College: it's a whirlwind of emotions and adventures, an unforgettable experience unlike any other that molds you into the person you are today and are becoming. Through the sweat and the pain, we didn't know if we would make it through first year, but we did. Now that it's been about a month since first year was officially over for the class of 2020, it can feel like it happened with a snap of a finger.
But that, my friends, is the epitome of beauty. Freshmen year of college can be one of the most daunting experiences, being a big jump after high school, but the memories and personal transformation you acquire from it are absolutely precious. From late nights with floormates to finding the group of friends that were just meant for them, here are 12 college freshmen — now upcoming sophomores — who present to you what first year meant to them, and the valuable lessons they learned along the way.
1. Aleksandra Sloniewski — Western University, Business Management and Organizational Studies (Global Commerce Specialization)
"The transition between high school and university was like departing to a different planet. After spending four years quietly in a place where I felt inferior and alone, I could only hope that this new chapter of my life would be different. And boy, it really has been. When people say that the time you spend at university will be the best years, they aren't exaggerating. This year was like a dream. Suddenly, I was surrounded by like-minded people who respected and even admired me. The feeling of unrestrained freedom was exhilarating. University became the new landscape in which I could become anything I wanted to be. Within those unknown surroundings, I was able to leave the past behind to transform into someone happy. I've met the most amazing people, had the most amazing adventures and really bonded with my classmates and professors. The most amazing part is that my time at Western has only just begun and I have three incredible years waiting before me."
2. Soham Suvarnkar — University of Waterloo, Science and Business (Physics Specialization)
"First year was a unique experience with lots of learning opportunities — not just academic learning, but gaining valuable lessons in life. First year is a drastic transition, but you get used to it pretty quick. The fast-paced lifestyle and environment of university really pushed me to my limits. I'm glad it did though, because it made me realize my own strengths and limits. Overall, first year is very memorable and you learn a lot, especially because of the fact that professors won't teach you much themselves, except for the very few. The majority of the learning takes place by yourself. For those of you entering first year, enjoy the ride and make it memorable, but make sure you grow into a better person on your way out."
3. Sandra Ciosek — University of Guelph, Commerce
"My first year was pretty lit. Jokes aside, university was more fun than I expected it to be because I met lots of great friends and experienced new things. On Halloween weekend, my friends and I dressed up in three different costumes and celebrated at multiple places. I remember one guy dressed up as a pineapple and made the whole night for us because of how strange and funny he was. At some point, another guy dressed up as Michael Jackson, started singing MJ songs in public and even ended up gathering an audience that cheered for him later on. Of course, I learned a lot as well during university, but I'll mainly look back at all the memories made during first year, especially since I lived in residence. Residence is something I would recommend to everyone; I became good friends with my two other roommates who I'll be living with next year!"
4. Katarina Brkic — McMaster University, Communication Studies and Multimedia
"I would describe my experience at McMaster University in one word: Eye-opening. I met incredible individuals, created life-long friendships, joined clubs and on top of everything, I fell in love with my program more and more every day. I took classes that made me excited to go to 8:30 lectures and they expanded my knowledge further, making me [excited to become] a successful journalist one day in the future. I was worried that I wouldn’t meet anyone right away that was in the same program as me, as everyone I met was either in engineering or science. However, while attending welcome week, I was surrounded by students who were just as passionate as me about the same field. Another big experience was becoming a part of the humanities group called the Navy Nation team. I found people with similar interests and this was when I felt completely at home. By joining the humanities welcome week rep team and attending events throughout the year with friends, it has made me look forward to the next three years to McMaster."
5. Nicole Pfeifer — Ryerson University, Civil Engineering
"For me, first year was difficult in learning how to manage not only myself, but others as well. It was figuring out an actual way to study for midterms and exams while at the same time deciding what takes priority. What was also hard was deciding who I wanted to be seen as and who I wanted to be seen with as a friend group. It's going to sound cheesy, but joining clubs and participating in school activities is the only way to meet new people and discover Ryerson. Because a lot of people commute to this school, it makes it more of a challenge to meet new people, but for a person that's pretty outgoing like myself, I was fine. Ryerson as a school really teaches you to put yourself out there more. It pushes people to put themselves outside their comfort zone."
