Freshman Year at UVM: The good, the bad, and the ugly

07/10/18

BY Lauren Foley Unigo Campus Rep at UVM I can personally attest, as a University of Vermont student, that freshman year is never the most eloquent, gracefully executed year of a young person’s life. It’s a scary time, and though I did not realize it then, many of decisions I made that first year came to follow me throughout my career as an undergrad. It is a year with the potential to tip the scales—whether they tip in your favor is up to you. The very first day of my freshman year, I arrived to discover I had been assigned to live in a triple—in a room meant for just two. It was an unfortunate situation but in the end, it motivated me to get out of my room as much as possible. I made lots of friends with others in my hall and remained close to several of them to this day. I could have not made a better decision as a freshman. Having the support and friendship of other people going through the same transition as me made a world of difference in those first few months. When it comes to academics, it is not a secret that making connections in your major field is something every college student should be seeking to do. One of my former freshman year roommates, Shannon, definitely made things happen for her in this regard. “I got an email asking for anthropology lab assistants and I immediately applied for the job.” She says. Using her federally granted work study funds as compensation, Shannon worked in a lab under one of the top anthropology professors in the country. Eventually, she was promoted and even went to Bolivia with the professor, where she participated in a Discovery Channel documentary. Shannon’s name is now often included as an author of published anthropology journals she helps with in the lab. “Applying for that job was the best decision I could have ever made as a first year,” she says. For other students, like Travis Robillard, class of 2007, good decisions are even more drastic. After starting his first year at the University of New England, he discovered that UNE really wasn’t the school for him: “I felt it was too small and I wasn’t compatible with other students.” During the course of his freshman year he applied to and was accepted by UVM which he graduated from in 2007. Travis is still confident that he had made the best decision and insists that going through the process of transferring was worth it in the end. For every good decision made as a freshman, however, there are a few bad ones. Though Shannon did make all those wonderful academic connections her first year, her social decisions were a little messier. After befriending many guys on the floor above us, she admits to hooking up with one of them, thus ensuring herself many awkward occurrences in the many months that followed. She ran into him everywhere—the laundry room, dorm barbeques, and the dining hall. Romantic interests within your dorm seem like a good idea at the time. It is only until the relationship takes a turn for the worse that your formerly ideal situation starts to crash and burn. A word of wisdom for all those new students out there—keep relationships within your dorm platonic. There is nothing worse than running into your Friday night hookup at the vending machine while you’re waiting for your bag of Fritos to fall. Aside from ill fated hookups, substance abuse is another common issue with new freshman students. Travis remembers one instance in which he got carried away his first year at UNE: “We were watching a movie and decided to take shots of Bacardi 151. I hadn’t ever drank much before then and took about eight shots. I blacked out and don’t remember any of the movie. The next day, Saturday, I was really sick. I was still sick on Sunday, too, it was terrible.” Travis has never forgotten this weekend and insists it was one of the worst decisions he could have made. Avoiding these kind of instances is something every freshman should try to do. For my sister, Shannon Foley, class of 2009, her worst decision was failing to get involved more on campus, “There are so many things I could have done, but I didn’t. I liked staying in and spending time with friends, and I really missed out,” she tells me. Clubs and other group activities may seem intimidating at first, but they are a great way to meet people who have similar interests, as well as really acquaint you with being proactive within your campus community. Following freshman year, Shannon got over her fears and joined The Paradigm Project, a women’s advocacy group on campus. She also participated in Student Life as an Orientation Leader, allowing her the opportunity to warn incoming freshmen of her mistake. The experiences she had as a result of being part of those two organizations are something she values very highly: “The UVM community definitely seems more welcoming once you establish a social network like I did, especially within the Student Leader community. I’m really glad I’m involved.” The decisions you make your freshman year are some of the most important of your entire college career. Whether you take the leap and transfer, make awesome academic connections, get involved with clubs, hook up with someone in your dorm, or get carried away with drugs or alcohol, you can count on these decisions following you throughout college and beyond. More than anything, freshman year is a time to learn from the good and grow from the bad.

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