Reflection on a hectic yet rewarding first semester

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Natalie Pietrowski

Staff Writer

I’ve always been told that the first semester of college is a learning lesson. As I packed my car with all my chic dorm décor back in August, I would have never imagined I’d be sitting where I am now, a few weeks into my second semester at Millersville University and in college in general. Despite the many challenges I faced, I wouldn’t change my experiences here for the world, as I’ve already learned so many valuable lessons.

That first lesion being this: you’re not going to be friends with everyone you meet. Some people will hate you for no reason, no matter what you do to try to fix things, and that’s okay.

Starting out the first semester, I had an unrealistic image of stepping on to campus and instantly finding my new ‘college best friends’. While I did eventually find my new college friends, it wasn’t nearly as easy as I had hoped it would be. The people that I had thought would be my absolute best friends in the beginning of the fall semester are not the people I spend a majority of my time with now, and that is okay. There are certain people out there that will pretend they want the best for you, and then hope you fail, and that’s just the way the world works. What matters is how you pick yourself back up and continue to fight, despite the people that want you to fail.

The second lesion is that it’s okay to challenge authority if you do so respectfully. When you know someone is incorrect stand up for yourself to correct the issue. There was an insanely large amount of confusion about the classes I was supposed to take when it came to registration for the spring semester back in November. While trying to sort out the issue, I was passed between professors, various administrators, and was given multiple different answers to one simple question. Administration was continuously telling me I was wrong about the classes I was to be taking and was attempting to have me take classes I already received credit for.  Eventually things escalated to the point where I wound up in the Dean’s office because of the different answers I was receiving.

The point I’m making here is that it is okay to stand up to authority, in this case professors, and respectfully explain your side of the argument. In the end, the confusion was a result of miscommunication between different departments and offices, and by standing up for myself, I was able to shave off a whole semester of classes that need to be taken from my degree plan. It’s about standing up for yourself, and not being taken advantage of, even if said person does hold authority over you.

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My third lesion is that it’s okay to lose yourself a little bit, if you bring yourself back and stay true to the person you want to be. As cliché as it may sound, this could not be a truer way to sum up my first semester experience. Like many college freshman, I lost myself a little bit during the first few weeks. Suddenly you’re uprooted from your happy little safe bubble in whatever town you spent the last 18 years of life and thrown into this world of college students with millions of opinions and ways of living that are immensely different than your own. It was so easy to blow off all my responsibilities and to just explore everything a college environment has to offer. I found myself looking at the person I was turning into, as the semester progressed, and being extremely unhappy. Since then, I’ve come to understand that doing something just because everyone else is doing it and because it seems ‘cool’ is not the way to live out your life. Instead of pursuing the things that actually interested me, I became caught up in the antics of everyone else, antics that I participated in despite not truly wanting to.

Since reeling myself back in and participating in things I actually wanted to be a part of, rather than just going along with things, I’ve found myself enjoying the college experience more. While, there still may be days where I swear I’m going to drop out altogether by the end of the week, there are so many more days I’m fully enjoying everything the college environment has to offer.

Time management is a huge lesson that I learned. If nothing else, the first semester of college illustrated the importance of time management. In high school I was always that person who could read over the notes for a class the night before a huge exam, or right before the test was passed out, and easily ace it. Since moving on to higher level classes I’ve realized that it’s imperative to put in much more study time to receive those same high grades. Additionally, pushing a huge assignment off to the last minute in high school was never a big deal. I’d just block out a section of time and bang out the assignment. In college, there have been so many more things fighting for my time and sitting down for two to three hours to finish a project in a single sitting is simply impractical.  Obviously, I’m still working on correcting this, but I have found it is so much easier to sit down and work in multiple 30-45 minute chunks of time.

My final lesson was it’s okay to be disappointed; what matters is the things you do to avoid being disappointed again next time. This past semester at Millersville University has showed me that life is going to throw things at you that you’ll never see coming. In the end, it’s about how you react to these unforeseen situations and continue with life, using the lessons from the last mishap to avoid making the same mistakes again. Making mistakes is part of growing up, and if you learn from your mistakes accepting full responsibility for your actions, there’s not much more anyone can ask from you.