With the end of the semester so close, I find myself looking back to when I first started college. I remember the day my parents dropped me off at my dorm. I look back to the first day of classes and how scared I was not finding my classes or getting lost around campus.
I entered college being shy, a bit scared and feeling intimidated. I had no clue what to expect as a first-generation student.
I had no clue what to expect out of going to college.
All I knew, was that it was going to be harder than high school and would probably involve a lot of studying.
Freshman and Sophomore Year
One of my biggest struggle freshman year, was finding my place and feeling like I belonged at school.
The transition from high school to college is incredible. In a quick amount of time you leave the place you have called home; you leave the people that make you feel at home and move to a place full of people you don’t know.
I was lucky in the sense that I moved to NAU with my best friend from high school. We were lucky enough to room together, freshman year. Together, we went to school activities, met new people and always had each other to push through our first year.
What I Would Tell My Freshman Self:
Know that most freshman feel as lost as you.
When I first met new people, we would all bond over our freshman classes. We would complain about how long our reading assignments were or how much homework we had for the week.
Push yourself out of your comfort zone
The best part about freshman year is that you have the opportunity to meet so many people. To this day, I still talk to the people I met freshman year. It’s always nice to see a friendly face around campus.
Sophomore year went by quickly. It was my second year; I found a way to manage school and no longer felt out of place. This year I continued my journey to putting myself out there and make new memories.
I went on road trips, had movie nights and study sessions with friends. I continued to grow as a person. I joined a club and spent nights staying in a lab to practice my creative skills. I continued to study and write essays.
What I remember the most about sophomore year are the simple days. The days my roommates and I would sit in the kitchen table and to make sure we were doing homework. The days we would just all clean our apartment together.
This was the hardest year for me.
I felt like I was now an upperclassman, but for some reason the first semester of junior year I still felt like I had no clue what I was doing in college. This was probably a result of the courses I was taking at the time. They involved a huge amount of my time taken up by my classes and it was physically and mentally draining.
I remember there would be weekends where I had to film for our team projects, and we would film from 4:00 p.m. to midnight — all weekend long.
On top of that I still had essays to write, content to study, homework to do for other classes and maintain a part time job. I was so incredibly stressed and overwhelmed by the course load and the small amount of time I had to do it all.
Nonetheless, I pushed myself through late nights of writing reports and essays.
I pushed myself when I thought I had no time or energy left to study.
Tips for a rough semester:
Part of why I am succeeding through this semester is because I always told myself I could at least try. If I had two essays due within the same week with a limited amount of time, I just tried one at a time.
- No matter how little time you have, always make time for yourself
I believe that what helped me get through that semester were my friends.
When you feel overwhelmed it can be especially easy to want to stop socializing, but always make some time to not necessarily socialize, but do what makes you happy.
My friends are what make me happy and get me through the day. It could have been just an hour where we had dinner together or leaving my Monday nights open to watch the Bachelorette (it was needed for me to relax).
Looking back at that semester, it was the semester I learned not only the most academically, but the most about myself.
The first semester of my Junior year was hard, but second semester I came back ready to take on the rest of my time at college. I found out I could do more than I thought. I found how to best manage my time — and I found a new drive.
Senior year is the year I embraced the unexpected.
With all that is happening, I feel like this takes on a whole new meaning. Coming into senior year I was determined to make the most out of my last year. I promised myself I would say yes to more things.
I feel like I have accomplished this. Through my internship with NAU Social I met so many amazing people, got to do incredible things and had such unique experiences. This is the year I got to explore my creativity and practice my passions on a different level.
Tips for finishing a chapter in your life:
Take advantage of all your opportunities
This may be the last chance you get to make new college memories, so just go for it.
Instead of guessing what something is, go find out.
Join that club or go to that campus event and make some of your best memories.
Embrace the unexpected
As proven by world events, you can never fully plan for the obstacles that will come. In situations where they are especially devastating — learn to appreciate what you do have and adapt to new environments.
I am still scared for the future. Especially during these times, I have no clue what I am going to do after I graduate.
My future is more uncertain than ever. However, I do know I have the skills necessary to overcome obstacles that will come. I am confident in myself and that the skills I have learned will get me through unprecedented challenges.
Four years later, I can say college was harder than expected and involved SO much studying, but it was also an incredible experience.
Four years later I can say going to college was the best decision I have made.
No matter how much I struggled, I can say the experience and knowledge gained was the best reward.
Goodbye NAU, I am ready to start a time a new chapter in my life.
- By Tatiana Maya Olea, NAU Social Media Intern, Senior, #firstgen student,