Arielle Fischer. features editor
The freshman year of college can be one of the most intimidating experiences in someone’s life. New students may feel alienated and anxious during their first few months on campus, not to mention, all those nerves combined with unfamiliar surroundings are often a recipe for disaster. The vast majority of students who have endured freshman year have moments they’re not necessarily proud of. Nevertheless, it is these embarrassments, mistakes and unpredicted scenarios that not only build character and influence who people become, but also shape the rest of the college experience. We spoke with both First-Year Mentors and professors about their first year of college, its impact on their lives and what they’ve learned from the dreaded freshman year.
Senior First-Year Mentor, Skylar Oxford, recalls one of the least flattering moments of her freshman year.
“On an exam, I completely forgot to do the multiple choice because I spent all my time on the free-response section,” Oxford said.
This resulted in an unfortunate grade, and strong encouragement to manage time and inquire about all other exams.
Oxford emphasized that communication with professors and peers is crucial for success throughout college. Simply speaking to a professor about the class material or help studying can improve not only your understanding, but also build relationships with those around you.
Oxford said that asking professors not only how to study for exams and how tests will be structured aids students in the long run.
“Professors are absolutely there to help you, and the most important tool for college is communication,” Oxford said. “I want to reiterate that asking for help is okay. Whether it’s from a professor, a peer or a student mentor, asking for help is important and not just for freshmen.”
Noah Isherwood, a senior First-Year Mentor, gave his insight into freshman year, and the lessons he learned.
“I remember, I was an assistant stage manager for a theatre production and had never been a part of technical theatre before,” Isherwood said. “I was in a production meeting, and spoke quite out of turn, but didn’t realize it at the time. Afterward, my stage manager pulled me aside and said, ‘Oh my God, why did you say that?’”
Isherwood elaborates that while he thought he was being helpful and collaborative, the stage manager revealed his actions were out of line, and for the next week, people constantly gave him odd looks.
Isherwood reflects that it felt as if his confidence had been knocked down several levels.
“The biggest part about it was recognizing and taking credit for the mistake,” Isherwood said. “Being upfront and making it clear to others that I was new to this and going to make a few mistakes, but I’m not going to stop being involved was really how that went.”
Isherwood claims that this experience gave him a “shot of realism,” and that college, especially freshman year, is far from expectations. College teaches us that we are not experts at everything immediately and we can use mistakes as learning opportunities. Likewise, some mistakes can bring you closer to other people and growing from them can earn you respect.
“You cannot avoid being a novice, but you can leverage your inexperience to learn and enjoy learning,” Isherwood said. “Don’t use inexperience as an excuse not to be involved, you’re going to get embarrassed by some things, but that’s what makes you human.”
Students were not the only people to share their freshman year experiences. Clinton Peters, asst. professor of creative writing, shares an exciting tale about his own freshman year of college at Texas Tech University.
For context, upon graduating from an acutely conservative high school where hair-dying was strictly prohibited, Peters began to express himself with different dye colors in college. During the time period of this story, Peters’ hair was a bright green hue. After a few months of exploring the campus, Peters observed the low quality of his friend’s dorm, specifically a broken water fountain. So, Peters decided to pull the fountain off the wall as a joke, and to his surprise, it came off with ease. However, when he visited the next day, the fountain was recklessly placed back on the wall. As a game, Peters ripped it off a second time but was caught by the Resident Assistant so he did what seemed logical at the time: run outside.
The RA claimed that he would be able to find Peters without fail, as he was “the only person at the school with green hair.” With that, Peters dyed his hair back to its natural color and has not colored it since.
Peters argues there are many lessons to be learned from his incident.
“Even though something may be funny and harmless, it’s always going to make someone’s day worse and someone always faces consequences for your actions,” Peters said. “You see responsibility firsthand.”
Peters continues to claim that destruction is much easier than creation, and only afterward do you realize how your mistakes impact others. While it may seem fun to you, with how everything is interconnected today, someone is going to have to pay for your mistakes.
“So much rides on your decisions today,” Peters said. “So, misbehave, you’re going to anyway, but be safe and smart about it!”
Along with Isherwood and Oxford, another First-Year Mentor, junior Ciera Heinrich spoke about her freshman year embarrassment and what it taught her throughout her college journey.
During her freshman year, Heinrich experienced terrible migraines that prompted her to skip classes on occasion. However, when Heinrich chose to skip one day, she ran into her philosophy professor in Krannert, whom she missed class with earlier that afternoon. The professor greeted Heinrich, but at the cost of her embarrassment.
“Needless to say, I did not skip many classes after that,” Heinrich said. “It taught me that it’s okay to make mistakes, and no one is going to hate you if you make mistakes. Specifically, about seeing the professor, I realized that he probably would forget about it later on. Sometimes you might think about what you did two years later, but most likely, no one else will remember so it’ll be okay.”
Heinrich highlights that freshman year will never be what you see in movies. Everyone will make mistakes and get embarrassed, but that’s okay because you’ll learn and grow from those moments.
Even though no two college students or graduates are the same, they all have the experience of freshman year in common. In a way, it bonds people together, illustrating how no one is perfect, and that everyone makes mistakes- completely humiliating themself on rare occasions. Nevertheless, freshman year is the stepping stone into one of life’s unforgettable experiences and each unpredicted occurrence shows us that we’re all human at the end of the day. Besides, the worst moments now make the best stories later.