The struggles of a first-year

The first-year university experience is unparalleled and plays such an integral role in the life you will have after

Some say it’s comparable to going through puberty, others say it’s merely an experience to endure. Then there are those who believe that it is the most crucial phase in life. Scary, isn’t it?

The first-year university experience is unparalleled and plays such an integral role in the life you will have after.

Students come with hope and excitement, emotional security along every point of the spectrum and maturity levels of different magnitudes. Add the variety of experiences they have accrued throughout their short lives to the mix and this makes for a pretty diversified cohort of people.

“The struggle is real,” was exactly what one of my friends exclaimed to me when a professor in our very first class of our university tenure made us aware of the volume of work we would have to process. My anxiety level kept soaring from that point on.

The transition is not easy. Typical tertiary-level programs all differ in time commitment, course requirements and workloads. Some programs are so demanding that putting in 20 hours of studying every week might still not be enough. Content can be so difficult that you end up staring blankly at your final exam.

Classes can be so tedious that even after having 10 hours of sleep and feeling rested, five minutes after the professor begins your eyes and mind are peacefully closed. Maintaining that high GPA you had in secondary school becomes a challenge and that one bad midterm or assignment could cost you immensely.

Needless to say, the academic expectation is high.

Nothing is worse than meeting someone and having those awkward moments of silence. Fortunately after first-year, one gets so used to it that handling it becomes second nature. Making friends can be an arduous task. Questions like;

“Will they like me?”

“Do they want to talk?”

“Should I invite her to come chill with me?”

These thoughts bombard the minds of many freshmen when in a social context. Fitting in becomes a priority and the idea of organically finding a group disappears. The process is now forced.

No longer is the person just someone who is trying naturally to make friends, the person is now an actor, performing in any way necessary. In a desperate attempt to feel included, poor choices are often made.

Self care is also an issue of contention. Eating out repeatedly, not knowing how to cook or even buy groceries, making unnecessary purchases and not knowing how, when or where to do laundry are all just a handful of the worries coming in. Despite the apparent simplicity, many new students are alienated by these tasks.

Finally, having too much freedom can also be a problem. “How do I time manage? When do I sleep? How do I complete assignments? How can I study? Watch the Blue Jay’s game? Or find some time for socialization?”

The thought that first-year teaches students how to make crucial but simple decisions can be either appealing or terrifying.

The struggles are indeed real but, thankfully, aids do exist. Centres of success have been created to address some of these problems. Residence departments have also refocused their efforts. Dons have become an integral part in enhancing the first-year experience. Universities in general should focus more on positively solidifying this eight months fundamental period; making it enjoyable instead of something to be nervous about it. Wilfrid Laurier University knows how to do it, let’s see if the others can catch on.

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