For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
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Jan 12 2016
by Kyle LaHucik

What it Means to be a College Freshman in 2015-2016

By Kyle LaHucik - Jan 12 2016

Now that we are halfway through our freshman year of college, I think it is safe to say we know what we are doing. We know what it feels like to be a college freshman in 2015-2016. As Millennials, we have grown up in a world different than that of our parents. The generation gap, as they call it, seems to have widened when it came to us, the babies of 1996 and 1997. We seem to have been granted a childhood full of unique opportunities, graced with new characters and filled with technologies previously unheard of anywhere on Earth.

We grew up knowing that we could always reach our parents (a cell phone was never too far out of reach). We grew up knowing that there would always be an informational video on YouTube if we couldn’t figure out a task or project on our own. We grew up knowing that the education we seeked could always be found on this phenomenon called the World Wide Web. We grew up knowing that we could always find out the score of a sporting event or see it live on some platform, no matter where we were. We grew up knowing that our favorite music could travel with us anywhere we wished. We grew up knowing that our world was safer than that of the previous generation.

What we came to know is that the World Wide Web isn’t always our friend. We came to know that YouTube and Netflix can seem to take hours, possibly days, aways from our lives with us barely stopping to think. We came to know that social media can falsify our true self-image and take away from our true personality, only setting up a facade for the world to see. We came to know that our world isn’t safer, at least by media portrayal, than that of our parents’ generation.

And now as college freshman, we are coming to know more and more about our world. College is a time where our minds are molded more than ever. Colleges and Universities are considered institutions for a reason, right? Where you attend higher education does not matter. Your mind will still be shifted most likely more than ever during this time span. That’s because you discuss more about the world – politics, culture, science, economics, the environment, religion, philosophy, psychology, mathematics, literature, language, art, music theory, sports, gender, the media, technology, etc. – in a broader range than you probably ever will again (unless, perhaps, you work in a newsroom later in life). In college, you have these daily conversations with classmates, professors, floormates, roommates, clubmates, fraternity brothers, sorority sisters, etc. about deep topics. You discuss about local, state, national and global matters because college is the time when you are the most open-minded. Now is the time our minds finally grasp a strong hold on the world in which we live.

Now, here is the world that a college freshman in 2015-2016 lives in, on a daily basis (as a journalist, I added additional sources for you to peruse as you wish – each header is hyperlinked to an article that add credible background information and are strong cases of journalism):

Mass Shootings – Gun Control

Our society is in constant apprehension because of the unfortunate, frequent mass shootings in America. And it’s especially unnerving for college students because of the mass shooting at a college in Oregon in Fall 2015. Students at University of Missouri (the college that I attend) felt this anxiety when a student posted a threat on YikYak the night after both the MU Chancellor and UM System President resigned. Fortunately, the student who posted the threatening messages to YikYak was investigated by police authorities. But, mass shootings continue to happen in our society. And what has been done about it? Nearly nothing. Whether or not you're an advocate of gun rights, there must be something done to alleviate the problems to save some lives from being cut short in the future.

Polarizing Politics – Endless Campaigns, Endless Debates

College freshman are studying in the midst of the 2016 Presidential Campaign. And what do we have to watch? Shoddy politicians discussing each other, hardly voicing political agendas/policy initiatives. I won’t name names. Because that’s what the politicians are doing on their campaign trails. Can we just have presidential candidates who actually give solid support to meaningful, rightfully impactful policies and stick with it? And can my fellow college freshman continue educating themselves on this all-too-important avenue of our society, especially at this moment in time? I’m not saying we have to agree on everything or hold hands every time we want something accomplished, but we need to come together more often and see that more gets done to advance our nation and our world.

Economic Burdens – The Cost of An Education

Maybe we are paying much more than our parents’ generation. Maybe we are paying unparalleled amounts for our textbooks, inflation or no inflation. Maybe we are living in a society of ever-widening economic gaps and ever-increasing education gaps. Maybe. Just maybe.

A Revamped Civil Rights/Black Lives Matter Movement

As previously stated, I attend Mizzou/University of Missouri – Columbia/Missouri School of Journalism (yes, they are all part of the same institution). Here, we have witnessed the evolution of a movement, or at least the spark of one, that is attempting to bridge gaps and advocate for more inclusivity and more shared governance. Does the Black Lives Matter movement and the cousin Concerned Student 1950 movement go about this advocacy in the right way all the time? In my opinion, no. Did the Mizzou protests turn into a debate about the First Amendment instead of its original intent? Yes (and that was mostly due to the way the protesters handled the media, but the media could have taken other measures, too). Either way, we need to find a solution and find common ground on race relations.

Climate Change – YES, It’s Real.

Why is this even a debate? Giving false balance to the issue is not something that should prevail in our society.

Manipulative Social Media – What Self-Image are You Creating?

We are the generation of social media. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram (and whatever other social media platforms you use) can have positive factors in our lives, but we have to be careful with how we use them and how we perceive them. Especially how we perceive ourselves on them. Twitter and Facebook are great platforms for sharing news, reading news, receiving inspiration from influencers, hearing from friends and relatives. But, it is becoming ever more elusive to show who we really are on social media, which is usually perceived as a world outside of the one we live in. (Even I fall for the tricks and the self-image facade at times.)

Equality this, Equality that – Fighting for an Undivided World

Our society is fighting for equal rights. People aren’t asking for participation trophies; they are asking for a more developed society, one that grants right that are deserved.

Granting LGBT Rights – Why Not?

The United States passed universal gay marriage rights this past summer. Why wouldn’t they? Whether or not you are a proponent of the LGBT community or gay marriage it shouldn’t matter. Allowing gay marriage rights won’t negatively affect your life.

Migration, Immigration, Civil War – Why Sit Back and Watch?

The mass migrations of 2015 were unfortunately a world trend. They were happening in numbers never before seen. Fleeing the years-long Syrian Civil War and fleeing other places because of economic, religious, political, cultural hardships is a reality, as unfortunate as that might be. Nations like Germany have been welcoming, allowing access to hundreds of thousands or more refugees. The United States is far on the other side of the spectrum. Refugees shouldn’t be viewed as terrorists (some background checks are needed, yes) or people who will destroy and take over our society.

Most of those sound negative. They are. Most of them are unappealing facets of our society that we've had to face. But granting equal rights and working toward a more inclusive society is not bad. And we can find good in a college freshman’s personal life – in their ever-expanding knowledge, their involvement in student clubs and organizations, their attendance at sporting events, their interactions with floormates, their safe partying at social gatherings, their lived experience on campus and through their newly formed friendships.

Lead image credit: Kyle LaHucik

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Kyle LaHucik - University of Missouri

Kyle LaHucik is dual majoring in International Magazine Journalism and English at University of Missouri– Columbia. An avid enthusiast of the outdoors, he loves to run, travel, photograph and write about our world, one place at a time. Reading the New York Times and National Geographic while drinking coffee are major facets of his life. Follow him on Twitter @kyle_lahucik.

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