There’s nothing more beautiful than witnessing a freshman try their first bite of Freebirds! nachos. As their eyes roll back in ecstasy and a warranted giggle escapes their upturned lips, they are reassured in their decision to attend one of the best universities in the nation. Freshmen year can easily be one of the best years of college, but it doesn’t come without mistakes or challenges. Here is some advice I wish that I had received when I finally became a Gaucho:
- Start early on your bucket list. Your time in college will go by faster than you imagine, and you may not have the time during your senior year to do it all. There’s no better time than to start than now. Whenever you run out of meal swipes, go to Isla Vista for food, so you can brag about eating at every restaurant. If you see Chancellor Yang and his wife on their morning stroll, have a conversation (and maybe ask for a selfie).
- Put on your adventure hat and explore! Don’t miss out on Isla Vista and Santa Barbara by staying in your dorm, visiting home every weekend, or living in the library. There’s a lot to see and do. Take a trip to the Butterfly Grove, Knapp’s Castle, or Seven Falls during a free weekend. Try some fish and chips at Stearns Wharf during sunset. Remember, many people come to Santa Barbara to vacation, get married, and retire. There’s a reason why.
- Friendships will happen. Some people stay lifelong friends with their freshman roommate while others don’t find a great group until senior year. Embrace every opportunity you have to meet new people, but don’t fret over not clicking with anyone right away. I didn’t make meaningful friendships until I was halfway into junior year. Making friends requires putting yourself out there, whether it’s hanging out in your dorm lounge, rushing a sorority or fraternity, or joining clubs.
- Don’t forget academics, but don’t sweat it either. You’re a student, so academics should play a priority over some activities. However, don’t let school consume your whole life. That low grade isn’t the end of the world, and you will bounce back.
- Go to office hours. Everyone says it, but not many people actually go. You don’t have to have an excuse to talk to a professor. It might be nerve-wracking at first, but some of my favorite conversations in college have been during office hours. They’re eager to talk to you and offer you advice where you may need it. If a professor teaches both a lower and upper division class in your major, talk to them! They might remember you when you enroll in their other classes.
- Sleep is good! Naps are perfectly acceptable in college. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. It’s simple, it’s free, and it’s necessary.
- Be a “yes” person, even if it means giving up a little bit of sleep sometimes. True, you shouldn’t say “yes” to every experience offered to you. However, if you’re on the fence about whether you should go to something, go ahead and try it out. It’s better to regret doing something, than to regret not doing it and wondering what could have happened. These times make for some great experiences and stories to remember in the future.
- Be uncomfortable. This goes hand in hand with the previous point. My freshmen year wasn’t the most fulfilling because I didn’t get out of my comfort zone. I missed out on so many opportunities to make friends and grow. Situations that made me uncomfortable were where I learned and grew the most. Studying abroad pushed me to become a better version of myself. While you don’t have to go to a foreign country to experience this, you can start by making your own dentist appointment instead of asking your mom to do so for you.
- Don’t forget your folks at home. Though I was having a great time, my parents were experiencing new territory. Their youngest had finally gone off to college. Calling them, texting them, or sending them pictures made the transition easier for both of us. Let them know you’re doing okay.
1. Take care of yourself. Your overall well-being should be your first priority! It’s okay to take time off for your health, whether it’s your physical, mental, or emotional health. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with everything, especially in a new environment. There are many professional, campus resources ready to help you. If you take care of yourself, you’ll go further and be more successful.