Reflections From a Mildly Terrified First-Year

When we think about the end of the year, we often think about the graduating seniors. We think about how they will have their last class, last exam, last party, last walk in Tappan Square, and last DeCafé snack run. We anticipate their walk across a stage where they’ll be handed a diploma and then no longer be college students. Of course that transition is huge and scary, and I somewhat dread the emotional rollercoaster that will be my graduation three years from now. However, I also think there is merit in recognizing that even smaller changes — the changes between years or even semesters — can be nerve-wracking, especially for younger students.

At the start of spring semester, everything felt super weird and different and scary. It took a while before it dawned on me why: my entire first semester at Oberlin had consisted of the same classes, the same ExCos, the same professors, the same extracurriculars, and the same co-editor at the Review. That was the Oberlin I knew. In one fell swoop, all of that changed. I kept only one of the same professors, I started taking entirely different ExCos, and the person I had worked with most closely at the Review left to prioritize his honors thesis.

Now, once again, my Oberlin experience will change in both exciting and scary ways. I look forward to lightening my academic load by opting for some easier courses. I am excited to become Editor-in-Chief of the Review and work even more closely with our incredible staff and two amazing co-leaders. I am excited by the prospect of spending more time in VIBE Tap, and I hope to perform in a few small group numbers in our showcase next semester.

Despite all this, I cannot deny that I am also a little bit sad and scared. As at the end of the fall semester, there are things that have remained constant throughout my time at Oberlin that will be different next year. Despite my excitement to become Editor-in-Chief, I will be sad to leave the Opinions section behind. I will miss having my three pages to fill, writing as much for the section as I do now, and working with writers to help them tell the stories that are important to them.

I will miss my dorm room. I cannot say if it is even a particularly good room, but it feels like home. Since I moved in the first day of Orientation, its four walls have been there for me through thick and thin, providing a space to study, sleep, have Zoom meetings, and get away from other people.

I will miss the people who are graduating. I will miss dancing with our wonderful VIBE directors and attending Review pitch meetings with our graduating Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor. I will miss my very first co-editor who, even after leaving the section, has continued to provide a listening ear and good advice and has been a friendly face around campus.

I suppose all of this is to say, to my fellow first-years — though this may also be applicable to second-, third-, and double-degree fourth-years — even though we are not yet graduating, things are changing whether we like it or not. Find the things that you can hold onto. Make sure you stay in touch with your friends who are graduating. Find ways to stay connected with people who are not graduating but who you got to know this year and may not be interacting with as much come fall — you might learn something new about them too. Go back and visit the clubs that you joined and fell in love with but cannot make the time to continue with regularly — I always love when former Review staff members come visit us.

This may not be the most massive life change you have ever experienced, but it is not insignificant. It is likely that you, like me, are feeling sad and scared and a whole range of other emotions along with the excitement for the new school year, and that is entirely okay. You do not have to be going through some major life crisis or have your world turned entirely upside-down for your feelings of anxiety and sadness to be valid. If there is anything I would hope you would take away from all of this, it is a piece of advice I received from a friend a few weeks ago. We were walking home to North Campus one night and they said, “Just let yourself be a freshman.” So, to whatever first-years are reading this: just let yourself be a freshman.