6. Carmela Renzone — University of Toronto, Kinesiology
"My fondest memory of first year was my first club night, believe it or not! I've never been to one before. I went with a group of people and the club was strictly for my program. I didn't drink but still had a great time dancing the night away. Also, I had an anatomy lab the next morning, but it didn't matter. It was just a ton of fun; we did each other's makeup and hair before we went out, and it was a great bonding experience!"
7. Katja Zbogar — University of Guelph, Animal Biology
"One of the biggest things that first year of university taught me was the importance of reaching out to other people and going out of your comfort zone sometimes, but at the same time, staying true to yourself. University presents you with lots of freedom and many choices, so it is essential to surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you and to not be afraid to be a little crazy 'cause the weird version of you is often the best version of you. Academically, I learned that with freedom comes responsibility and self-control, and in order to get the results you want, you really need to put in the effort because it is totally up to you how you do."
8. Izzy Rohaly — Sheridan College, General Science and Arts
"If I could change how my first-year experience went, I would have done four classes both semesters instead of doing six in the beginning and four in the winter. It affected me mentally during the school year with all the exams and projects that were ongoing, and taking six classes didn't help with that. I learned the hard way, but now I know better. Doing less classes will take me more time to finish school, but I want to pass all my classes and take my time rather than fail all my classes in a strict timeframe."
9. Nicole Molinari — Wilfrid Laurier University, Business Administration
"Freedom was one of the best things about first year. I come from a large family, so having my own space to create a bunch of new experiences for myself was wonderful for me. At the same time, I missed my family a great deal, too. It was so weird not being around my siblings all the time, and sometimes I got pretty homesick. But I made amazing friends in residence, and they became my family. Going away to school really does change you for the better."
10. Eesha Kodi — McGill University, Microbiology
"This time last year, I was excited about entering university, meeting new people and gaining new experiences. Honestly, I figured I wanted to be 'different' compared to my high school self in the way where I was more outspoken and extroverted. During the first semester of school, I spent a lot of time connecting with different types of people trying to figure out who I wanted to hang out with. Because of this, I got lucky and met dozens of people that I could say hi to, and I also met some of the best people in my life; my friends. During the holidays, I came back to home, a different reality, and so many people thought I changed. I wasn't offended though; in fact, I enjoyed the fact that they thought I did because I feel like it was a good change. Presently, my first year is over, and I feel like first year changed me into a better version of myself. I feel more confident, happy, secure and willing to go out and try new things. And honestly, I wouldn't change myself back."
11. Caroline Park — Western University, Actuarial Science
"I believe first year was tough but exciting. I didn't know how to manage my time during first year, but I know how to do it now. I feel like I'm still kind of nervous about my future, but it feels like I'm getting closer to my future job because of the courses I took during first year that ensured me that I was on the right path. I'm also looking forward to joining even more brand new club activities next year!"
12. Lucy Jing — Princeton University, Theoretical Mathematics and Computer Science
"Moving away to university has undoubtedly been one of the best years of my life. Aside from the social freedom of being apart from my parents and getting to leave a slightly toxic high school bubble, I was able to develop a lot personally. University is when I began to explore what I truly enjoyed doing with my spare time. I started to cosplay and I joined a dance company on campus. From my dance company, I was able to make friends out of shared interest instead of mere proximity, as had been the case in high school, and was able to try out all sorts of new dance styles. I think that university is where I've made some of the most meaningful friends through my extracurriculars and learned the most about myself too."
Did these 12 freshmen who recounted their first year at college make you reflect on your own firsthand experiences? If they did, hopefully, it made you smile in reminiscence. To all of you who've just completed your first year at college, I hope you've had one of the best life changing experiences and continue discovering new characteristics you never knew about yourself throughout your college journey.
To those of you who are heading into your freshman year, though there are many adversities along the unfamiliar road that awaits you, remember that there are plenty of ways to cross those hurdles because you're not alone. If you try to make the best out of your life at college, you'll definitely look back and treasure these memories that will forever hold a special place in your heart.
Lead Image Credit: Sidharth Bhatia via Unsplash
Editor's note: Some quotes have been edited for clarity.