Newman Centers on college campuses can help students grow personally, communally and spiritually
College: A time of excitement, nerves and a slew of newness
Leaving home to start college is — without a doubt — a big change. You have to leave behind family and friends whom you have known your whole young life. College is a place to start fresh and, as cheesy as it may sound, discover who you are. Although it can be scary to be apart from what you have known, new beginnings are something to cherish and look forward to. Although I’m no expert, here is some of my advice for college freshmen that may help along the way.
Regardless of whether you are going to a small private college or a large state university with tens of thousands of students, you are going to meet a lot of new people. If you’re an extrovert like me, you may be thrilled, saying, “Yes! So many new friends!” I remember thinking this to myself as I walked around the quad surrounded by hundreds of newbies in my shoes, ready to mingle. The freshmen I met during my first days on campus are some of my best friends to this day.
But maybe you’re not an extrovert, and you’re thinking I’m a bit crazy. Maybe the large crowds that accompany the notorious “Welcome Week” overwhelm you. That’s OK, too, because you will find like-minded people quicker than you think.
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Not only do you have new — and possibly lifelong — friendships to look forward to, but you also have the opportunity to begin professional relationships. These will happen naturally with university faculty and staff who you encounter in your classes, on-campus jobs or events. Thankfully, most colleges even have networking events so that students can meet professionals in the community. You will learn the ropes from those who walk them best.
College is a time of a new surge in independence. You will have to fend for yourself: getting your own food, getting yourself to class on time and doing your own laundry. This may come as a shock to some more than others; it turns out that being an adult isn’t as glamorous as you thought it would be! Nevertheless, this is a good thing. Independence — including when it is found in seemingly minute tasks — gives you the space to realize who you really are and who you truly want to become.
The most important aspect of this independence is taking charge of your faith. For better or for worse, no one will be around to nag you to go to Mass or to get up and pray. God lovingly gives you the freedom to choose him each day and wants an intimate and real relationship with you. Campus Newman Centers are an incredible way to deepen that friendship, not only with the Lord, but also with others who are striving for sainthood. God can’t be outdone in generosity, and he will repay you tenfold all of the time and effort you give to him.
A crucial piece of advice I will give is to get involved early. The earlier, the better. The first few weeks of school is the opportune time for campus organizations to show what they’ve got and sign you up for their unique mission. Some students even choose to work while in college, which is a great opportunity to help pay tuition and acquire some new skills along the way. It may not feel like it at first, but you will thank yourself later when you aren’t spending all of your time doing school work.
Although what is new can be exciting and — let’s be honest — overwhelming, don’t forget that at the end of the day, you are a student first. Afterall, college is going to be what you make of it; you are the common denominator in all of it.
Of course, my experience was unique, and yours will be, too. Here are some quick do’s and don’ts to keep in mind throughout your first semester of college:
Do’s and Don’ts for college freshman
DO take a quick tour of campus before classes start. Being familiar with where your classrooms are located can save you from the stress of being late on your first day.
DO join a club or two. I can speak from my own experience and those of my peers — it’s easier to get connected the earlier you join.
DO locate the campus Newman Center or nearest Catholic church. Getting involved in these faith communities are incredibly helpful for developing a strong relationship with Christ and meeting authentic friends.
DON’T spend a lot of time in your dorm room. Get out and enjoy the outdoors, or go to a common space like the lounge or library. Maybe step off campus and explore the local town. This is a great way to make a new friend or two.
DON’T be afraid of your professors. Get to know them so they can put a friendly face to a name. This is particularly helpful when you wind up in big lecture halls. It’s beneficial for the future, too, when you may need to go to office hours or get a letter of recommendation.
DON’T get hung up on a bad grade. We all make mistakes and have an academic area that isn’t our strong suit. Use it as motivation to work hard and study better for next time.
Maddy Gross is an intern with OSV and a senior at Ball State University in Indiana.