Last year, during the Hope College 201 5 Orientation, I helped move some incoming students into their residential halls, most of whom were freshmen. As I interacted with students and “people-watched” from afar, I saw many typical “freshmen” occurrences. I saw the awkward interactions of students meeting their roommates for the first time. I saw the worry in one’s eyes as they tried to cram everything they brought into their new shared dorm room. I saw the confusion of students and families aimlessly roaming around campus looking for some unknown building all while trying to make it appear as though they knew where they were going. As I witnessed all of this, I chuckled to myself and thought, “Thank God that I will never have to go through all those awkward experiences again during my time at college.”
Looks like the joke is on me.
Last Monday, the first week of classes began in a university that has a lower, middle, and upper campus. As I looked on my phone at the campus map trying to find classrooms in buildings that I had never even heard of before all while trying to walk around with confidence and appear to know where I was going, it hit me – I am a freshmen again. Here I am in a total new setting, experiencing college in way that I never have before, and hanging out with people that I have only just meet and am growing to know. I am starting again from scratch – I am a freshmen, or so that is how it feels.
But at the same time, I am a senior. I have 3 year of a college education under my belt. More than that, the JL that started Hope College in the fall of 2013 is not the JL that flew to Cape Town, South Africa to study abroad. I have changed. I have changed a lot since my freshman year, and I believe that I have changed for the better.
When I first started my freshmen year, I had a period of time where I was lonely for more than half the year. I was surrounded by so many people that knew who I was, but I felt like no one really knew who I was. As I struggled to make connections, I realized that a big part of my loneliness came from the judgmental mindset that I had. In my interactions with people, I would determine if a person was “good friend material” based on the most insignificant actions and/or personality traits. In this mindset, I wasn’t able to make friends because no one was able to qualify for my friend standards.
Yet I have changed. I have changed and grown in my intelligence, in my love and treatment of others, in my perspectives and worldview, my maturity, open-mindedness, in understanding who I am and being confident in that, and even the length of my hair.I have changed to the point where my junior year, people gave me the highest compliment I have ever received as calling me someone who is nonjudgmental.
So I am happy. I am happy to be thrust back into the world of “unknowns” being the person that I am today rather than the person I once was. Everything is new and I am starting off fresh – I have the chance to start again. Yet I have that chance to begin again in the version of myself that I have grown into since my freshman year. I am a senior even in this freshness. So to my freshenior year, a year of new joys, challenges, perspectives, places, adventures, and opportunities. To my freshenior year!