Pursuing any type of degree is exciting; you’re beginning the journey to adulthood, and therefore, the rest of your life. However, it can simultaneously be daunting and overwhelming, too. Specifically looking at degrees with a pre-health focus or track, there is so much that needs to be done outside of school over the course of the undergraduate years. It can be a lot to process, especially as a new freshman. Mackenzie (‘22, Mill Creek, WA) would like to share a few ways to help organize, prioritize, and process everything that could (and some of it, should) be done to help you best reach your career goals.
College is a lot of fun, but it can also be extremely stressful at times. Mackenzie (‘22, Mill Creek, WA), is a rising sophomore in CAS at UP, pursuing a degree in Biology with minors in Chemistry & Neuroscience. In no particular order, Mackenzie would like to share a few of her best tricks in beating the stress that college (often) throws at you, as well as some of her personal experiences in stressful times during her freshman year.
So you’ve moved away from home, and doing the whole “being independent” thing. Perhaps you go to the store by yourself for the first time, and you realize how expensive avocados are, and you wonder how you’re going to get by. Well, here are some tips from our student office assistants.
As students explore their interests and career goals, it is normal to change majors and minors during the undergraduate years. We advise you to speak with a program counselor throughout this process if you have any questions about your curriculum change, and to consult DegreeWorks to see the requirements for your desired major/minor, as well as your credit progress. (note: if you are incoming freshman and have not started at UP yet, contact the admissions office to change your curriculum).
Homesickness is a broad topic to describe the feeling that most, if not all, first-year college students will experience at some point during their year. It’s something that, I believe, has a stigma associated to it; maybe it’s because no one wants others to know that they are struggling, or that they don’t want to face their emotions and feelings. I experienced my fair share of homesickness as a freshman, as I’m sure my peers did as well. I’d like to share a little bit about what that looked like for me, as well as how I combated it.
I’d like to begin by clearing up what I define as “homesickness.” Many think of this term as extreme difficulty with leaving home, and being associated with anxiety, depression, tears, and fear of what’s to come. These are all concepts that I would consider to fit under the “category” of homesickness, but I believe it to be much more than that as well. Homesickness, in my opinion, is any type of difficulty in transitioning and adjusting from a previous, comfortable lifestyle. College homesickness, especially, is unique in that it can be as minor as missing your family and friends from home as you learn to love your new life on the bluff, or as major as not wanting to leave your dorm room due to the emotions you are feeling. Everyone adjusts differently and at their own pace, so this can look a little different for everyone.
I saw it all during my first year; friends who barely ate for 2 weeks because they felt sick to their stomach about leaving home, and friends who appeared to have no issues with the transition. I fell somewhere in between that range; but what was unique about my case of homesickness is that it didn’t set in until a few months into the semester. I had little to no issues with the initial adjustment; in fact, I loved my new life at UP. I enjoyed every moment of new learning, independence, and new friendships. In fact, I was the “helper” friend, in many cases, trying to assist in my friends’ homesickness and helping them to adjust.
I settled in, found a solid group of girls, and was so happy and content with the life that I was living. It wasn’t until after fall break that I started struggling with homesickness myself. And, if you didn’t know me or weren’t close to me, you probably wouldn’t have even known. I think what pushed this onset of emotions was going home for break, and then having to return back to school. What I wished I had remembered then that I know now is that those feelings were completely normal, and I wish I would’ve spoken up about them instead of letting them reside inside of me. I would tell my friends “Oh yeah, I’m so excited to go home for Thanksgiving, it’s definitely much needed right now,” or “I miss my mom and sister a little extra today,” but to be honest, I’m not sure if anyone knew the capacity of homesickness that I was experiencing.
