There are so many expectations surrounding college and what it means to get the full “college experience.” Now that I am just six weeks in, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to put down a few of my earliest reactions.
To start, I have a small criticism to make. I vividly remember attending SOAR and having it pounded into my head that college is all about making the experience what you want it to be. Like a mantra, the leaders at SOAR repeated and reinforced the idea that we are all unique individuals coming to the University of Wisconsin. Therefore, we all should shape highly unique experiences for ourselves here, and it is totally up to us to determine them.
That said, once we passed the “honeymoon” phase of SOAR, the intense belief in individualistic experiences faded from UW and some of my fellow students.
I observed everyone in a frenzy, desperately obsessing over making friends and joining things. They made sure to go out so they’re not perceived as anti-social. I saw students freaking out and spending their first weeks here steeped in anxiety because they felt as though they were “doing college wrong,” and this is where my criticism lies.
The university preaches individualism and blazing your own path, but then it almost seems as though there is a perception among students that if they don’t make “x” amount of friends, and go to “x” amount of parties, and join “x” amount of clubs, and talk to “x” amount of professors, they’re not doing college right.
And perhaps us students perpetuate this problem, but the university is not without blame.
But these negative aspects I just ranted about do not have to manifest themselves on our campus — they are not necessary evils that come packaged with going to college.
Coming from a really small town, I heard time and again that if I decide to come to a large research university then I’m going to have access to a lot of great resources, but I’m going to pay a price for it.
I heard that I would sacrifice one-on-one learning time, that I would not be able to actually access all of the research happening here, that I wouldn’t be able to find help when I need it because the university is so large. But this is all totally false.
I have found that the university does everything in its power to make sure you are in the position you want to be in, and when you want to do something, they will go out of their way to make it happen. But it requires one necessary ingredient from you — effort.
This is precisely why we don’t need to see these negative aspects at our university. We have near-limitless opportunities, but we need to be willing to put in the work to find them. If every freshman focused more on exploring these vast opportunities, instead of basing life decisions off of people they have known for all of a couple weeks, then the university as a whole could certainly begin to become much more well rounded.
I really cannot understate how positive my first six weeks here have been overall, but it is important to consider this criticism, and even more important to consider how we can go about fixing it. So, to wrap this up, just try to keep this in mind moving forward:
To the university, please try to maintain the attitude I saw at SOAR, and while it’s okay — and even welcomed in my opinion — to remind students of all the great opportunities you have available, don’t make them feel that if they’re not hitting certain quotas of involvement they’re doing something wrong.
And to the students, it’s simple — just don’t freak out when you see seven or eight kids on your floor hanging out every single night acting like (and quite possibly saying) they are “literally” best friends and they will be each other’s collective soul mates until the end of all eternity.
Don’t worry so much about what you’re supposed to be doing, and focus more on what you truly want to do and what makes you happy. Realize that while the resources here can occasionally be a little tough to find or access, if you are willing to really put in the work and the time, you’ll find what you’re looking for.
Kort Driessen ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in neurobiology.