“So what year are you?” The student cashier nonchalantly asked me as he put my newly purchased textbooks into a pristine University of California, Santa Barbara paper bag. When I told him that I’m a first year, he broke into a genuine, slightly nostalgic grin and replied, “Oh my gosh! How exciting! Best of luck to you.”
As I exited the bookstore that afternoon, I marveled at how the cashier couldn’t immediately see that I am a freshman. His casual attitude towards my first-year status seemed so wildly different from the upperclassmen at my small Pasadena high school who constantly asserted their dominance at school events. The idea that I am a part of this large and vibrant UCSB community like any other student, despite my obvious lack of seniority, shows me how utterly different the collegiate world is from high school.
Two days prior to that brief exchange in the bookstore, I had already experienced the overwhelming whirlwind of move-in day in its full, chaotic glory: the hasty task of furnishing my Santa Catalina dorm room alongside two roommates I had just met; the thrill of exploring a new campus while groaning over the sky-high costs of textbooks; and, of course, the strange finality of watching my parents drive off for the last time.
I had never in my life experienced such an insane mixture of excitement, terror, and curiosity as I had during my first few days at UCSB a mere two weeks ago. There was an endless stream of other students to meet, and I constantly worried about making a decent first impression while I struggled to remember all the names, majors, and Californian cities that were tossed my way. Because I had not touched a bike for five years prior to college, I was unaccustomed to biking as my main form of transportation around campus. Most of all, I was struck by the amount of freedom since classes aren’t as structured or strict about everyday homework policies.
So far, I’ve already experienced an uneven period of adjustment, foolish mistakes, and an occasional touch of homesickness. Yet, I’m becoming closer with my floormates as we laugh about the constant stream of people who yell as they pass Santa Catalina or when we hold unproductive homework sessions and game nights in our lounge. I’m filling my free time with interesting student group activities, extra studying, and the occasional trip to Isla Vista. I’m even learning to appreciate the daily workout of the notoriously long bike ride to campus.
One night, when my roommate told me she feels like we’ve already been at UCSB for months, I found myself agreeing with her. Even if I still don’t know every campus secret and slightly yearn for the familiarity of home, I find myself looking forward to everything my UCSB career has in store for me. With that, I wish the best of luck to all of my fellow freshmen. Here’s to having a wonderful first year!