Away from families, first-years find ways to fill their time

Jens Krogstad

TEditor’s note: This is the second of two stories introducing four students the Daily will follow through their first year of college. The first story, introducing the first two students, ran in Thursday’s paper.

The first year of college can change a person in unexpected ways. For the first time, many young adults will be away from the support structure that has helped them through their lives to this point – their friends and family. Some people make this adjustment easily. For others, it is more difficult.

Rhonda Schwalbe

Rhonda Schwalbe is a soft-spoken Wisconsinite who milked cows at 5 a.m. as a part-time job in high school.

Paying for school by herself, almost entirely through loans, she works 20 hours per week at University Dining Services.

“I can’t decide what I like better, feeding people or milking cows,” she said. “It’s the two worst jobs – dealing with grouchy, hungry people and dealing with a couple hundred-pound animals.”

She is also involved in hall council at Centennial Hall, intramural sports and pep band.

This week, she has averaged two hours of sleep a night. She said she rarely gets more than six hours of sleep on a school night and sometimes gets only an hour.

Even though she is involved in pep band, she said she practices only once per week at Northrop.

“I don’t practice much,” she said. “But it’s pep band, I kinda make it up anyway.”

Schwalbe said she has been this busy since high school and has never really quit anything before. But she is coming to terms with the fact that her schedule might be overloaded and is considering working fewer hours a week.

“Too much work, not enough play,” she said.

Schwalbe hopes to become a dentist. Since many of the prerequisites to get into dentistry school are chemistry classes, she is majoring in it.

She took Chemical Principles I this semester, but the demanding class is clashing with her hectic schedule.

“I don’t know if the whole major in chemistry thing is going to work,” she said. “I just failed my test.”

But she won’t be so easily deterred. She has wanted to be a dentist since she was little.

Her interest was first piqued when she lost her front two teeth as a child. She said two sets of front teeth began coming in, and one of the sets had to be pulled.

It was love at first sight.

“I think I thought it was cool at the time,” she said.

She was anxious about going to college because she is the first of her four siblings to do so, she said.

That feeling did not last long.

“I like to socialize, be in different groups,” she said. “Basically doing anything (that’s) not sitting in my room doing nothing.”

Joey Torke

Joey Torke tries to take everything in stride, even when it involves turning his life upside down and going to college.

He said he did not have any expectations coming to college other than to get away from the small-town atmosphere and to get away from home.

“It’s cool, everyone around here seems nice,” he said.

Standing in a room decorated sparsely because his roommate moved out to join a fraternity, he said his only goal this year is to keep his grades up.

“I know at least in high school if you don’t do well your first year, it really holds you down,” he said.

He said he has not had to work very hard yet, but he has not gotten his grades back, so it is too early to tell.

On his average day, he gets up late, goes right to class and then goes back home and hangs out and sometimes does some homework. He said that on weekends he usually goes to about one house party in the Stadium Village area.

“College is more work than high school, but it’s nowhere near what the University says – three hours for every credit,” he said.

Torke is interested in ceramics. He makes vases and pots and is taking a ceramics class this semester, but has not mastered the art of painting his creations.

He said the one thing he does not like about college so far is UDS.

“I know in Madison they don’t require you to get the meal plans,” he said. “After you pay (here), you don’t want to go out and eat.”

One of the few personal items in the room is a small picture in a metallic frame of his 1-month-old niece.

He said he was not able to make it for the birth of his brother’s child because he was at work.

Torke, who is originally from Korea, said he and all his siblings were adopted and that he talks to his parents once each week over the phone.

Torke also said he and his parents are splitting the cost of college. He is paying for his part with the money he saved while working about 25 hours per week at a country club’s restaurant during high school.

He said his parents never asked him to save the money for college.

“I just saved it because there was nothing to spend it on, I guess,” he said.

He does not plan on going to many Gophers football games, but he said he is going to try to make it to the Wisconsin game and root for the hometown Badgers.