First Year Transition

A Perspective on First Year Transition

Before college I had never been separated from my parents for more than a week at a time, and those weeks usually consisted of one parent at home, and one parent traveling throughout the States for work. On the rare occasions that both parents were absent, my sister and I were dutifully deposited at our grandparents’ home, thus familial separation was not something I was accustomed to. One of the main reasons I selected Gustavus Adolphus College was because of its proximity to my parents and grandparents, thus ensuring that I would not have to endure the long distance homesickness.

I was extremely nervous come move-in day: Would my roommate and I get along? Would I make friends? Would I make the same grades I did in high school? Would I fit in? Such questions plagued me the entire morning as our van drove from Woodbury to St. Peter. Finally we reached the campus and located my dormitory hall- Norelius aka Co-ed. Gustie Greeters shouted and jumped out at our van, wildly welcoming me to Gustavus and four years of “fun” (according to them). They directed me to the person who could give me my room keys and show me where I was to live for nine months. After that everything was a blur: my parents, sister, and I moved in all of my belongings, cleaned the room, and organized everything in my room leaving part of the room unfinished for my roommate’s belongings, I met my Collegiate Fellow (Residential Advisor for you non-Gustie grads), picked up my textbooks from the Bookmark, and bonded with my neighbor Robyn.

Before I knew it six o’clock had rolled around and my parents were leaving me behind in this huge place in the middle of nowhere with no transportation but my rollerblades. I cried a lot after my mom left (she cried too) and then distracted myself by leaving my room and introducing myself to all the girls in my section and hanging out with my new friend Robyn. Much to my relief later that night my roommate appeared with her family and moved in. We bonded instantly and became immediate friends. The rest of orientation week was one huge moment of fun. The most memorable events for me were the Seventies Dive Night, the Square Dance where tradition rumors that the person you dance with will be the one you date/marry later on, and the President’s Dinner with the huge banquet style meal for the entire freshman class. During the day I was busy with orientation group led by a Gustie Greeter with discussions of the common reading book “Legacy of Luna” and fun activities like “Wizards, Dwarfs, and Giants.” At night there was always an all-freshman class event to attend and supper with my CF and section. Orientation week truly feels like camp with the busyness, the fun, and the swiftness of it, and most importantly, it served its purpose of introducing me to my new home and new friends.

By the end of September I no longer called my parent’s house “home” but rather Gustavus and by the end of freshman year I didn’t want to go back to Woodbury for the summer but rather wished for a continuance of the school year. Gustavus did an amazing job of aiding me in my transformation from living at home to living on my own.

A Student Perspective on Making Friends

Making friends. For me, this was one of the most intimidating experiences of my college transition. I was very outgoing with my friends in high school, but around strangers I became quite shy. How was I ever going to meet new people? How was I going to make new friends?

Luckily for me, and most every new student, Gustavus knew how we all felt. We were put into many different groups; greeter groups, freshmen seminar groups, and floor groups. We got to know the other people pretty well, and always had someone to eat with in the cafeteria. These groups were very helpful during the freshman orientation week, but as classes began, we saw less and less of each other. My floor mates and I became busy with homework and classes. I wasn’t bold enough to just stop by one of the rooms on my floor and say hi to the girls that I had briefly gotten to know during orientation week. I felt that I had missed my one and only opportunity, orientation week, to ever make friends.

Of course this assumption was wrong. What I needed to realize was that making friends takes time. Over the first few weeks of classes, I got to know the girls on my floor much better. We sometimes ate dinner, watched movies and played cards together. I also got to know people in my classes. I realized that getting into study groups for my major classes was a great way to not only learn, but also meet people who shared similar interests. Because we were all biology or chemistry majors, we had fun making silly science jokes that other students thought were dorky.

I found that one of the best ways to meet new people was in extracurriculars and musical ensembles, for me in particular, the Gustavus Wind Orchestra. Going into Gustavus, I knew they had a great music program and I wanted to participate in the band because I loved to play clarinet. What I didn’t realize was how much of a family the band was. The upperclassmen in the wind orchestra were already friends, and they included the younger students in parties and other get-togethers. Because we spent so much time working together, I found this is where I made many of my friends. We all had different majors and interests, but one major thing in common, band.

As I have talked with my friends, I realize that they all made close friends in their extracurricular programs. They provide a great opportunity to meet people with common interests, and a lot of times you become friends with students you might never meet otherwise.

