As I sit here in the basement of Katzenbach Hall, at a time of the night I would rather not admit to (but the time stamp will probably sell me out, anyway), I began to feel quite introspective over my past month here at Rutgers University. Overall, I would have to say that my transition into college life has been confusing, slightly overwhelming, a little bit challenging, but overall exciting and auspicious. After a year of being the “top of the pack” in high school as a senior, starting at square one as a freshmen can be a bit sobering. Four weeks ago, I was as fresh as they came, wide-eyed and prepared to fill my blank slate with plenty of new experiences. Of course, I was nervous about several aspects of college life, including making friends and whether or not my Christmas lights would match the rest of my room. My primary mindset, however, was to get ready to make the most out of every day ahead of me. I was a sponge ready to soak up whatever Rutgers University had to offer me. I quickly realized, however, that being “ready” to soak up what Rutgers has to offer is not enough; one has to be actively looking for things to absorb.
Right away, the freedom and independence one is granted as a college student is quite exhilarating. It can also be frustrating and a completely foreign experience for many. Two summers ago, I took a college course and lived on campus for a month. I suppose it was a little bit loaded to think that my month there would directly mirror my month here. While both instances are comparable, and I have to say I was a little more prepared for the “college experience,” being a full-time freshmen was evidently very different. For example, class here is almost incongruous to how class was run in high school. A professor hands you a syllabus delineating all your required readings, with a message not too different from “here is your mission, if you choose to accept it.” While you may have class discussions on a specified reading, there are no “benchmarks” or reading checks. No one is going to be there making sure you have your planner filled out; all of your study time is in your hands. That is why I urge all of you to develop good habits as I have learned (the hard way) that even falling behind a few days can have pretty severe consequences. While this may seem obvious, time management IS key in college, and leaving everything to study for the night before will probably not get you that “A” you so easily received in high school.
Time itself is a huge factor in the freedom you are granted within college. At a glance it seems as though you have so much of it, but you quickly realize that the time is moving much faster than you think. Do not let this scare you: I am willing to bet that you will have time to study AND be part of that acapella group you wanted to join. The trick is to be smart with your time. Personally, I came into Rutgers wanting to do a multitude of things. I was heavily involved in high school and thought that being part of the musical, leading the literary magazine, being part of the Model U.N. and Mock Trial Teams, and tutoring on the side would all be things I could continue. While I am sure there are some people who can “do it all,” I definitely did not feel that I was well-situated enough into school yet to spread myself out too thin. Instead, I settled on my top three interests: global concerns and politics (RUMUN), artistic expression (Honors Program Artists Collective), and women’s issues (Douglas D.I.V.A.S.). I knew that RUMUN would be a huge commitment, so I settled on one commitment-intensive organization for my first semester. I encourage everyone to go for what they love to do and get involved, and to not feel badly if they have to trade-off. You still have plenty of semesters ahead of you to try new things, but I do suggest starting off with at least one thing you see yourself being a part of for a long time to develop a strong commitment to that particular organization.
Going back to the idea of actively looking for opportunities on campus, the idea of “claiming an education” is one that I have been taught of very often as a Douglass Woman. No one is going to be there making sure you attend interest meetings or reminding you to study, YOU must take initiative of your own responsibilities. It may be a little difficult at first, especially with the obvious distractions brought upon by the college environment, but everyone is capable of making the most of their time. I am not saying that I have not made mistakes in terms of time management, because I have, but I do find something as simple as keeping a planner or calendar really helps you stay focused and organized. Asides from classes, there are so many interesting events on campus that I find myself wanting to attend. By placing those dates even months in advance, I can make sure I have my other obligations done early that day so I can attend these wonderful presentations and activities.
Now you may be thinking, “Okay, I get it, manage my time, but what about fun?” Do not worry, you will have fun in college if it does not find you first. Being part of DRC, I was so thrilled to find a community of students who shared my passion in women’s rights and leadership. I was able to make a lot of friends so far just from shared interests and casual conversations. In terms of more exciting kinds of fun, there are all sorts of events on campus from concerts to football games to Coffee Houses to all sorts of fraternity and sorority events. I cannot be your weekend-fun liaison as of right now since I have been home all of my weekends, but from what I have heard a weekend at Rutgers is never dull.
The point is, you can manage all your school work, be involved, and still have time for fun. It is all about balance in college, a cliche you have probably heard a lot but I am realizing more and more to be true. Sometimes, however, it may be difficult to find this balance, and being a first year can sometimes be a little lonely. It is totally okay if you have not found your “crew” within the first week- chances are, you will meet many of people every day and you will just find yourself with those you really connect with. The important thing is to keep an open mind and be nice to everyone. Remember that everyone is also in your shoes, and that there is something for everyone here at Rutgers whether you are a sports fanatic or a slam poetry superstar. Just be smart about your choices, and do not forget to add a little fun to your schedule, and your start can be a positive one.
Also, I believe I have found a way to fight the Freshmen 15, but I will keep you all updated on that as the months go on.