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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Freshmen and seniors compare college experiences

Graduating seniors advise freshmen to be bold, attend office hours

As the academic year comes to a close and with papers yet to be finished and finals looming, first-year students and graduating seniors look back at their experiences — whether in the past one or previous four or more years. For both groups, huge changes took place: freshmen managed to last an entire year away from home, while seniors wrapped up their college experience.

If Elizabeth Morgan, first-year undeclared student, were to describe this past year in one word, she’d pick “exciting.” She explained that although the many new experiences and unfamiliar people were nerve-wracking at first, it was a “good new” that provided her a fresh start.

Morgan considers herself a little shy, and initially found herself not enjoying her first year as much as she expected. She reached out to some of her senior friends who gave her advice that she took to heart. 

“I wasn’t enjoying [college] for a little while, just because I felt lonely and I just missed my friends from home,” Morgan said. “And I thought maybe I should transfer, but [my senior friends] were like, ‘Stick it out, stick out your first year and see if you like it,’ and by the end I ended up loving it.”

One of Morgan’s friends, Elizabeth Costa, a fourth-year managerial economics major,  described her first year at UC Davis as “what set the course for the rest of college.” Morgan got along well with her freshman year roommate — incidentally also her current best friend — and found a group of friends with whom she’s stayed “incredibly close.”

“Facing those first few months with positivity and being willing to put myself in situations that pushed my comfort zone made the time so much more enjoyable,” Costa said. “I know that not everyone is so fortunate in their dorm situations, but I encourage them to be bold and strike up a conversation with a stranger in the DC, or go to that random event […] You never know what it will lead to.”

Morgan followed Costa’s advice, and now, at the year’s end, she said meeting new people was the highlight of her freshman year, as well as the common thread tying together all of her favorite experiences. Morgan particularly enjoyed the events put on by her dorm, conversing with new people in classes and attending sporting events with friends. She has a few goals for the next few years when she will be living off campus.

“I look forward to being able to explore more off campus […] and meet more new people,” Morgan said. “[I’ll] probably go to more events than I went to this year and join more clubs too.” 

Costa described the past four years she spent at UC Davis as a “madhouse.” She said throughout this time she gained confidence and learned a lot about herself. Coming from a small town to a huge university was beneficial for her.

“Having the ability to come to college […] and grow into myself as an individual has been an incredibly freeing experience,” Costa said. “College taught me empowering things, like how to make lifelong friends and how to know when someone isn’t truly there for you. I’ve learned how to accept people for who they are, and to not be quick to judge. College has taught me that it’s okay to walk away sometimes, and it’s okay to not always please everyone in a room.”

Justin Welham, a fourth-year economics major, described his four years in college as “spontaneous.” For him, one of the defining moments of the college experience was moving from Southern California to Davis.

“I moved to [UC Davis] with nothing but suitcases,” Welham said. “My family was back home and I got to see them on breaks [or the] end of the quarter. I experienced home sickness to the extreme, but it helped me grow because I truly understood and appreciated my friends and family more. […] Davis became my new home, and now I have friends in both NorCal and SoCal.”

Throughout his four years, Welham said he learned the importance of office hours and doing homework, even if it’s ungraded. He also suggests joining an intramural sport to network with a variety of people and to stay in shape. 

“A question I was once asked [was], ‘What does one say to someone you’ve never met?’” Welham said. “I suppose you start with, ‘Hello.’ So go out there and introduce yourself.”

But most of all, Welham said students should say yes to almost every opportunity.

“Some of my best developing moments have been from saying yes to things I wasn’t sure about,” Welham said. “However, take this with a grain of salt. Be smart and calculated. Have fun nights in college and stay out late, but also make sure you can handle class in the morning.”

Costa and Welham agree that students should talk to professors, and Costa also suggests students learn how to actually budget. She, too, urges students not to shy away from opportunities. 

“You never know what good could come from new experiences. And you can’t hide from them forever,” Costa said. “Get out there as much as you can. Even though you have a midterm this week, you can set aside one hour to check out something new […] You’re here to grow in more ways than academics, and time flies, so have fun while you can. Oh, and believe me, it gets easier.”

Written by: Anjini Venugopal — features@theaggie.org


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