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College reflections from college freshmen

Carson Ellerby – UNC-Charlotte

What do you wish you had known before attending university?

Looking back, I wished I had taken greater advantage of the clubs and other campus activities.  Clubs, whether recreational or professional, are great ways to meet new people, make connections, and build up your resume. If you begin early, say your freshman year, leadership positions will open up very shortly after. Universities like UNC Charlotte provide several hundred student organizations ranging from professional based organizations, major based organizations, intramural sports teams, and interest clubs, each with their own unique flavor. This spring semester I joined both the National Association of Black Accountants and Black Student Union. While I have become an integral member of both organizations, I missed a majority of their events and opportunities. No worries though, because college is a four years plus experience and student organizations will always be available.

What tips do you have for managing living expenses associated with university life?

Regardless of the college you choose to attend, living expenses will be off the charts. With rising tuition, on-campus housing payments, gas expenses, meal plans, clothing expenses, club memberships, venue expenses, and other activities, the cost to attend and even live at your university is overwhelming at times. But there is no need to stress; smart planning from the start, whether it is with your family or your adviser, will save you money and fun for the end of the year. When it comes to spending, first pay for necessary items like textbooks(buying or renting used textbooks is always the best option), calculators, notebooks, toiletries, and other living necessities. Next, go for the TV, spirit wear, nice clothes, concert tickets, and beach trips.  Laptops may be necessary, but your university will provide free internet service in their libraries and computer labs and through their wi-fi. In addition, every school should have a personal finance workshop so I highly recommend you attend one of those if you find it challenging to manage your budget.


Dave Nyamu – UNC-Greensboro

What do you wish you had known before attending university?

I wish I would have known to save my money. In retrospect, going off campus everyday was a giant waste of money. A dollar here in college goes further than a dollar there in my experience.

How heavy might the courseload be for a rising university freshman?

Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise; the course load is heavy in college. Much heavier than it was in high school. In college, though, you will have a lot more time on your hands to complete this work. I’ve found that with proper time management the work is certainly manageable. That is why I found teachers who taught personal responsibility, like Mr. Broer, so valuable in high school.

What was the first day of university like? Is there anything you wish you would have done differently?

The first day of college was nerve-racking. I washed my clothes without detergent. These things happen. You will do something stupid on your first day in college. Get used to the idea and embrace it. I wouldn’t take any mistakes back–they have all helped me become a better (and more hygienic) person. Going to a university is what you make of it. If you choose to do the same things and talk to the same people, then you’ll get the same thing you’re getting now. But if you choose to step outside of the box, meet new people, get involved on campus, and try different things, you’ll have the time of your life.


Catie Byrne – UNC-Greensboro

What do you wish you had known before attending university?

I wish I had known just how important a proper sleep schedule and healthy diet is. On the other hand, I type this at 3:00 a.m. after only eating one meal and one long nap, so yeah, finding a balance is difficult to attain but important. Before college, I wish I had realized just how crazy and busy my life was about to become. If someone says that they’re bored in college, I would tell them to treasure their leisure time. I wish I had realized just how important it is to trust that inner voice inside my head because that instinct can really save your life when you’re on your own in certain situations. I also wish I had taken more risks so that my initial exposure to college life wouldn’t have been as overwhelming.

Do you feel that the education you received at Leesville has done you justice?

On some level, yes. The meaningful classes I took and relationships I made with friends and teachers were pivotal in my education at Leesville. On the other hand, I hate to say it, but those classes that I knew wouldn’t serve me in the future really haven’t been useful at all. To be fair, I’d say that’s just my general gripe with required courses in our education system and less about whether the education I received at Leesville has done me justice. It’s not even really about what you learn as much as what you do with that knowledge and experience.

What were your biggest negative and positive surprises when you arrived at your university?

When I arrived at UNCG, the best surprise was immediately finding people who had similar interests. At the same time, I knew that I had chosen the right school the moment I realized just how diverse campus is. Negative surprises were more along the lines of coming to terms with having to face the reality of college life; the cafeteria food will suck and you will likely have to eat it a lot, living with someone else requires compromise, and yes, you and your classmates are likely preparing yourselves to compete for the same jobs and opportunities. I wouldn’t let that discourage anyone though, it’s surprising just how many great jobs and opportunities there are out there, you just have to be willing to look for them. I encourage every college-bound student to embrace the surprises that await them and to not be afraid to meet new people and put themselves out there.


Camille Churchwell – UNC-Chapel Hill

Looking back on my freshman year of college at UNC, I realize how much I’ve learned. The one thing I wish I would have known during my first weeks of college was that I was prepared for this. For some reason, I thought that everybody would be smarter than me and that I would really struggle academically. Luckily, I was able to prove to myself that I am at this university for a reason and that I can excel in even the most rigorous classes. I think that my time at Leesville really helped me learn how to manage my time effectively and gauge what subjects required more attention. As for the other aspects of freshman year, there’s nothing else I wish I would have known coming in. I navigated this entire year blindly, learning my way as I went. Yes, I got very lost on campus. Yes, I forgot to turn in assignments on time. Yes, I embarrassed myself at least once a day. But, these mistakes and mishaps shaped my year and taught me more than any 400-person lecture class did. It was so rewarding seeing what I was capable of academically and socially. I can honestly say the best part about freshman year is just enjoying the ride.


Juliana Rube – UNC-Charlotte

After experiencing my freshman year, I realize how small and unimportant I am on this big campus. While I was at Leesville, I can confidently say that I was well known. Popular? Maybe not. But people knew who I was because of all of the activities I participated in. But when you come to college, you’re just another face. There are tons of team captains, student body presidents, valedictorians, musical leads or whatever you excelled in at high school at the school you’re going to attend. Coming to college, I learned that I am not going to be the best at everything I am involved in anymore. People around you will be smarter, more athletic or maybe more attractive but that shouldn’t discourage you from pursuing your interests; personally, I find myself flocking towards people who are better than me at things, so I can learn from them and grow. And that’s what college is about right? It’s about developing yourself through your studies and your relationship with whoever you meet. I cannot stress enough how important it is going to your school with an open mind; the people you meet and what you learn from them will shape who you are for the rest of your adulthood.



Sonali Biswas – Duke

I felt strange the first day of orientation with the words “Duke, Class of 2018” on my chest. I had fallen into this new gothic wonderland where everyone was a stranger, sweet tea was uncommon, and no clear path lied ahead. Above all, I knew nothing about basketball. I was simultaneously terrified and exhilarated by this uncertainty ahead, so, Seniors, my best advice is to unabashedly embrace it with an open mind. I’m now a tour guide, and I’m supposed to relay historic facts and impressive figures about my school to prospective students. Instead, I love sharing the hundreds of anecdotes of skipping class to listen to one senior read every Harry potter book in front of the Chapel, of trying foods made by friends from different countries, and, most fondly, of laughing, screaming, and crying in the student section of Cameron Indoor Stadium covered in blue paint after sleeping in a tent for a month for the Carolina game, and later for the National Championship, finally burning massive benches on the quad afterward. Exploring the ambiguity of my first year brought me not only these stories, but also a better understanding of my goals, myself, and, most surprisingly, basketball. Seniors, whether or not college is your next destination, I encourage you to delve into this uncertainty every chance you get—befriend people different from yourself, take classes you know nothing about, and welcome ideas and opinions you have not considered before without judgment. While I may still be unsure of my major, this philosophy has brought me an academically and emotionally fulfilling year. Seniors, I hope it may do the same for you. Congratulations with all you have achieved so far, and, when faced with the big question mark ahead, I wish you all the best of luck!


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