The best way that I can describe my homesickness is the difficulty in transition. It’s almost as if the “new life” I was experiencing felt only temporary, and that things would return back to normal after a month or two. Upon my return after break, reality had set in, and I personally dealt with the adjustment of the new lifestyle. School work was picking up, I was still learning which friendships would stick, and circumstances, in general, weren’t the best that they could’ve been. I think this immensely contributed to how I was feeling. I thought my mistake was letting myself feel this way; when really, my mistake was not opening up and sharing with others how I was feeling. Looking back on this, I think that really could’ve saved me from the lasting effects that homesickness had on me.
So, I finished finals on a Wednesday, and was on a bus back to Seattle that same evening. I was relieved to be done with the semester, and get to return home for four weeks before coming back to school. I felt good; stress-free and excited to spend so much time with my family. This didn’t seem like an issue at the time; why would there be a problem with being happy? It wasn’t until my return back to school in mid-January that I had reached such a build-up with my emotions that I could not hold it in anymore. I can’t remember a time I have cried as much as I did on the day I made the journey back to school. Luckily, I was with my roommate who was one of my closest friends, so that was extremely comforting. I genuinely did not know and continue to be at a loss for words to describe how I was feeling. I absolutely loved UP, but I loved my home, too. It’s almost like balancing two separate lives, and it can be really challenging sometimes.
However, I think opening up about how I was feeling saved me. Second semester was one of the best, most growing experiences I’ve undergone in my life. I found a solidified circle of friends who supported each other through all of our ups and downs. I grew in my independence, reached out and made new relationships and friends, and stepped out of my comfort zone. In fact, when spring and Easter breaks rolled around, I found myself not even wanting to go home! When I returned home for summer, I felt like a completely changed person.
I’d like to wrap up my discussion of my personal experience of homesickness by briefly summing up some ways that I (eventually) dealt with my homesickness. The first one, obviously, was opening up to my friends and family about how I was feeling. It reinforced to me that I was not alone in how I felt, and that I had people to support me to get where I eventually wanted to be. The other thing I would suggest, although it may seem a little obvious, is to keep yourself busy and in a routine! Go to class, study, hang out with your friends, and certainly continue the things you do that make you happy. For me that was running and listening to/discovering new music. This brought me a lot of happiness, while giving me a study break, and kept me in a routine. It’s going to take time to truly adjust to a new lifestyle as an adult here. That is okay. Give yourself the time you need and try not to be too hard on yourself. Confide in the people in your life that love you; that’s why they’re here..to support you through your ups and downs!
So here I am today, in the middle of June, back in the city that became home to me – Portland. I did return to Seattle pretty immediately after second semester finals were over, but only for about 3 weeks before I came back to Portland for the summer. As much as this place became a home for me, I felt as if I almost was starting over in this whole “adjustment thing.” I was moving into a new house, starting two new jobs and a volunteer-ship, and moving away from my hometown when all of my friends were just getting back from their schools. I also hadn’t seen my family for an extended period of time in so long, so getting to spend 3 weeks with them and then being pulled away from that was difficult. Despite all of these feelings, I wouldn’t say I was experiencing “homesickness,” rather, facing the challenges of balancing Portland-life with Seattle-life. It was through this initial adjustment that I had found that home is not one place; in fact, it’s not a place at all. Home is whatever you define it to be. Home to me is my family. It’s my friends – friends back home, and friends here in Portland. It’s the people in your life that you cherish and love more than they could ever know, and that share that same love for you. When I came to the realization that I did not have to designate one place as “home,” my emotions and feelings started to make a little bit more sense to me. I was never leaving or returning home — just going back and forth between two homes 😊.
The academic transition from high school to college is different for everyone, because everyone comes from different high schools and different past experiences. For some, college is a breeze, and for others (and I’d say, most), college is an extremely big jump from what they were used to in high school. It can also be overwhelming; having so much work for multiple different classes, as well as the other commitments that a typical college student is involved in. One of our student office assistants, Mackenzie, would like to share some tips as well as strategies that she uses to help her succeed in her classes.
