BY Alexandra Leong
Unigo Campus Rep at UCSC
Freshman year in college is a time when most previously-confined eighteen-year-olds are met with their first opportunities of freedom, independence and ultimately, decisions. From the challenge of waking up for early morning classes to contemplating one’s role in the bigger picture of university life, first semester away from home can prove to be a true test. For many people, these decisions are the real first markers of responsibility signaling one’s debut into adult life. Naturally, sometimes as “first-time adults,” we don’t always make the best, most informed choices. Caution gets thrown to the wind in most college dorm room settings, making the transition from what seemed like a good decision at the time to a big mistake in the morning shockingly narrow, hence the frenzy often synonymous with freshman year.
As a freshman the future can seem very distant .Without getting into too much detail, my personal biggest mistakes as a first-time college freshman can be summed up as not being proactive enough about the very near future, in turn leading me not to think about my major and grad-school possibilities. It seems obvious, but not planning can have serious repercussions if you later find out that you are serious about graduating and continuing school, because you could have serious catch-up to do.
Academics aside, I would say some other mistakes were not getting out of my resident college (Porter) enough. The bulk of one’s friends throughout the entire four years tends to be formed in the first year, which is spent on campus at a residence college, so picking carefully is a must because it can be a serious hit or miss. The overwhelming majority of my time was spent in the Porter quad with my fellow Porterites and not enough time was spent integrated with other resident colleges and getting to know other freshmen, for campus can be more diverse than it initially seems. (Everything in Santa Cruz can feel so remote.)
At the same time, choosing Porter was easily my best decision as an incoming freshman. I was fortunate enough to have picked a college (Porter) that was very fitting to who I was at that time. Each college has its own theme and motto, Porter’s theme is art, it’s motto is, “Life is short, art endures.” As a prospective art-major, this immediately caught my attention. You don’t have to be an art major to go to Porter however; I ended up majoring in literature but was able to find a sense of comfort in a college that was tolerant of diverse backgrounds and alternative modes of expression, since I was definitely not a science student, and different resident colleges emphasize different topics. It is also the college most often associated as the “hippie” college, hence the overwhelming tolerance and acceptance prevalent at Porter. The atmosphere of it is very relaxed and because there is a quad centered between the two dorm buildings (A and B buildings), everyone at Porter tends to meet each other, giving the college a sense of community.
Choosing a different college could have altered my freshman year dramatically—the disparity between resident colleges at UCSC is remarkable considering the stereotypes often associated with Santa Cruz as a whole. I knew to pick Porter based on the UCSC web site and brochure that talks about the colleges’ themes, other ways incoming freshmen can make educated decisions on picking the right college is thinking about possible majors and seeing which colleges offer core courses related to that field, as all freshmen are required to take introductory core courses at their resident colleges during their fall quarters, with the exception of Stevenson whose core course lasts a year with extended GE credits.
It can be daunting going off to a big campus for the first time away from home and not having a single friend, so if you can try to get yourself out there, whether with someone you meet in class or friends you make in your dorm halls that can lead to good social networking for sure. I made most of my friends by leaving my door open so as to let my hallmates know they could drop by and say hi or come introduce themselves. Other people did the same and it made it really easy to spark conversations in the dorms, often giving it a very camp-like feel. It’s also a good excuse to go ask groups of people to go to the dining hall together, where in turn you’re likely to meet other groups of freshmen.
I tried going to as many random events as I could, for some that could be getting involved with their college senate, college newspaper, campus intramural sports, etc. There are plenty of informational meetings that take place on campus that can help you get started—going to these is a sure way to meet people who share common interests. The first month is generally a good time to go to the Bookstore Quarry to get information about clubs from the club representatives themselves, as many of them are out there trying to recruit members. All college residences put on separate social activities, usually open to all UCSC students, from college theme nights at the dining hall to dances such as “Porter Prom”, a free end-of-the-year dance hosted by Porter with food and music, to Porterpalooza, a day of local music in the quad where guest performers play live on the stage. (These are just two of many events that take place during the year.)
Getting out and socializing is always a good way to go, but honestly the best way to make friends is just to get outside at all. Hang out where you are likely to meet other new students, eat at one of the campus cafes, read outside, etc. I made my best friend in college on the first day of move-in; we both happened to be lost in the quad and ended up having a conversation which led to an adventure of locating our classes.
Now a word on other students’ biggest mistakes and best decisions:
Naveed Mansoori, a third year Porter student and a Politics major at UCSC says, “My biggest mistake was not guarding myself all of the time. I was taking a shower and my friends thought it would be funny to swipe my clothes and my towel. It took a second for me to realize I was in a Porter Freshmen dorm, so I walked back to my room in the nude. I think it was one of the least embarrassing moments of my life.”
“My best decision, however, was making the dining hall my second home. Not only did I have a source of food by my side at all times, I would end up seeing everybody. I tried to study there too, but it took until the end of the year for me to realize that studying at a social oasis is kind of impossible,” he adds.
Gabriella Lotan, a third year UCSC student recalls, “My best decision and biggest mistake were going to the dining hall 24/7. I met a million friends there, and have great memories being there, but at the same time the dining hall became my worst enemy because I totally gained the freshman 15! I was eating all the time, and I learned the hard way that that is not very good for your body. Your body doesn't really need all that food. It is hard to spend lots of time there hanging out with friends, and at the same time not eat everything in sight.
“My even bigger best decision was choosing the artsy college, Porter College, because the people were friendly and genuine. It was so common to find people who wanted to have real conversation, and who could truly express themselves, that really blew me away. My experience with the people was something I had no idea was even possible. At porter we were a family, a really fun group full of characters, and a true home-away-from-home. My porter experience, beginning the day I stepped into the quad under that totem pole, and my porter family, will forever be dear to my heart.”