Transitioning into a new environment can be largely overwhelming — it’s a time when everyone is navigating an entirely new chapter of life. As a freshman at Cornell, I’ve made it my goal to effortlessly transition into this new chapter. I can confidently say that the transition has been anything but smooth.
I’ve mentally viewed this transition through three overarching categories: academics, work life and friendships. Learning how to overcome roadblocks can seem nearly impossible, especially when those around you seem to have figured it out almost instantaneously. It’s all an illusion. The first semester, even for upperclassmen, will continue to be an adjustment period. Revisiting an academic environment after spending a summer filled with excitement, travels and unending happiness is overwhelming for anyone, especially freshmen.
The prospect of being a freshman has always irritated me. To be a freshman implies that you’re likely to have eyes on you. Any challenge faced, a mistake made or roadblock endured becomes inevitable, and yet, they’re all unwelcomed in the eyes of the upperclassmen who’ve done it all before. Challenges keep you thinking critically and in-depth about what your values are and the goals you’re working toward. I’ve always wondered why people view mistakes as an inherently negative prospect when they’re integral in navigating this adjustment period. How else will growth be experienced if mistakes aren’t a variable to consider in the equation? I believe mistakes should be encouraged in this time of life. Mistakes are when we learn new things about ourselves, and learning to accept this is one of the best ways to transition into the first semester. Roadblocks encourage vulnerability. Vulnerability allows us to acknowledge how we’re feeling and adjust as necessary.
Cornell’s academic standard is commonly known to be challenging and implies a heavy workload. The academic experience at Cornell varies among the different colleges, majors and professors. That being said, from my perspective, learning to find routine within this new academic standard can quickly become fiercely unforgiving. My first week of classes was quite manageable at first — nothing more than a few syllabi to review and office hours to input into my calendar. The second week vaguely mirrored the first, but with the added factor of new assignments and readings I needed to complete by the end of the week. It became a daily struggle to complete consecutive readings and prepare for my introductory exams. Though this experience is overwhelming for me and my peers undergoing this transition for the very first time — I encourage you to understand that this unfamiliarity is temporary. Soon enough, we will have all built and established a routine tailored to our responsibilities and workload.
The best part of this new academic environment is the content I’m learning day-to-day. In one of my classes, my professor has a huge emphasis on living with a growth mindset. This has been one of the most valuable learning lessons I’ve had thus far. Exploring a plethora of student-run organizations and opportunities to delve further into your passions is one of the many ways to find your space within a college campus. Having a growth mindset and understanding that failure may take place along the way primes you for the knowledge that there will always be a second chance, or perhaps an unanticipated detour to pursue. With a growth mindset, balancing academics and work life can be much more digestible and allows for the two to go hand-in-hand. Many concepts you may learn in an academic environment can be applied to the knowledge you share within student-run organizations.
Finally, the hardest part of navigating student life as a freshman is undoubtedly the social aspects of being a college student. There is an immense amount of pressure for new students to find their go-to group of friends — and while there’s nothing wrong with having a shoulder to lean on, this pressure can often become counterproductive. Finding a group or set of individual friends will happen naturally as the year progresses. Putting yourself in uncomfortable situations to make those friends can be equally effective in building relationships, but I believe it dilutes the idea of self-reliance. One of the most significant parts of the college experience is learning how to navigate this environment both on your own and with others. To build strong, core relationships, you need to have a foundation established autonomously first.
To the freshmen who are learning to find their place in this new environment, and to the upperclassmen who are doing it once again — good luck. Embrace the unknowns of this experience and approach everything with an open mind.
Adam Senzon (he/him) is a freshman at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He can be reached at [email protected]. My Two Sen-ts runs every other Tuesday this semester.