1. Take thorough notes; even when you don’t feel like it!
There are going to be days when you are so exhausted, or maybe so unmotivated to show up to class. Still take those thorough, detailed, and complete notes. These will help you immensely for upcoming exams and quizzes. Also, the more thorough the notes you take, your exhaustion and anti-motivation will most likely decrease. You’ll regret not taking notes/taking insufficient notes when you get to reviewing. Trust me — this has happened to me before! No matter what the class, having days where you took insufficient notes will create lapses in your sequence of review.
2. Ask questions when needed!
If you have the question, somebody else most likely does too. Ask it, especially if it has to do with course content. If your question is left unanswered, you will become even more lost, which could lead to poor performance in the class. This doesn’t just apply to questions you may have for your professors; it’s anybody! Friends, upperclassmen, advisors, you name it. They’re all here to help you in this transition, so ask whatever you may need to.
3. Attend office hours
You will probably hear this more times than I can even count. Professors, upperclassmen, and even parents will be telling you to attend office hours. I know some people who would go to all of their professor’s office hours just to introduce themselves and talk about random topics. This wasn’t really my thing, but if it’s yours, than certainly do it! You will definitely have that one (or maybe more) class that you either connect really well with the professor or need help in, and office hours are great for both of these things. I’ve only gone through two semesters, and still have already used multiple faculty for reference letters and such. You don’t need to be best pals with all of your professors, but if there are one or two that you can maintain professional relationships with, do so!
4. Use a planner
I don’t see how you can successfully get through college without one of these. They are academically life changing! Not only can you write in when exams and assignments are due, but you can also make personal notes for yourself. For example, in my history class first semester, we had a paper we had to write on a book. It was a longer book, so a few weeks before the paper was due, I went through and divided up how many pages of the book I needed to read a day so that the reading load was manageable on top of my other work. I was able to make these notes in my planner, too. Lastly (and then I promise I’ll stop bragging about the benefits of using a planner), I was able to make note of when I had work, or other outside obligations for my classes (such as extra credit presentations, group study sessions, etc.). Even if you skated through high school without using one, I would highly recommend getting one for college.
5. Be aware of your work load
I think we all would love to just come back from class and watch Netflix, play video games, or hang out with friends. There will be plenty of that in college, but make sure to know when you need to buckle down and focus on schoolwork. There will be stretches where you may have a ton of work to do, and other stretches that will be a little lighter in work. Be aware of these lighter and heavier weeks, so that you are able to plan around them in scheduling down/fun time!
6. Utilize your peers
I’m not sure if it was an issue at the time or just something they wanted us to be aware of, but something that was reiterated from my workshop leader to my classmates and I over and over was that we are in this with our peers, not against our peers. There are multiple good grades to be given out if you earn it; you aren’t “fighting” for that A against your peers. Utilize group study sessions. I found these to be extremely beneficial. You may feel like you have all of the material down and memorized, but you never know what beneficial information you could receive from someone else’s point of view. It can also work as a “give and take” kind of process; you help your friend with a topic that they are unsure about, and they might help you with a topic you have some questions on. Attend these sessions — I’m sure you will find them incredibly beneficial like I do!
7. Drop by the SARC (Shepherd Academic Resource Center)
I can’t say I did this probably as much as I should’ve, but the SARC is a great academic resource whether you need a tutor, are struggling in a class, or just need someone to review an assignment. I utilized the Writing Center in the SARC a few times to review some papers that I wrote, and they were extremely helpful! The student that helped me sat down with me and had me read each paragraph aloud. After each paragraph, we would talk through together what we thought could be done better and what was done well. This was so helpful to have someone to take the time the walk through my paper, step-by-step with me. I recommend you stop by at least once to utilize one of their services!
8. Take advantage of extra credit opportunities
I know it isn’t always possible, due to other class, work, and extracurricular obligations, but try your best to always attend these opportunities. Typically for my classes, it would be presentations that were going on on-campus, maybe for a club or holiday, that we could attend and write a paper on to receive extra credit. It is a simple, and for the most part, relatively quick way to receive a few extra points for the course. Even if you feel like you are doing just fine in the course, I would still recommend completing the extra credit opportunity because it’ll give you that extra “cushion,” especially for the final exam.
