How Freshman Year Really Went at the University of Iowa

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Summer turns into a countdown until move-in day and the butterflies in your stomach get worse the closer fall gets. Move-in day finally approaches, and then the rest of the year flies by until next thing you know you’re talking about move-out. But after all this anticipation and excitement, how does the year really go? Here’s how it went for some University of Iowa students.

Expectations—were they met?

Whether your expectations come from social media, people already in college or just plain imagination, college has as much to live up to as an experience as you do as a student.

“My expectations were to just expand my education and learn new things and skills that would help me in the career field. I wanted to create a new self and awareness of who I am,” said freshman Nikki Shaw. Since adults preach that you’re here to get education, you’ll logically expect a lot out of your academic life at college.

For those who don’t spend much time thinking about the purely academic side of things, they might expect more out of their social life. “My expectations were to make friends and hopefully figure out my path for what I planned on doing in my future career. I definitely wanted to find hobbies that I enjoyed and go out of my comfort zone to try new things and meet new people. Basically I just wanted to broaden my horizons and be in a place where I could have a fresh start,” said University of Iowa freshman Gracie Ahern.

Once the year wraps up, you’ll naturally compare what you expected to what you got. For some, these two measurements don’t add up, while other find their expectations met in full. However, the majority find some expectations met with a few happy (or not-so-happy) surprises along the way. “My expectations were definitely met, but in a different way than I expected. College life is definitely different than what I expected, but in a good way. I got to meet so many new people and have picked up new hobbies and a whole different mindset than what I had in high school. I think I have really changed for the better and at the end of the day, all the changes have exceeded my expectations by a great deal,” said Ahern.

Worried for nothing

Will I make friends? Will I pass my classes? Will I really gain the freshman 15? Every freshman comes into college with a list of worries long enough to fill their diary, but after the year unfolds most students realize they worried for nothing.

“My biggest worry was not being involved enough right away and not finding those network connections right away but it ended up working out because I got involved at the Daily Iowan. I was also worried about the school work because I expected to be drowning and at some points I was but I was able to manage,” said freshman Julia Shanahan. Involvement makes a successful college student. Once students find the hobby or organization where they belong, worries will melt away.

Some fears revolve around feeling comfortable in a whole new community and lifestyle, but once individuals adjust their comfort level soars. “I was most worried about not feeling comfortable in the space I lived in. The U of I created a space in which I felt comfortable and I also had a few hometown friends coming with me which helped,” said Shaw. Sometimes you just need a little hometown support and familiarity to help with the transition and eliminate some unnecessary stress.

“[I was concerned] about meeting new people… But I really underestimated the amount of people I would meet and how many people I would be introduced to. I was literally worried about nothing,” said freshman Emma Fratzke. At the end of the day when the studying ends, you want friends to spend time with. However, friendships and connections will fall into place once you start getting out and meeting people, so don’t waste time worrying about the size of your social circle.

The good times

Your time at college will blow your mind, but you’ll make even more memories on the new, longer breaks from school. “I had so much fun going on Spring Break and meeting people from different colleges while down in Texas. I definitely got the full Spring Break experience and college spring break is certainly something all college students should be able to say they experienced. Also, coming back to Iowa City for New Year’s Eve was super fun because I got to have a break from being home for a while, and I think it really made me remember and appreciate my home away from home. Just like coming back looking around and seeing my friends after being gone for a while made me remember why I fell in love with the U of I in the first place,” said Ahern.

Some of the best times also include being involved at the university, whether it be with student government or other church groups like SALT. “My favorite memory is working with student government this year,” said freshman Alexandra Skores. Student government especially helps you feel like you can contribute to the school.

“My best memory from this year would be going to the mall ice rink and skating with SALT company’s freshman group,” said freshman Maddie Walding. At orientation, everyone on campus preaches the importance of getting involved, and it seems like they might just know what they are talking about.

The not so good times

Going off to college means plenty of fun times, but realistically not everything will go perfectly. You will struggle with obstacles you can and cannot overcome. The balancing act at times will make you feel like a gymnast on a balance beam. “I think what stressed me out the most was trying to balance my classes, studying, being in clubs, volunteering and making time to be with my friends. What helped me work through this was building a schedule and sticking to it. Also, a ton of coffee,” said freshman Sarai Camacho.

Most students will also struggle with missing the fam back home. “Being away from home, I called my best friend and my mom everyday,” said Skores. A simple call and reassurance from your parents can get you back on your feet even without the physical hug to go with it.

“[I struggled with] changing my study habits. I dealt with it by taking a step back and starting from the beginning again and changing everything completely,” said freshman Gabi Davis. Studying will push you to your caffeine and willpower limits, but you will prevail (with only a few mental breakdowns).

For some students, unrealistic social life expectations from movies and social media made their squad feel inadequate when they didn’t know too many people. “The thing that stressed me out the most was my social life. It make me feel lonely when I didn’t instantly have a bunch of friends starting college. I learned to deal with it by realizing that it’s okay to just have a few close people and not worry too much about how many friends other people might have,” said Walding. Social media does a really good job at making it look like everyone finds their college friends as soon as they move in. In reality, it might not happen instantaneously.

Home away from home

Leaving home in the fall feels like leaving your childhood behind. As cliché as it sounds, this new chapter of life opens you up to a new home and a new family. “I would say I could call [college] home now,” said Walding. The more people students meet throughout the year helps with feeling more comfortable and Iowa City’s welcoming community helps tremendously too. With the opportunities and freedom that accompanies a school like the U of I it’s hard for freshman to even consider pursuing their college career anywhere else.

Emily is a freshman at the University of Iowa studying Journalism and Mass Communications and Psychology. She has a passion for writing and learning more about how people think. She hopes to one day travel and pursue her passions outside the United States.

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