A few lessons that I learned from my freshman year

By SANIYA RAMCHANDANI | October 11, 2018



Adjusting to life at Hopkins and living independently for the first time can prove daunting.

The first semester of college, my independence was tested more than ever. There was the first time I was late for or skipped a class and had no one to blame but myself. Or the first time I forewent studying an extra hour for a test to irresponsibly hang out with the cute guy I had just met. Last but not least, the first time I ate six bowls of mac and cheese and a few brownies, and then skipped the gym, simply because I could.

My first week of school, I was enchanted by the deepest blue eyes. Forgotten were all the promises I had made to myself about not dating freshman year, and gone were the priorities I had set so rigorously in my head. 

I thought I could balance it all — falling for a stranger with unfairly soft hair and simultaneously taking a maximum credit load of the toughest classes. 

Newsflash: Between laundry, cleaning bathrooms, doing dishes, general socializing, daydreaming and, most significantly, the extremely challenging academic environment at Hopkins, this was not humanly possible without sleeping approximately two hours a night. 

Week three arrived and with it, my first 16-page essay. I replaced frat parties with cubicles and put my head down for my first all-nighter. 

I had always been the girl in high school who, much to the dismay of her classmates, submitted everything two days early. This essay, however, I submitted approximately half a minute before the deadline, at 7:59 a.m. 

And the next day I skipped my first class. Luckily I had taken a similar course in high school, and catching up was easy. In hindsight, I wish catching up had been excruciatingly difficult, so I wouldn’t have fallen into such a self-deprecating routine.

For the first couple of weeks, I skipped the occasional class, got 100 percent on all my homework, won over the hearts of all my professors and kept up with every single new friend I had made, all whilst applying a full face of light make-up every morning, washing my hair on alternate days and not gaining a pound of weight. I was superwoman.

And then came the freshman plague. Full disclosure: Every fall semester, a wave of the common cold will hit all freshman once or twice — the first round five weeks in and the second 10 weeks in. 

If you’re lucky it won’t develop further. If you aren’t, you’ll end up like my poor friend with an ear infection, mono and the flu. 

I got a 40 percent on my first homework, I didn’t do laundry for three weeks and re-wore two sweaters, I skipped classes and didn’t catch up, and I got mediocre grades without studying too hard on my first set of midterms. 

In high school, I might have been able to scrape together some As; in college, I barely managed some Bs. 

And despite the beautiful, wonderful, loving family I found at college and cherish so dearly, for the most part, I had to get through it on my own. 

Although they were there for me, we were all being hit with the same tsunami of responsibility, and freshman year is everyone’s first time adulting. 

It was the hardest lesson to learn that no one was going to look out for me. I have a tendency to be the mother of the group, the one people rely on, the shoulder others cry on — the one who takes care of everyone. 

Like a mother with her children, I tend to put the well-being of my friends before myself. This is a truly poisonous trait to possess in college, because without taking care of myself, I was drowning in a mess that only kept getting deeper. 

I didn’t fully come to terms with all the mistakes I had made until I was sitting at an airport lounge, about to board a flight home, with the lowest GPA I had ever seen in my entire life in my back pocket. 

Mind you, my classes were extremely tough, and physics is an excruciatingly difficult field, but if I had known how to manage my time better and gotten out of bed, I could have doubled it. 

But hey, if you’re reading this and it’s your first semester, I hope you’re wildly distracted by a boy. I hope you skip a class sometime. And I really hope you binge eat whatever you want once in a while. It wouldn’t be college without it. 

These are minor mistakes that are easily fixable, and the best way to learn from them is to make them. I’m not encouraging bad behavior, but I am telling you not to grow up too fast because there’s no way to turn back once you do. 

Just promise me you won’t make them twice (or thrice), because you’re only in trouble when missteps become habit.

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