be insensitive to their situations. Maybe this event has shaped them into the type of person they are today. Even if your personality conflicts with them as a result, don’t resent it. Just be open-minded.
  34. Ask an upperclassman what they wish they would have done as a freshman. Being a freshman is NOT a big deal. But, do not be naïve just because you are a first-year student. Immaturity in classes (i.e. inappropriate comments/jokes) is NOT as funny as you think it is. Be respectful.
  35. Try different things in your dining hall or mix random foods when you get bored. I personally tried quinoa, which was actually delicious. I also began to mix different types of cereal after I was sick of Raisin Bran and Special K Granola. I once mixed six, which were: Trix, Granola, Froot Loops, Lucky Charms, Cheerios (I hate those, not sure why I added those), and Frosted Flakes.
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  36. Coffee is cool when you really, really need it, but just because you are in college does not mean you will need it to stay awake, nor will you become dependent upon it, nor will you enjoy it by default. (Unless you put seven parts cream, one part coffee.)
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  37. All-nighters. Hmmm, the latest I stayed up in college (so far) was 2:37 a.m. as I was cramming for a Geology test. So you’re not going to always be up all night unless you really, really procrastinate on something. My personal view is that I believe I will be more successful if I rest for a good six hours and understand the larger concepts rather than stay awake all night and focus on the minute details for a test. I also never needed to pull an all-nighter as I am a superb time manager and expert non-procrastinator (most of the time). Practice time management and you can enjoy the same amount of sleep as me! ;)
  38. Try your best to work out issues with your roommate instead of just moving out after they do one thing you do not like or agree with. You do not want to have issues with your potential first friend in college. However, if things really are not working out, speak with them and discuss the issues and try to compromise. You’d be surprised at what you’ll be able to accomplish together.
  39. Join a random club/student organization. There are around 150 clubs here so chances are you’ll be interested in one of them! I started an Illinois Student Org here at Oshkosh.
  40. Support local artists because we all need a little support from strangers sometimes. In my opinion, I like when a “stranger” supports something I do, because I feel like it is more genuine than a friend whose job is to support your wild ambitions. (But thank you for supporting us nonetheless, friends!!!)
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  41. When in doubt…dance it out (or eat chocolate). If you are feeling extremely ambitious, DO BOTH AT THE SAME TIME.
  42. Do not be afraid to sing in the shower. Even if someone is in a different shower stall.
  43. Research options for a major before declaring one because there are a lot. Many of them you’ve  probably never heard of and you may really be interested in that field of study after researching it.
  44. Remember when picking a campus: you should look at things like:  your major, the cost, location from home, scholarship money, resources on campus, willingness of staff to help you in your admissions and FAFSA process, dining hall food, workout facilities, etc. Sometimes you don’t even know what you should be paying attention to or considering in your decision process, so ask a lot of questions and usually things will get a bit more clear!
  45. Get a planner/notebook/SOMETHING to write down due dates, big events, tests, etc. UWO has Google Apps, which includes Google Calendar. USE IT. It’s the best.
  46. Look at things in a bigger picture: if you didn’t do as well as you wanted on your test or in a class…relax and don’t throw in the towel. In the grand scheme of life, it will probably not alter your path. Take time to reflect on your classes after finishing them. What did you learn? Are you profoundly changed because of this class? Did this class make you realize your passion? What are you going to take from this class for the rest of your life? Gather up your thoughts and keep moving forward.
  47. Take SOMETHING away from each experience you have in college. Everything will help shape who you are.
  48. PROBABLY THE BIGGEST PIECE OF ADVICE THAT MANY PEOPLE DO NOT REALIZE IS IMPORTANT: The willingness of the admissions counselors/financial aid counselors/advisers to help you and answer your questions effectively/promptly, CANNOT BE OVERLOOKED. These people represent the staff as a whole and are the first people you come in contact with on campus. If they are extremely accommodating, always willing to help, and direct you to the correct person/resource (AKA UW OSHKOSH), then you can get a sense for the willingness of professors and other staff of the university to help you later. This is so important and I think holds extremely true to Oshkosh. :)
  49. College is pretty great. It is all about what you make it and what you take from it. Take the time to get to know people, I mean really *know* people:  theirs hopes/dreams/fears, their best memories of childhood and their favorite ice cream flavor and the type of cheese they like on their sandwich and what drives them crazy and what their first grade teacher’s name was.
  50. It truly is the little things that impact our lives the most. This is displayed through my little commentaries on each piece of advice/realization. Each macro-level realization made me appreciate something micro so much more.

So those are just 50 of the many, many things I learned this year. I’m sure a lot of my friends and classmates can relate to a bunch of those, too. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the list. Can’t wait to see you all here!

- Dana

Dana

 

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