I suppose the point I want to make with this essay is how important it is for students to be involved in activities other than just classes. Getting to know the other students on your floor, study groups, extracurricular groups, musical ensembles, religious groups, all these things make it so much easier to make friends and have a great experience at Gustavus, or any other school for that matter.

Student's Perspective on Family Transition

Sending a member of your family away to college, whether it is a son, daughter, brother, or sister is difficult for any family. They may be the first, middle, or last to go, but it is never easy, though after adapting to the changes, I believe that the college experience can actually strengthen your relationship with your family members. I was the first child in my family to go off to college and I now know that my relationship with my sisters and parents has never been better.

A Perspective of Transferring schools

I think the thought of transferring crosses many new students' minds. I definitely thought about transferring after my first semester here. My classes were hard, I had a lot of homework, and worst of all I felt like I didn't know anyone and that I was going to be the friendless, awkward loser for four years. Well that definitely changed, and I have my parents to thank for that. When I told them, they couldn't believe that I wanted to leave the only school I had ever wanted to go to, so they made me finish out the year.

I think a lot of freshman who transfer do so simply because they are overwhelmed with the new atmosphere, and mistakenly feel like it will be better/different somewhere else. Maybe in some cases this is true, but my best advice is stick it out until you are absolutely sure that a different institution will better fit your needs. With time, it only gets better here. I lost a lot of friends after freshman year because they transferred, and I would say at least half of them did so for personal rather than academic/career reasons, which I suppose is fine until they broke up with their boyfriends.

Until you try to integrate yourself into life at Gustavus, you haven't given it a fair chance. It's easy to hate life in college if you don't try to adapt to it. So if the thought of transferring arises early in a college career here, ride out the initial storm because there are so many academic opportunities and unexpected friendships that only come with time. The decision to transfer can be a very mature, or very immature one and I would advise parents to intervene if they feel this decision is being made for the wrong reasons.

Perspectives of Adjustment to College

The adjustment to being a college student is mainly due to the reality of living on your own. Not only can it be scary and saddening, but in many students’ cases it can be too much of a good thing too fast. In a situation such as the latter, a student may find themselves behaving as if they have no one to answer to. They can stay out as late as they want without watching their alcohol intake and watch television all afternoon and evening without touching their homework. The hard reality shows up when the effects of the neglect for homework or respect for themselves come to the service through bad grades, alcohol violations and even tragic situations such as rape. A first year student must commit to being responsible for him or herself. If they feel that they cannot keep themselves on track after the first week of orientation and school, then they may need to find a roommate, classmate or friend to whom they can hold themselves accountable. It is also possible that although away from home, the student can remain accountable to one or both parents.

Holiday and summer breaks are the light at the end of the tunnel for me. Going home and spending time with my parents and pets, sleeping in my own bed, and eating homemade food are enough to get me through the organic chemistries and the general physics. I have a strong relationship with my parents, and I miss them the minute that I drive out of my driveway when I leave home. Mainly, I find solace in the relaxation that I am allowed when I stay at home. While I like to help while I am at home, I never feel that it is expected of me. This attitude by my parents makes me feel happy to help them, but not weighed down by the duties.

I had not burdened myself with thoughts of where I would be after college upon my entering Gustavus. I had just finally chosen the post-secondary school where I thought I could comfortably spend the next four years of my life, how was I supposed to know which classes to take when I arrived there? I knew that I had mostly interest in disciplines that are concrete, and I had lofty goals of medicine when beginning my first year.

Not totally set on the idea of medicine, I enrolled in the first steps of the pre-medicine program, and I enjoyed my first semester greatly. I was challenged, but I wasn’t disappointed because I wasn’t at Gustavus to party and rush sororities. As time has progressed, I still keep the option of medicine open, since preventative healing strikes me as an important transition in American healthcare that needs to move forward. I am also beginning to weigh the costs of a career in medicine in the areas of having a family and living the sort of life that I feel I should live. After having dealt with several ups and downs regarding the medical track, I feel more prepared to decide.

Finding a career that suits all aspects of a student’s goals is challenging. Many changes in decisions may occur during their thought process, but in the end, one option must outweigh the others. I have found that the most important aspect of choosing a major and a future goal for a profession lies in emotional fulfillment. I enjoy my science classes, and that is what is important to me right now. When the time comes to decide between graduate school and medical school, I will once again step back to weigh the pros and cons and attempt to make the most informed decision that will be most fulfilling to me. Until then, I will enjoy my time at Gustavus.