My First Year Experience

I mentioned in a previous blog that freshmen in college, similarly to toddlers, are sponges. According to the Oxford Brain Journal, "Babies are like a sponge, they are ready to absorb whatever information they can - and boy - they can't grasp it fast enough!" Being in college is no different. We are babies in the adult world. Our minds are again sponges, capable of soaking in each bit of our environments. Open your eyes and ears and let the information pour in. I still believe this to be true. 

As my freshman year comes to a close, I'd like to take the opportunity to talk about my year and the growth that I experienced. This blog is all about my toddlerhood, if you will, and how I transitioned from high school to college life. 


1) Moving from home to the dorm

I had some pretty legitimate concerns about leaving the nest. I am very close to my Dad (shout-out to Big Mike). Upon leaving for school, I was faced with a lot of emotions about distancing myself from someone so important to my life. I would argue that, for me, growing as a person outside of my relationships from home (including friends AND family) was the most challenging aspect of my year. I missed my family and friends - even when I didn't realize that I did, and didn't always know how to navigate difficult decisions regarding my relationships, my major, my stressors, etc. without their support. The most important advice I can give about moving is to remember that friends- especially college friends, are family that we choose for ourselves. Leaving your door open to bond with your floor mates is one really simple way to put yourself out there and show that you're open to meeting new people! The trend on my floor was to leave our doors open whenever we were home to allow people to pop in and say hi when they wanted to. Doing this reflected IU's Culture of Care and showed one another that though moving was really exciting, we also knew it was tough, and we were prepared to help one another through that process of change.


2) Welcome Week

I used Welcome Week to explore, and that was AWESOME. My roommate (hi Sophia) and I grabbed our FYE New Student Orientation maps, our schedules and walked to each of our classes for the entire week. Walking through our schedules was a huge, huge help, and I felt so prepared by the time that classes rolled around. I also remember taking my first campus bus ride to learn the route, my first visit to the Boys and Girls Club on Lincoln Street, my first restaurant experiences on Kirkwood and 4th Street and many other firsts that later evolved into my favorites. 

3) That NO AC/communal bathroom life

Living in a dorm without air conditioning was my worst nightmare while filling out the housing application, however it was entirely bearable and I made some pretty hilarious memories from those circumstances. From laying on the floor in our sports bras with fans blowing from every direction, to shower parties, to saying "good morning" to your neighbor or venting about an exam as you brush your teeth- it all shaped my experience and I will miss those small conversations so dearly. 

4) Bombing my first exam 

It happens, right? Well, for me, it had never happened before. The first time that I completely bombed an exam was one of my worst IU moments of the 2014/15 school year. Academics are clearly one of the most important elements in attending a university, however, I learned that they are not everything. I learned (the hard way) that you are not merely your grades. The connections and relationships I have formed on campus with faculty and staff this year far outweigh any GPA-related benefit that I can think of. Connecting with your instructors is just as, if not more important than receiving a high percentage in a course of interest. Seriously. For example- I worked harder for my SPEA V-160 International and Domestic Policy course than I have ever worked in my entire life, and I got a B. This grade isn't stellar, however my professor recognized how hard I was working and how dedicated I was to understanding the material on a critical level. Because of that, I am now studying privately with that professor in an honors certificate program in research and inquiry in public affairs. Does my GPA reflect all of my academic achievements my freshman year? No way Jose. But with the help of those close to me, and Totino's Pizza Rolls, I made it out alive. 

5) Changing majors 

This also sucked for me. I came to Indiana University as a direct admit into the Kelley School of Business, and I was not about to give up the Kelley dream for anything. But the crazy thing about life is that you can plan for, apply for, expect, and strategize for absolutely anything and everything and it still will not settle in the way that you think it should. I came to Indiana University for the Kelley School of Business, but I quickly learned that I was not a good fit for the school at all. This can be a horrifying thing- and for me it was! It took me months of suffering in a program that clearly wasn't for me solely because I was too stubborn to open my mind to the multitude of majors offered at IU. Fortunately, thanks to the support of friends, faculty and family, I was given a push in the right direction. SPEA. The School of Public and Environmental Affairs. IU's Best Kept Secret and my new home. I am so thrilled to now be a part of a school that reflects my personal values as a citizen of the world and empowers me to reach my full potential as I continue to study Law and Public Policy. I had a huge identity crisis when I realized that Kelley wasn't for me, however, switching my major very well may be the best thing I've ever done for my future and I am stoked to see where SPEA carries me.

6) Maintaining and making best friends 

Parting ways with hometown friends is a simple task for some, but I struggled with the distance from my friends just as I did with my family. It was difficult at times to feel connected socially simply because everything is new and there isn't a whole lot of depth in anything. For some ridiculous reason, I forgot that phone calls and Skype dates were socially acceptable. As time went on, I got much better at staying in touch with my best friends from high school. With casual phone calls, visits for big events, and of course the occasional surprises, I'm so thankful that my memories with my best friends from high school can continue to be made throughout college.

With that, I would like to thank the Cox Scholar Foundation, my fellow ACEs, WeAreIU Bloggers, OTeam leaders, floormates, classmates, friends and family. I have grown in so many ways throughout the course of this past year and cannot wait to continue my time here at Indiana University.

About The Author
Michelle LongAdvocate for Community Engagement

I'm Michelle, and I am a Cox Engagement Scholar and an ACE (Advocate for Community Engagement) for the University. I'm studying a plethora of cool stuff including Policy Analysis and Spanish, eat Pop Tarts on the daily, and love IU!