Mackenzie (‘22, Mill Creek, WA) just finished her freshman year of college at the University of Portland at the beginning of May. She is now a rising sophomore studying Biology on a pre-PA track, and minoring in Chemistry and Neuroscience. Having freshly experienced the freshman year journey, she will be sharing a few words to give a deeper insight into what it is really like to be a freshman in college.
My feelings and emotions weren’t like a lot of people’s as they enter their first year of college. Most are either terrified, or super excited to begin a new journey. I was somewhere in between these two. I remember I could barely contain myself for the days and weeks prior to moving in; however, the moment I stepped foot on campus, the nerves set in. I am so thankful that I had one of my best friends from my hometown, Livia, to be my freshman year roommate and to experience all of these emotions with me.
Move-in day was pretty stressful. It was also the beginning of freshman orientation, which was one of the busiest weekends that I had experienced in my life! The days were full of workshop gatherings, speeches, and different activities to get to know your peers. I remember being exhausted by the end of the weekend, which was right when classes were beginning.
As a pre-health student during my first semester, I took general chemistry and a lab, statistics, psychology, theology, and modern western civilizations. This was definitely a heavy load of work for sure, especially at the beginning of the semester while I was still getting used to the “college lifestyle.” However, it was manageable once I got into a routine. Not to say that there weren’t entire days spent in the library, but I never was up past 11:30 I believe, studying and working on homework. Also during my first semester, I participated in Hall Council and even ran for Floor Representative. I joined Biology club and participated in numerous intramural sports, including sand volleyball, indoor volleyball, and basketball. I can absolutely say that getting myself involved around campus was a fantastic decision and benefited myself tremendously. It helped create built-in study breaks to help me refuel mentally, provided me with multiple opportunities to meet new friends, and on top of that, was just a lot of fun!
After the initial adjustment through orientation and such, I felt very much comfortable and in my element as I began my first year of college. The homesickness did not hit me until further into the semester. I went home for fall break, which falls directly in the middle of first semester, in the middle of October. Coming back to school after going home was difficult for me. It is hard to return to the stress of school, as well as the crazy, busy schedule. This adjustment is hard, but very, very normal. I did deal with minor homesickness through the end of first semester, even though I loved UP so much. It’s a hard emotion to describe until you experience it.
Come the end of the semester, this made finals week even more difficult for me. After going through finals week twice now, if I had any advice, it’s that you just have to study as much as time allows you to, and to always take breaks as necessary. You’re never going to have enough time to complete study guides and memorize everything from the semester for all of your courses. It just isn’t feasible. However, managing your time well and knowing that you did everything you could as you enter the final exam for that class is comforting, and definitely made me feel more confident.
One topic that I think is super important to touch on when talking about my freshman year is friendships. You are going to meet a lot of people throughout your first semester. And by a lot, I mean a lot. Some of these people may just end up as peers, some as acquaintances, and others as your closest friends. This is completely normal. While on the topic, it’s also normal for friendships to change, especially throughout freshman year. I found that I met so many people just within the first month of school. Some of them I still talk to, others I don’t. This doesn’t make you a bad person; in fact, college is all about finding who you are, and part of that is who you want in your life to support you with that. I am grateful that with second semester came an amazing, wonderful group of girlfriends that I can call some of my best friends. However, the point I am trying to make is this — it may take time to find these people. That is okay.
Okay. Back to the timeline. It’s Christmas break, and I was enjoying being at home very much. As second semester came into sight, once again, the homesickness returned. It was so bad this time that I could not keep the tears back. I cried and cried to my friend/roommate as we made the journey back to Portland; again, a hard feeling to describe. I loved UP and the new life I had begun here, but leaving home after going back for a month was so difficult. Again, college is all about adjusting. Going from home to school, back and forth, can be very hard. I was terrified to begin a new semester full of new classes and stress, as well as being away from home.
However, as I sit and write about my experience, I find myself smiling, even laughing a bit. I can honestly say that somehow, everything came together during my second semester. As I said above, I made a great circle of friends, got an on-campus job at the rec center (which I loved!), took my first biology class, and just had so much fun. This isn’t to say that I didn’t face challenges; those as minor as boys (ugh!), and as major as a stomach ulcer resulting in an ER visit. College throws a lot more than just academics at you. I found that it is so important to surround yourself with the right people through all of this. With the right support system, you can get through literally any obstacle you face throughout these four years.
I fell in love with Portland this year, so much as to I am staying here over the summer to gain some clinical experience towards my career goals. I am living in a house near campus with some of my friends from school. If there is one thing I learned this year, it’s that the college experience is what you make of it. So make it a good one! Get involved, study hard, but certainly, have some fun. Allow yourself to make mistakes and learn the ropes. At the end of the day, what matters is your ambition and desire for growth, not perfection and success on the first try.