So for the last 9 months I have been making my way through my freshman year at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville (Go Vols!) and what a ride it has been! In just a year I have changed and learned so much. I’ve made precious new friends, made some difficult decisions, and grown as a student, person and child of God. I love Knoxville and the quirkiness of the city that is both large and small at the same time. I love the feeling of walking down Pedestrian Walkway (the large -and long- sidewalk through the heart of campus) as jazz music escapes through the open windows of the music building. I love sitting in my classes: learning, discussing, writing until my hand feels like it’s going to fall off. I love those perfect sunny days on campus when the air is crisp and I feel alive and that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. There’s so much to love that I could go on for days.
But I’ll save that for another post.
Instead, I figured I would take a minute to jot down some things I have learned my freshman year. To reflect. To remember.
Here goes nothing…
1. Be brave. Especially as a freshman, jumping into a new lifestyle, a new city and meeting so many new people can be terrifying. So go ahead and realize everyone in new and nervous. I’m pretty introverted and am constantly battling within myself to just suck it up and have a conversation with people who I don’t really know, so just jump in and be friendly! Get to know the people in your dorm and especially the people in your classes. Some of the people I felt awkward and nervous about getting to know have become my dearest friends, just because I have said yes to spending time getting to know them!
2. Ask questions. Ask questions before you get to college (friends that are already there are a great source of knowledge). Ask questions at orientation. Ask questions in your classes. Ask questions in advising appointments. Ask questions when getting to know people (and really get to know them-what makes them excited in life? what is their family like?). Just ask questions.
3. Find community (the right kind of community). Surround yourself with people who really love who you already are – who you are right at this moment, who celebrate your strengths and weaknesses, who make you laugh and push you to be better. Surround yourself with friends who have rich personalities, who are different than you but still understand why you are the way you are. If you find yourself losing who you really are (the personality traits and passions that make you, you) then you probably need to invest in better friendships. And it usually takes longer than we want it to. Like I said earlier, be brave and talk to people. Late night talks over Cookout milkshakes or chatting over homework at the library can lead to special friendships you will seriously love.
4. Take care of yourself. Seriously. My first semester I napped when I should have been exercising, ate out all the time and stayed up way too late (chugging my third or fourth cup of coffee so I could finish the homework I should have done days before, whoops). All these things are fine in moderation but seriously, exercise. Especially when the gym is right across from your dorm room. Exercise with a friend, take a new class, go on a walk/run with a buddy. Just get outside. And no, the cafeteria is not the greatest place in the world. Try your best to take care of your body by putting healthy foods in (and maybe just one cookie instead of three, even though their delicious). That being said, don’t over do it. Your body is a temple and its easy to abuse it either by overeating or dieting. You don’t need to diet, or cut carbs, or run off your entire meal, or count calories or any of the crap that most of us (especially women) fall into. Love your body and take care of it by eating healthy food and exercising. Don’t do it to look like the girl on the cover of Vogue, but do it because your body will thank you. You’ll think clearer, feel better, stay healthier and enjoy life more! Find the balance and be grateful for the body you have been given. You have value no matter what you weigh. Learn to believe that in the deepest core of your being!
5. Get a mentor. Someone to walk through life with. Someone who can ask you hard questions and will love you no matter what answer you give them. Someone who believes you, encourages you and calls out identity in you. Someone who has been where you are and can lead you through these crazy college years by pointing you to Jesus. I promise it will change your life. I wouldn’t have made it through my freshman year without my beloved friend and mentor, Sara. Sara, if you read this, I am so grateful for you.
6. Get off campus. Especially if you live in a larger city. Get out and explore. Find a park to study in, a coffee shop to meet with friends in, or a great restaurant to eat at. It’ll help you not go stir crazy and give you an opportunity to have an adventure with a friend.
7. Know your identity. Know what makes you, you. Know your passions, your dreams and be expectant to realize new ones as you start this crazy adventure that is college. But most importantly, knowing who you are gives you confidence and helps you make good decisions. If you know you aren’t going to drink, then it’s not a problem to decide what you’re doing on the weekend. If you know you want to do well in school, it’s easier to make that trip to the library (especially when a cup of coffee and a friend are waiting for you). If you want to follow Jesus, then it’s not a question of waking up early Sunday morning to go to church or surrounding yourself with godly friends. Whatever you want your life to be about, knowing who you are (or at least having an idea of who you are) sets you on a path towards success.
So there you have it friends, just a little bit of what I learned in my first year of college. Who knows if it will help, but I know one thing for sure- College is FUN. You’re going to have a blast. Even in hard times, hard classes and late late nights cramming for tests, you’re growing into the person you’re made to be. So sit back and get ready for the greatest adventure.