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First-year files: you get what you put in!

February 8th, 2023

Going away to college is a big adjustment, especially for students who choose a college far from home. There will be many changes on the horizon: new landscapes, different accents, maybe even the weather. Chances are you will be meeting all new people, a chance to start fresh, with a clean slate to re-invent yourself. This will certainly require you to get out of your comfort zone if you want to make the most of this new life.

Image via US News

In today’s blog post, we return to our First-Year Files tradition with a Shrop Ed advisee who graduated from high school in central Kentucky and is now spreading her wings in New England. Ana Maria attends Boston College, a medium size Jesuit university with a beautiful and lively campus in a metropolitan area. Ana Maria‚Äôs reflections are helpful for students headed to colleges of all sizes, particularly medium and large colleges where taking initiative is more important. We’re grateful to her for sharing thoughts about academics and social life, difficulties as well as successes, and wish her a wonderful undergraduate career at BC.

In terms of my experience as a first year student, it’s definitely had its ups and downs. It was a bit hard at first to make friends, get adjusted to classes, and feel comfortable in a new environment. One thing I think went well was I was not afraid to reach out to everyone that I could. Even though I got some rejections, it proved a good way to make new friends. Whether it was for dinner at a dining hall, a brief trip into a city, or a simple walk around campus, I made it a point to reach out to anyone that I thought seemed like a good potential friend. Slowly, I started to figure out who I clicked well with and could spend extended amounts of time with. It was trial and error but I ended up settling into a great group of friends. Additionally, I organized my schedule very well and recorded every assignment and exam in my planner. That helped me not be overwhelmed as well as keep on top of all my work. Also, I found that professors were very understanding and offered lots of review sessions, extra help, and were useful resources for succeeding in their class. Finally, I found that the clubs I joined helped me find my place a bit faster on campus. Getting involved in service and creative clubs allowed me to meet like-minded people and gave me new outlets and tasks besides just academics. 

There were definitely some struggles too. I, like many others, was overwhelmed with the new found freedom of not living at home and the endless events happening on campus. The first couple of weeks I felt like I needed to go to every event and ultimately I had a hard time balancing work and social life. Planning became really crucial. I eventually figured out to be as productive as I could during the day so that my nights and weekends were free for friends and club activities. I also struggled with living in a new place in a new routine. Sharing a space with someone, dealing with communal bathrooms, and discovering the northeast coming from the south was a hard experience at times. Over time this new routine became more normal and I overcame the regional culture shock by not shying away from opportunities to explore the city and the community. Additionally, I found it comforting to make one or two good friends who came from outside the northeast and understood what it was like to feel homesick and could relate to my background a bit better than my local friends. 

What I found surprising, although it seems obvious, is how college is truly a “you get what you put in” type of environment. Coming into a new place with new people and exciting opportunities, you seem to feel a little bit like they might come to you. With so much going on it seems impossible that you won’t just walk into the perfect friend group or an interesting club. And while that’s true to an extent, it really is what you make of it. It’s up to you to reach out to new friends, to introduce yourself to your professors and reach out when you need help, and to advocate for yourself. It can be easier sometimes to just coast through classes and keep to yourself in the dining hall, but the more you push yourself out of your comfort zone, the more you gain from the environment around you. 

Finally, when it comes to Boston College younger students should consider that while this is an academic institution, the culture of this campus is to build you up as a person and to build up a community, rather than just produce high achieving students. A big part of being a BC student is putting on spirit wear and going to football and hockey games. It’s getting to know your classmates and professors. It’s not really an isolationist institution. There’s almost a (positive I think) pressure to be an active member of the community. There are many school traditions such as the Wells Crowther Charity 5k and Christmas Tree Lighting that bring the whole student body together and help you feel connected to BC as a home and not just a school. 

I hope some of that is helpful. Overall, I’ve really enjoyed my time at BC and can’t wait to see what is coming down the pipeline for me here.

— Ana Maria C.