Year one during pandemic

Lesson Learned: Freshman Year

By Melanie Love Salazar
Web Content Contributor

Being a freshman during the first year of college amongst a pandemic was weird. I know there are thousands of more elaborate words I could use but “weird” is what best fits. New student orientation was online, everything felt dangerous for the first few months, and it was difficult to find a balance between having fun my first year and being exceedingly responsible about the fun I was having.

Initially, I was set on making a year that was anything but normal feel as normal as possible. I showed up to my hybrid classes on the in-person days. I got dressed up for my classes on zoom. As time went on though, it is not that I gave up, but I tried to embrace aspects of how things were.

I went to my little sister’s softball game because the trip is relatively short and showing up in person was not mandatory. I took small trips now and then, seeing my friends or sister knowing I could practically take my class (laptop) with me. I started to enjoy sitting in pajamas, on the surprisingly comfortable couch in my dorm room while attending a zoom class. I searched for and found the advantages of a year like this one.

There were emotional challenges along the way that I had to find ways to work through too. I felt out of place my first semester, as many do and actually considered transferring. This was because I was not as quick to feel the overwhelming sense of school spirit and “rightness” that I thought others around me had. This brings me to one of the first lessons I learned this year:

Just because I do not feel exactly how others do, does not make it “wrong.”

People grow and learn at different speeds. I was going through a lot of adjustments and being pushed into many new phases of life I was not familiar with. So, it makes sense that I felt out of place at the college of my choice. Once the second semester came, out of nowhere, I noticed a shift in my thinking. I was excited. I had fallen into a good routine, realized I thrive best when I am staying relatively busy. I was excited to pick my Fall 2021 classes and I wanted to be here.

It was a good feeling I worried I would not experience. This made me realize how some things need time, and to not be scared off by an uncomfortable feeling.

In addition, I improved my ability to celebrate accomplishments. I have always been someone who admires humility, but perhaps so much so, I neglect the act of being proud of myself when I should be. I took the time to tell myself I was doing a good job. I am no professional when it comes to this, but improvement, even without perfection is something to celebrate.

It took someone telling me I do not recognize the accomplishments I have made enough to realize this, but I think a lot of people struggle with it. It is not heard enough about all the amazing things people are doing (Instagram posts about the aesthetic meal or coffee they had does not count here). Therefore, my second important lesson learned would be:

Do not belittle your accomplishments. Celebrate the small and big things!

For the sake of this article, the last lesson that I learned is an obvious, but important one.

This year was difficult and heartbreaking in different ways for everyone. Being a college student at a place where thousands of people are in around the same stage of life as me, I found sometimes we can be overly focused on either making as many connections as possible, or being overly focused on what we have going on. We can neglect going the extra step to be kind to a stranger, when that act of kindness might really impact them.

Even a compliment can go a long way. Simply stated:

Life can be hard and if we can make it easier for one another, let’s try.

I am glad I can look back on this time and call it good. I hope many others can do the same. Also, if you are a fellow freshman during this strange time, congratulations, be proud of that.

See you next year!

Featured Image by Melanie Love Salazar Via Canva

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