Through the eyes of a freshman

A look back on the personal growth the first year of college brings.

Erin Lengas

Freshman year of college is a rite of passage, a huge transition for all students. It is a time to leave behind a sheltered life at home, take on new responsibilities and truly discover yourself.
As my first year winds down, I have been thinking about the ways this school has helped me grow. I have opened my mind to new ideas, and in the end, I am leaving for summer as a better version of myself.
Everyone has a different college experience. I came to the University of Minnesota with no one from my high school to fall back on. There were more students in the incoming freshman class than people in my town. Like all students who move away from home, I looked forward to a fresh start and a chance to prove my maturity to my parents and to myself.
Living on my own gave me the choice to act responsibly âÄî or not âÄî and make decisions for myself. I quickly learned how to sensibly use my newfound independence, and luckily I figured it out faster than most.
It was not until I was buying my books a month before moving into the dorms that I realized college is school. I had been so busy dreaming about a new start that I never even thought about attending class. It did not take long after the semester began, though, for reality to hit.
When reminiscing, students rarely mention the stress of college. They would rather dish about their out-of-control neighbors in the dorms or relive the parties they frequented on the weekends. I complained to my parents on multiple occasions that no one ever told me college would be so hard.
Managing stress was never my strong suit, and starting college challenged me in that sense. Juggling classes, homework and socializing is something students learn to do at their own pace. It took almost all year, but I am finally beginning to find the balance.
There were times when I was so overcome with stress that I panicked at the thought of only being one-fourth of the way finished with college. I have begun to realize, though, that I can take my education seriously and still enjoy myself. Busy students need to find that balance in order to stay sane.
These moments of realization help reassure me that I am surviving here, because every day I know I am learning new things about myself.
It is incredible to think that every person entering college will come out a changed person âÄî for better or worse. Some thrive under pressure; others crack or get caught up in the partying scene.
This year alone, I witnessed President Barack ObamaâÄôs uplifting rally on our campus and interviewed a homeless man whose optimistic attitude forever altered my perspective of what is important in life.
Every walk to class provides an opportunity to appreciate the beauty of our campus. I make a conscious effort to not take this time in my life for granted.
What I am most thankful for, besides the endless opportunities for academic growth, are the relationships I have formed.
At home, I knew every person in my class and had not had to make friends since kindergarten. Leaving my friends behind taught me two things: how to appreciate the strong relationships I have in my life and how to step out of my comfort zone and open up to new people. Without fail, every student settles in to her own niche.
The most amazing part about my experience is that I have had the chance to meet people who I am truly compatible with, who never cease to teach me new things and who help me become a better person.
This growth does not stop after freshman year. We all have the opportunity to learn each day. I am confident that I will carry these lessons, experiences and changes with me in the future.