Blake Chapman is a sophomore journalism major and writes “Odds and Ends” for The Daily News. His views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Blake at email@example.com.
The freshman experience is not for the faint of heart. It is a grueling, no-hold-barred year of fresh information and knowledge that stimulates your nervous system to the point of exhaustion. Within the first month alone you will be left gasping for air under the enormous weight of academic, extracurricular and social pressure.
As I begin my second year at Ball State it is clear to me now that these stressors never truly evaporate, but that does not mean tactics to repress them are nonexistent. So for any freshman out there currently flying by the seat of their pants without a semester plan, you are not alone. Relax, sit up straight and do not take this advice with a grain of salt, it might just save your education or even your health.
- We are told from the start of the application process that you will be living amongst people whose thoughts and opinions vary heavily from anything from politics to religion and every taboo topic in-between. I never realized how important this cornerstone of the college experience would be until faced with both the positive and negative consequences. For every intelligent, inspiring and wonderful person you meet there will be a racist, sexist or homophobic individual waiting in the wings. The color of their skin, their sexual orientation, their religious beliefs and even their socioeconomic status do not dictate how they act both inside and outside the classroom; only the content of their character determines how they view this wild new world and the people that inhabit it. Now is the time for even the most sheltered young adult to finally accept how different the world outside their small hometown can be. This acceptance leads us all to a much more open and thoughtful environment to not just study in, but to work and play in as well.
- You are fortunately not alone in this battle of egos. The incredible faculty and staff of what becomes your second home seek to foster growth in everyone no matter their academic background. When I first went searching for a school that matched my needs and wishes, Ball State was the only one that seemed to care more about where you got in your time here and brought a level of personality and respect to the role of the administrator. To put it bluntly, I never felt talked down to once from the moment I stepped onto this campus and I never found that anywhere else.
- Do not be afraid to ask a “stupid question." One of the most important lessons I have learned in college thus far is that I will never have everything figured out. It is an inevitability that you are going to be met with a problem that you just can not solve all on your own. Sadly, a great many other freshmen inhabit this same boat. The best way to escape that constant state of paranoia and anxiety is to simply ask. Though it may be intimidating the first time you speak with an upperclassman about something as menial as how much money is on a meal swipe, it is worth it. This is one of the only times in your life you get the opportunity to question everything without consequence so you better not waste it.
- Let's talk about housing and residence life. In the preliminary stages of the housing process you may be tickled pink at the idea of becoming best buddies with your roommate and all the other members of your floor community. What most people do not consider is just how unpredictable the entire ordeal can end up. To start, be prepared for the worst when it comes to sharing a room. For every roommate that has good hygiene and a rocking personality there are trolls who are better suited to live under a bridge than share a bedroom. No matter the amount of time spent contacting someone over the internet or in person you will never get a good indication of how they live at home until you spend a solid month with them away from any parental supervision. The amount of other residents living in your building increases the dire consequences of this dilemma tenfold. No matter if it is their incessant private conversations at 3 a.m., the clogged toilet you walked in on for the seventh time this semester or dirty undergarments being left out to dry in the hallway, you will experience the repercussions without being directly involved.
- Opportunity awaits you. If you happen to be one of the unlucky few with any of the unfortunate living situations described above, look into the massive amount of student organizations around campus built for any type of student. From professional teams that give you skills fit for a resume to social clubs meant for some weekend fun, you can truly do anything with the time spent outside of class. The majority of these groups happen to be student-run as well so the experience gained from them is not just skill-based. You learn how to better communicate and challenge others in ways that prepare you for life in general.
Obviously the only predictable aspect of the college experience is its unpredictability. No two semesters will play out the same no matter the credit hours you incur or the weather outside. However, find peace in the belief that each new stride, whether it be forward or backward, comes with a lesson. The value of said lesson can range in size, but at the end of the day you alone have to decide if you are going to learn from it and move on or stay caught up in the turmoil of your decision. College might be a bewildering place, but that concern for the unknown is one that we all share as students, neighbors or friends, no matter what year we might be studying in.