Calling all First-Year Students!

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Dear you,

Yes you, the one sitting in your dorm room, on a bed that you are trying to pass off as comfortable.

The You who moved into a new room, a new life, a new you. The You sitting on the grass beside the Immaculata. You’re about to embark on the most magical journey of your life, I promise. Take a moment,  come into this space fully and just breathe.

You are here,
you are worth it,
and you are deserving of all of the greatness that comes with beginning school here at USD. Welcome.
Welcome to your home for the next while.

So how are you feeling? Can you put into words what you’re experiencing right in this moment? If you can, let’s talk about it. And if you can’t, that’s okay too, we’ll talk about that as well. I’ve been there, and you’re going to be all right, trust me on that. As a freshman, Ole Weekend came and went in a wonderful, excited, anxious blur of emotions. I had to keep asking myself, “How do I make friends again?”, “How does one approach another human being?” These questions carried into my first day of classes and for days to come after. I’ve gotten better about feeling  awkward and  you will too if this is something you struggle with.

Right now, you might be feeling overwhelmed, uncomfortable, and like you may never adjust. And let me tell you, this is actually all good. If you’re feeling this way, it means you are truly diving into the experience and taking on the new college student identity. Embrace all of these feelings. The amazing thing about college is that we all have different backgrounds but get to come together in the role of student as our common unifier. I find comfort in this. I want you to feel proud that you are here. I want you to feel like you belong and have a place to call your own. Maybe you don’t know what that place is or should be yet. But know that there is a place and You will find it.

College is a new chapter and a new beginning where you get to come into your own in a world of new possibilities. There may be some challenges, periods of   adjustment, transition, and change, but…it’s probably the most transformative four years that you will ever get to experience in your lifetime and it will go by quickly.

Write it all down.
Take every picture.
Sing every song.
And say everything you want to say.
Because life is just too short.

Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Join one of the many clubs on campus that plays to your strengths, interests, and passions. You’re going to find your passion. When you find that thing people tell  you won’t get you  anywhere, won’t make you money, won’t amount to anything. Don’t ignore it. Draw, write, paint, read, film, learn, create, share, move. You have a talent, I know you do.

Along the way, you’ll meet people that share these similar passions. Make friends with your roommate. Make friends with people that pass you by on the sidewalk. Make friends with people in your classes. Make friends with people lounging in the hammocks around campus. You never know when you’re going to meet that one person that will change your life forever.

Show up. Show up to class. Show up to a random lecture. Show up to career fairs. Show up to a coffee date with someone new that you want to get know. Just do it. Not only for the people that want to be in your presence, but show up for yourself. Show up to learn something new and to learn something about yourself. Every situation that you show up to is an opportunity to learn. And one day, after you’ve graduated, you might find yourself saying, “Wow, I really miss learning”.

Get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Be vulnerable. Acknowledge the newness of it all and then rise above it. You’re going to constantly hear “College is what you make of it” from now until the end of your years here. Don’t be easily intimidated by your surroundings telling you what you can and cannot do. Your dreams are the start to accomplishing a goal and you are the vehicle to make those dreams a reality. You will be tested and knocked down over and over again, by others and yourself. Rise up because this is what builds you, what changes you, and what moves you to keep going. It’s going to hurt, so badly, but it’s so worth it.

You’re going to be OK.
You’re going to adjust.
You’re going to thrive.
You’re going to love.
And be loved.

And I think the most important piece of advice is probably the cheesiest. It’s something your parents probably told you before you left for college. It’s something your first grade teacher repeated over and over again. It’s what all the kids cartoons you’ve ever watched had to say about growing up. But it’s also something that is so easily forgotten the moment we step foot onto college and begin this four year journey. Be yourself. All this advice is useless if we don’t bring it back to ourselves. I’ve witnessed and have experienced the race that we often put ourselves in to change every little thing about ourselves that we hate. Don’t run this race. It’s taken me almost four years to realize that the very things I’ve struggled with since high school through the first couple years of college, are the very things that make me stand out from the rest.

Learn to look deep inside yourself.
Be that self, the genuine one, be yourself.
You’re already turning into something pretty great.

There’s probably still a million other things I need to tell you, but there’s also a million things you need to experience on your own, with or without my advice. But just know, I’m always ready to give it if needed. I may not know you, but I’m here for you.

You will have your bad days (or weeks!) but you will also have your fair share of the most amazing days. Days where you can’t help but look at a sunset and cry because it’s so beautiful, that life is beautiful.

Remember where you’ve been.
Remember who you are.
Remember where you’re going.

You’re going to be okay, I know, I’ve been through it. I’ll tell you all about it.