My Best and Worst Decisions of Freshman Year at UVM
BY Katherine Duhaime
Unigo Campus Rep at UVM
The UVM campus is the best of both worlds – academics are taken seriously here, but the social, welcoming student body is often tempted to party like it’s Saturday night all week long.
Freshmen living away from home for the first time have to quickly adapt to complete autonomy. They’re faced with endless junk food options, living in close proximity with people they may not love, and assimilating into a college campus environment while still maintaining the core essentials of who they are. First year students learn that class is easy to miss without a parent flipping on your light switch, and that not keeping up with assigned readings makes exams exponentially harder.
As a senior at UVM I’ve learned a lot since the fall of ’05. I’ve lived in the dorms, completed a semester abroad, and moved into off-campus housing. I sometimes cringe when looking back on the things I was doing freshman year. A few bad decisions stand out more so than others.
One such memory is of the time I stayed up late with friends one Thursday night and chose to sleep through class on Friday morning. During class my professor handed out the assignment for our final paper. I ended up finding out about the paper from a friend, and jotted down some notes on the assignment over the phone. I spent the next month working hard on my final paper, and on the day it was due I felt pretty confident in my work. This confidence was premature though, as I had completely ignored the time frame our topics were supposed to be from. It turns out that my paper was on a topic 75 years later than everyone else’s. This would have been bad enough, but I only found out about my mistake when during the final day of class we had to go around and say what event we had written about. In the end, not only did I do a ten-page paper on the wrong topic, but also I had to announce my mistake to a class of 100 students. I learned the following: go to class, but if you have to skip, talk with your professor about what you missed, especially if it concerns the final paper.
Aside from writing long papers on wrong topics, I did manage to make some good choices freshman year. I came to UVM to major in Environmental Studies, hoping to eventually go into Environmental Law. I signed up for a handful of Environmental classes, only to find myself slightly bored and disinterested. The courses that ended up engaging me were my English classes. After just one semester, I knew that I needed to switch my major to English. I was warned by my environmental studies advisor that English majors are a dime a dozen and that finding a job would be more difficult with such an abstract major. Despite this cynicism I went through with my major change, and my college experience improved dramatically after making the switch. I think it’s so important to trust your gut in matters concerning your happiness and your education. If you’re not satisfied with your classes, figure out what it is you would rather be studying, and take the time to switch things around. I believe the quality of your education is dependent on how much you’re willing to put into it. The happier you are with the subject you’re studying, the more successful you will find yourself in the end.
I’m not alone in my slip-ups and good decisions. I spoke with some UVM upper-classmen to see which decisions they’re happy they made, and which they’re glad they moved on from:
Lucy Walsh, UVM Senior
Major: Public Communications
Worst Decision: “I spent a lot of money freshmen year. I didn’t budget my meal points well at all. A lot of the local businesses that deliver accept our meal points for payment. I got hooked on delivery and ended up running out of meal points before thanksgiving break. I definitely had to learn to budget my money, and to change my eating habits in general.”
Best Decision: “I was in a dorm I did not like at all. The location was all-wrong, I wasn’t really clicking with my hall mates, and I had made some friends that lived two dorms over. It was a huge hassle, but I arranged to move into an empty room on their floor. It changed my college experience in a huge way. I would have been miserable if I had stayed where I was. It’s all about knowing what makes you happy and going for it.”
Zoe Gandee, UVM Senior
Worst Decision: “My worst decision was definitely forgetting to lock my door all the time. While UVM is generally a safe place, on the weekends, when people aren’t necessarily sober, its important to remember to be careful. I had left my door open, forgetting that my roommate was away for the night. At around four in the morning a boy from down the hall stumbled into my room thinking it was the bathroom and tried to pee on my floor! I jumped out of bed, pushed him towards the bathroom and never forgot to lock my door again.”
Best Decision: “Leaving the Greek life on campus. It’s a great scene for a lot of people, but it just wasn’t for me. I went through some of the initiation process and realized there was other things at UVM that I wanted to be doing that a sorority wouldn’t give me time for. I ended up dropping and became immediately close with the girls on my dorm floor. I’ve lived with those same girls since freshman year, and got involved with the literary magazine on campus too.”
Dylan Ingraham, UVM Junior
Worst Decision: “I can honestly say that I regret staying together with my high school girlfriend for most of freshman year. I wouldn’t say it to her, but I felt like being connected to someone at home didn’t let me get involved in campus life and kept me from meeting as many people as I could have.”
Best Decision: “This kind of goes along with my worst decision situation. As soon as I broke up with my girlfriend I met a lot more people. I got invited to go on spring break with a group of friends who I was only acquainted with. I hadn’t known them for that long and was pretty nervous. I sucked it up though, and had an awesome time. They’re some of my closest friends and I’m glad I didn’t miss out on meeting them.”
At times it can feel that there is a lot of pressure on the college freshman to figure things out right away. In the end however, it sometimes takes making a bad choice to appreciate the positive outcome of a good choice. We can’t always be perfect, and it’s that Tuesday night spent drinking that teaches us to get our homework done and go to bed earlier on Wednesday. With so many new situations presented to us as freshmen, we’re bound to slip up sometimes.