We are now in the thick of the fall semester, a time trademarked by dreaded midterm exams, a heavier reliance on Cooper Starbucks and a bombardment of emails with the subject line: “[Name], Schedule an Academic Advising appointment.” While this week could be celebrated for marking the halfway point between us and the freedom of winter break, it also has given me pause. There are 63 days until the end of the fall semester and 210 days until the end of the spring semester. That’s 210 days until the senior class graduates. This has caused quite a bit of procrastination-fueled reflection on my time here at Clemson. Thus, in classic sappy-senior fashion, I’ve organized my thoughts into a letter to my freshman self. While my rambling may not be revolutionary or life-changing, if anything else, I hope it inspires you to do your own reflection and maybe even draft an imaginary letter to your younger freshman self. In the meantime, here’s mine.
Dear freshman me,
I won’t give away the entire future, but things are going amazingly in your senior year – just you wait. Well, Clemson Football isn’t playing too well this season (I know, hard to believe), and I won’t even try to explain COVID to you, but other than that, life is great! I know you’re nervous to start in a completely new place, but don’t let that stop you; everything will fall into place. Looking back, here are a few things I wish you knew before you moved into 4A4 Maudlin Hall.
First, some college basics:
- Use Degree Works; it’s the single most helpful tool to keep you on track to graduate.
- Don’t even try to mess with Clemson Parking Services. They will always win. Always.
- Unpopular opinion alert: Schlitter was my favorite dining hall, give it a chance!
- There are so many great academic resources on campus, don’t be afraid to use them.
- Never underestimate the power of a good nap.
Next, let’s get the cliches out of the way. You’ve heard this truism at least a thousand times that college will certainly “go by fast.” It’s not until you blink, and four years are almost over, that you realize the true gravity of this statement. All that to say, soak up every moment of your time at Clemson. Find happiness and gratitude in the campus around you on your daily walk to class. Smile at people you pass in the hallway. Take part in the Clemson traditions. Plan time to study and more time to have fun with friends. Soak up the four years that are your Clemson experience, don’t let it pass by.
A huge thing I’ve learned (and am still learning) is to stop forcing myself to be someone I’m not. Making the transition from Massachusetts to Clemson caused significant culture shock. Besides the increased presence of sweet tea and unironic cowboy boots, as a Northerner in the South, I felt pressured to change to fit this new culture. What I called “growth” my freshman year was really me changing myself to become what I thought it meant to be a Clemson student. Yet, a Clemson student has many different definitions. College is about creating yourself. You will make mistakes and at times, you will feel completely lost. Take this time to focus on yourself and figure out what makes you feel fulfilled. Prioritize self-care and make your own decisions. It’s overwhelming to suddenly have full control over your life and future, but don’t shy away. Open yourself to adventure and self-exploration to start creating the best version of yourself.
I remember being anxious to make new friends. Scared to eat at the dining hall alone. Nervous to walk into a classroom full of strangers. Afraid to go out to a club I knew no one at. Now, I wish I had been less fearful. It’s hard to ignore the little voice of worry in the back of your head but do your best to quiet her. You’ll start to realize that everyone around you shares the same anxieties as you’re all going through a similar transition. Finding your footing in a new environment never happens overnight. Give yourself time to acclimate and embrace the uncomfortableness. You never know, the stranger sitting beside you in your 8 am ECON 2110 class may become your best friend, so introduce yourself. The organization you hear pitched in your BUS 1010 class may provide you with some of your best college experiences to date, so give it a shot. Your time at Clemson is meant to be experienced. So, put yourself out there, try new things and live a life wherein the end, you’ll have few regrets.
I’m running out of insightful things to say, so freshman me, I’ll end my letter here. But before I say goodbye, please, take a deep breath. Realize how far you’ve come. Be proud of where you are now, all that you’ve done and the endless possibilities that lie ahead.
Best of luck (not that you need it!),
Written by: Chase Meininger