Originally published April 2015
It’s insane to think that in roughly two weeks my freshman year of college will be coming to a close. In two weeks I’ll be moved out of my little room in Speare and headed back home for a week until I head out to Lyon, France for a summer session. So in honor of finishing my first year at Northeastern, here are some things I learned that I hope will assist future freshmen!
1. Join a club
The best thing I think I have done in my year thus far has been to join Northeastern University’s Marketing Association (NUMA). I can’t even think of where I would be without them. I know I want to be in marketing, but at the same time I know I haven’t had a lot of experience. Now I feel more comfortable with my decision to concentrate in the field. The highlight of this club wasn’t even getting more experience in marketing however, it wasn’t traveling to New Orleans to compete in the American Marketing Association’s yearly conference (which was admittedly amazing), or even getting so involved that I was able to become Mentorship Chair my second semester freshman year and next year become VP of Membership. What was truly the highlight was the friendships I have built. Being friends with people much older than you is fantastic, and I’m so lucky I have been able to experience it. Older friends have experience and are willing to help out a lowly freshman who doesn’t really know what she’s doing. Thanks to NUMA I now know a ton about future co-ops, study abroad, and the best classes to take. Not to mention I have some pretty amazing friends now!
2. Find your true friends
I could not have been nearly as successful without my friends. I was lucky enough to find a solid group of friends who are interested in similar things within the first few weeks of school. While they aren’t necessarily the same major as me, they have the same values which is key in relationships. I was worried I would end up doing things I wasn’t exactly comfortable with because I would only be able to find people interested in partying and the like, but fortunately my friends and I are more likely to visit the Museum of Fine Arts on a Friday night than attend a frat party. (Would recommend highly, there are not a ton of people around then!) At the end of the day though, keep in mind that the first people you hang out with don’t have to be your friends for life – just stay true to yourself and you will find your people.
3. Attend events
This one is particularly early for me since I go to school in the heart of Boston, but regardless, it is important that when cool things happen you go. I believe that half of the reason I enjoyed my first year so much was because I attended such amazing events. For CollegeWeek I went to a fashion show put on by HerCampus, when the Black Swan was playing at the Boston Ballet I went with my roommate, when the Christmas tree lighting in Faneuil happened I stood in the cold with my friends to see it. The more you do the more you will love college. Even if you don’t have much going around, still make an effort to do things on campus. Through Northeastern I saw a performance of Antigone, heard the VP of Research and Development for Netflix speak, and attended a conference on emerging markets. If there are things to do go do them, it’s better to go and have them not be fun then to stay home and never know.
It’s also important that you go and get out of your comfort zone, and I highly recommend you do it alone. I never went places alone until I got to college, as my parents always talked about the fear of me getting hurt, lost or worse. And while moving to a city certainly didn’t alleviate any of those fears, it is important that you get comfortable being alone and navigating a city (or wherever). On my most recent exploring adventure I went to Harvard, as everyone had been telling me it was absolutely gorgeous. And while Harvard looked nice, I never actually went in as right outside the T stop there were people reading Shakespeare’s sonnets. I sat down and listened and next thing you know I’m going bookshop to bookshop watching scenes from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ It turned out that there was a celebration of Shakespeare’s birthday that day, which included local performances, a reading of all Shakespeare’s sonnets, and even a cake at the end of the day. By going out without much of a plan, I was able to find something very interesting I would have never even thought to research before hand!
5. Bond with teachers
This is key not only in the academic sense but in the ‘become a better person’ sense. Your professors are key. Not only will they help you out in the classroom, but the closer you are with them the more likely they are to tell you about other amazing opportunities. I absolutely loved my financial accounting professor, and because I would frequent her office hours she ended up telling me about other things she thought I would be interested in, such as a summer study abroad she is teaching that I ended up applying for! In a more general sense though, your professors are probably very interesting. To get where they are today they have most likely had some pretty impressive accomplishments, done some fantastic research, or held a job in the field in which they are teaching for. Best of all, I have yet to meet a professor who isn’t readily willing to share his or her experiences with someone who is interested.
6. Try something new
This one for me was the hardest. I have never been too good with change, I like to keep things the way they are. I do however realize that I need to work on that, as change is probably the best way to grow. So my final piece of advice is to do something new, something that forces you to grow. Whether it’s learning a language, how to code, or even starting a fitness plan, find at least one thing to do and make a committed effort to work on it. My something new is more of an event: I’m going to be studying abroad in Lyon, France starting in mid-May. I don’t speak French (but I have been learning!) and have never been to France before. I love the idea of traveling, but I always had some fear holding me back. Now I will be going on a trip where I will be forced out of my comfort zone completely, and where I might even experience culture shock. This is definitely new for me, but I’m excited for the personal development that is sure to come.
At the end of the day, freshman year is both exhilarating yet terrifying. It’s the time where you start to grow up, where you figure out what you are interested in, and where you take the first steps to developing yourself. Mistakes will be made, but you will learn from them. I had a wonderful first year and I hope with some advice I can help incoming freshmen feel for comfortable about the transformation ahead!