Freshman Year at Wake Forest


Unigo Campus Rep at Wake Forest

wake forestMy freshman year at Wake, I lucked out (or so I initially thought) and got the golden ticket of room picks: the freshman single.  Oh, how naive I was. I planned to live exactly as I did at home.  I packed a bookshelf; I packed all my clothes; I brought things I might need but wasn’t sure just because I figured heck, I have a single, who’s going to care?  Fast forward to me, two weeks after move-in, walking by the window to the broom closet and crying because it was almost twice the size of my room—where I could literally touch both walls with my arms outstretched.

And yet, nearly every night the second semester of my freshman year found me crammed in that not-even-a-closet of a room with 10 of my closest friends, watching Friends and Family Guy reruns on my equally teeny-weeny television set.  It was one of those unexplained college phenomena, like why do we always wait until the night before to write a paper when we’ve had the entire semester? (Warning: At Wake Forest, this kind of stops working after freshman year.  It’s kind of a hard school.  Word to the wise and all that).  All of those kids had regular-sized rooms; some of them even fit couches and fairly-large screen TVs!  Yet we all crammed into my room, without fail, and that tiny little room—that had made me cry the first time I saw it—finally started to feel like home.

See, the real reason behind my tiny-room despondency was that I couldn’t imagine living in a room so alone and foreign and away from everything familiar.  As unexpected as it was, homesickness hit me hard and fast freshman year:  with all of the excitement accompanied with leaving home, it can be easy to overlook the fact that it’s a really big change!  I was completely embarrassed by what I perceived to be a weakness, but I shouldn’t have been. Everyone deals with the transition in their own way.  What’s important to remember is that, if you do feel homesick, don’t deny or feel ashamed of your feelings, but also don’t let them define your first semester. 

At Wake Forest, first semester freshman year is this uncanny time in your life when literally everyone wants to be your friend.  It’s a private school, so with no benefits for going in-state, almost everyone is alone and coming from someplace random, and everyone wants to make friends. I cannot stress this enough: TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS TIME. Wake’s a pretty sociable place in general, but the freshman experience is huge here.  In a couple of weeks, you’ll be way too preoccupied with the fact that you’re totally unprepared for your first college test (and so will everyone else), and you’re going to need these people by your side.  There’s no time like freshman year for making weirdly intense friendships in a short period of time (to the point where you might be wondering, why won’t these strangers get out of my freakin’ room?) and wallowing in gloom-and-doom homesickness really takes a lot of the fun out of this really unique and exciting time.

When talking to other students about their freshmen years, I actually got a fairly wide range of answers about what they’d want to “do over.”  And many didn’t want that do-over—they realized that their mistakes ended up being their most teachable moments.  For instance, sophomore Jenn Veach felt her biggest mistake was feeling like she had to rush a sorority to fit in at Wake.  However, “My best decision was rushing and finding out for myself that it wasn’t for me,” she said.  “I think that it’s a good idea to try it and see that it’s not for everyone. Don’t change to fit this school.  Being from somewhere else and coming here and being like, ohmigod everyone is so different, I just thought that I could never find people that I could actually be friends with just being myself. So, I was all ready to change, but obviously I realized it’s easier to just be yourself.”

Launching yourself out of your comfort zone is really a good guiding principle for your freshman year, which is all about new experiences, friends, and passions.  My good friend, junior Will McGowen, said that the best decision he made freshman year was deciding to go on a spur-of-the-moment road trip right after final exams.  “It was really random,” he said. “We didn’t know where we were going or anything, and I didn’t even know the guys very well. We went around the country in two weeks, and it was my first time really going out West, seeing the stuff you see on postcards.  It would have been so easy to have not gone and come up with a dozen reasons why [going] wouldn’t have been a good idea.  But, I chose to go, and I’m very happy that I did.”

As a junior, Will’s heavily involved at Wake as a member of ROTC and one of the cofounders of a ministry that helps the homeless in downtown Winston-Salem.  Will still wishes he had gotten involved sooner, though. “[As a freshman,] I tried to experience everything a little bit,” said Will, “and that kept me from getting involved in anything with enough time and effort to make it worthwhile. Last year as a sophomore I really learned the importance of focusing your time and focusing your energy into something you’re really passionate about.  Trying to spread yourself so thin and cover everything, you don’t get anything out of it.”  Will’s advice? “Get involved.  Don’t have every hour of your day filled, but find your passion, find what makes you happy, and go do that, even if that means creating a way to do that at your college.”

Of course, I would be remiss if I forgot to mention one other tiny detail: you are, after all, here to learn.  And while freshman year is wonderful in so many ways, it’s also the very real beginning of your college career, and your classes do matter.  Jenna Lohwasser, a senior Elementary Education major, said that her biggest freshman mistake was “Treating a college class like I treated my high school classes.   I didn’t really study for my tests because I never had to in high school. What a bad idea!”  Jenna’s job as a student got a lot easier when she realized what great resources she had at her disposal.  “Use your resources,” she said.  “Go to the Writing Center if you have a paper due and talk to your professor about an upcoming test or something you are not understanding in class.  They are here to help you and want to see you succeed!”

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