9. Participate in class
I know this isn’t always the most comfortable thing (coming from myself), but do your best to raise your hand, answer and ask questions, and stay involved in discussions and topics during lecture. It’ll not only help you create those relationships with your professors that I talked about earlier, but it’ll help you absorb the course material as well. There will be some classes that you will be more apt to participate in because you are more interested in. For example, I participated more in my chemistry class than my philosophy class because I just naturally was more interested in chemistry. This is okay; find those classes that you have a genuine passion for and get involved!
10. Take care of yourself
I’ve spent a lot of time discussing your interactions with faculty, peers, and parents, but not a lot about yourself. Succeeding in classes starts with you, and none of those other things that I talked about can happen if you don’t start with yourself. Continue doing the things you enjoy doing, even in the crazy business that school throws at you. Get enough sleep, eat right, and hang out with your friends! Doing these things is crucial in success in the classroom.
11. This one’s cheesy…but have a good attitude 😊
You’re here in college to learn and gain valuable knowledge and skills (both academic and non-academic) that will help you in your future career, as well as life. You chose (or if undeclared, are going to choose) a path that you are interested and want to pursue a career in. Be excited about that! Sure, classes get tough and sometimes boring, but try to stay engaged in what’s going on and keep a positive attitude. I hate to be cliche when I say this, but you truly get in what you put out. You’re likely to be more engaged if you go in with the right mindset!
Orientation weekend will be the first time that you are on campus this fall as a part of the UP family. It is one of the busiest, craziest, and physically and mentally draining weekends you’ll ever have in your life! It is packed with so many different activities and functions, with hopes of helping you connect with other peers and students, meet faculty and staff, become familiar with all that UP has to offer, and to feel welcomed into the UP community. Everyone has their own personal and unique experiences with orientation, but Mackenzie (‘22, Mill Creek, WA), one of our student office assistants in CAS, would like to share with you a little bit about her experience and emotions throughout this period of time.
Entering into the first week of your college experience can be daunting. You aren’t just living in a new place, but you’re starting new classes, making new friends, and creating a whole new routine and lifestyle for yourself. Our student office assistants have a few pieces of advice that they used (or wish they used) as they embarked on their college journey.
1. Take things one step at a time
As stated above, you will be transitioning and adjusting to a lot more than just a new place in the fall. Try to break this transition up into smaller pieces. Work on adjusting to your new home in the dorms, first. Get to know your roommate and their interests, as well as your neighbors and hall staff. When classes begin, try to get into a routine, as you will thrive off of one. Socially, friends will come naturally along the way. Put yourself out there, but try to remember that everything will eventually fall into place over time.
I will say, from personal experience, that everything moves very fast during this transition. It feels as if you are thrown into everything at once, and it can be very overwhelming. Recognize and be aware of how you are feeling through all of this, and try to manage it by breaking it down into small pieces.
2. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone
Especially because my roommate was also one of my best friends from high school, it was easy for me to want to just spend my time with her at the beginning of the school year. Whether that be hanging out in the room, going to soccer games, going to the gym, or getting dinner, my roommate and I did it all together during the first week of school. That is completely okay, but really try to connect with other people too. Talk to your peers in classes. Get to know your dorm neighbors. Attend your hall retreat. These types of activities and actions will help you build relationships with others. Not all of these people will end up being your best friends, but getting to know others is an important step in the transition into college.
3. At the same time, give yourself the time you need to adjust
It’s okay to feel uneasy about this whole college thing. It’s completely valid and normal, and many more people than you probably think experience it as they enter their first year of college. It’s difficult because it’s being pushed down your throat by just about everyone to get out of your comfort zone which yes, is important, but it’s also critical to take care of yourself and give yourself the time you need to adjust. This time may look different for everyone, and that is okay. When I entered my freshman year, I was so focused and worried about what everyone else was doing that I put a lot of pressure on myself. Looking back at this, that mindset was definitely not healthy and could have been completely avoided if I had just given myself time! It’s hard when you’re so wrapped up in everything that’s going on around you, but do your best to not put so much pressure on yourself to succeed in all areas immediately.
This is one area where I feel like I could’ve drastically improved on if I had the chance to redo my freshman year. I personally was so focused on what other people were doing and comparing where I was at, mentally and emotionally, with where I thought I should be at.
4. Create good study habits immediately
Academics is one area where you should try to create a routine pretty much right at the beginning of the semester. The reason for this is that if you create those good study habits immediately, they will most likely stick for the rest of the semester and future semesters. Get in the habit of staying on top of your work, studying for exams and quizzes early, and carving out time in your day for your academics. If you start off the year by blowing off your school work, it will be hard to catch up and change those habits later on.
I think students can go either way on this front. Some are super excited to start their classes (I know I was 😊) and are eager to begin the studying and learning. Others don’t realize how much work it takes to succeed in college classes, and tend to blow off their studies. Just be aware of where you are on this scale and adjust as needed!
5. Attend activities and functions around campus
There are so many activities put on by clubs and groups at UP even in the first week of school. Attend these! Go to riverboat and the club fair. Go to sporting events. Attend your hall retreat and other hall events that are put on. These are beneficial in a multitude of ways. They help you meet new people, take a break from the stresses of your academics, and to do something fun (and usually free, or very inexpensive!) with other members of the UP community. They are also a great way to meet upperclassmen. I can definitely speak from the perspective of a freshman who joined biology club. With biology being my major, it was super beneficial to meet some upperclassmen through this club that were in the same major as me that I could use as resources and also had some things in common with.
6. Make time for yourself
Throughout the craziness of beginning a new chapter in all of these different aspects of your life, it is important to be introspective and know what you need throughout this time, too. Some people need more self-care time than others. I know I could’ve used much more than I gave myself. So, again, despite what is said above, if you need to skip an event to take some time for yourself, please do so. Stay in and watch a movie, listen to music, or even take a nap! You’ll come to realize that college is all about balance, so finding a healthy in-between for yourself is crucial.
7. Find something fun to do off-campus
While it’s important to involve yourself in on-campus activities, I found it very helpful to get off-campus, too. Of course, it’s important to immerse yourself into the UP community, but there are also a lot of fun things to do right off campus that are easy to access, even without a car. This provided me with even a short amount of time to get away from the stresses of academics and transition, and to just be away for a little while. My friends and I would take the bus occasionally to restaurants or to see a movie. I’ve had a full year now in Portland and I still feel like there’s so much more for me to go out and discover. Take advantage of the neat opportunities in our backyard! Click here to see some of Gaby’s, one of other other student office assistants, favorite places to go in North Portland: https://sites.up.edu/cas/wp-admin/post.php?post=6350&action=edit
8. Utilize your resources
There are so many people on campus who are not only here to help you, but want to help you, too. Utilize your professors, advisors, hall staff, workshop leaders, upperclassmen, and other peers. I can 100% promise you that people are going to want to help you. Whether it be a question in regards to academics or you’re just feeling a bit homesick, these people are here to help.
A final note: College is all about balance. Academics should be your first priority, but maintaining a social life and continuing to do the things you like to do is important. Get out of your comfort zone, but also take time for yourself, too. Balance is the ultimate way to succeed, especially as you begin your freshman year of college.
The UP Portal is critical in navigating the academic side of your life here at UP, as well as other parts, too. Utilizing this portal is critical to your success in life on the bluff! Mackenzie, a student office assistant in CAS, will be giving a brief overview of all that the portal has to offer so that you incoming freshman are all set for your first semester.
When you log into your UP Portal, the first screen you will see should look similar to the one below:
We will be going over the functions of all of the programs listed under the “Quick Launch” section. This picture will be a useful reference to return to throughout reading this post, as many of the icons will be referred to. The first icon is the “Mail” icon in the upper left corner. This should bring you straight to the login page for your UP email account, and is an easy way to access that quickly. While we’re on the note of your UP email account, you can also download the Outlook app to make this accessible for yourself on your smartphone.
To the right of the Mail icon is the Moodle icon. Moodle is essential in success in your academics, as all students & faculty have access to it. Professors can upload the course syllabus or assignments to be completed, and students can upload completed assignments and view professor comments. Some professors will also use the grade book feature of Moodle, so that you can keep track of your progress in the course throughout the semester. You will become familiar with Moodle very quickly upon your arrival on the bluff!
To the right of Moodle is the Self Serve Banner. For a more detailed explanation of this, please visit https://sites.up.edu/cas/self-serve-the-basics/. Essentially, all of your personal information can be found through self serve, as well as your financial aid information, student records, employee time sheets, and more.
On the very far upper right, you’ll find a link to the UP Website, where you can find just about any general information you need to find about the University of Portland. Courses and majors offered, the academic calendar, and a directory are just a few of the things you can find on the website.
On the left in the middle row is the Bon Appétit link. Bon Appétit is the company that runs the dining halls, so this is extremely useful in that you can view what’s on the menu for the day, or even 3 days from then. You will also be able to find the nutritional information, as well as allergen lists for the menu here.
Degree Works is located second from the left on the middle row. Clicking on the link should bring you to a page where you enter your login information. You should then have access to seeing information such as your ID number, name, major, class, GPA, advisors, and more. Below that information, you’ll be able to see all of the courses that are required to take and pass for your major. This is extremely helpful in that Degree Works actually sorts what you’ve already taken, what you’re enrolled in, and what you still need to take by color. You can even set up a “What If” page where you can view what your course load would look like with a second major, a minor, changing your major, etc. This is helpful when trying to decide what you want your undergraduate path to look like — what are your focuses and what minors could potentially work well with your major?
Next to Degree Works is Engage. This is where you can find invitations to different events on campus, news, and organizations. This is necessary if you are part of a club or any type of group because invites are typically sent through this.
The Library icon on the far right of the second row will bring you to the Library page of the UP Website. This is where you’ll be able to find books on reserve, which is super helpful when writing a research paper or project of some sort. The Library page is also useful when booking study rooms and such.
On the bottom left, you’ll find the “manage passwords” link. This is pretty self explanatory — this is where you can reset a password, or change a known password.
To the right of this is the Office 365 link. Here is where you’ll have access to Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and more. This all comes for free on your portal. I have found this as very convenient, as I have a MacBook, so using “Pages” and “Sheets” instead of the Microsoft options isn’t always the most efficient when the document ultimately needs to be saved as a Word doc. Definitely utilize this when writing a paper or working on a presentation — it’ll save you a lot of time when you finish!
Lastly, you will find the Student Jobs link on the bottom row. This will bring you to the Student Job Board, where you will be able to find all of the current student job openings. These are constantly changing, so be sure to continue checking this on a regular basis if you are looking for employment, or seeing if there is a position that you are interested in.
On the bottom row, you’ll see a box of three dots. Click on this and it will bring you to a whole page of links that will take you to various different useful places, such as web printing and the patient portal (where you can access your health and counseling info). However, the 11 that you see under “Quick Launch” will typically be the ones you use the most. The others will hopefully be pretty self-explanatory.
Thanks, Mackenzie! If you have any questions about the UP Portal or anything mentioned in this post, send us an email at email@example.com
Self-serve is a system accessed through your UP portal that you will utilize often, and grow to love (hopefully, or maybe grow to strongly dislike…we’ll see 😉). But in all seriousness, self-serve is a life saver! It has just about everything you need in order to navigate registration, financial aid, final grades, and so much more. This post will take you through how to use self-serve, what you can find on it, and tips and tricks for efficient navigation.