Coming to college, everyone echoed a similar mantra: “Cherish every moment, you only have one freshman year.” In the weeks before I finally left for Ann Arbor, I was wrought with anxiety and apprehension by the thought of going to college and leaving everything I knew behind. After unpacking my dorm room and hugging my parents goodbye, I knew, very rationally, that I was turning a new page in my life. Adulting, growing up, maturing ― however you want to frame it ― I was heading down a new path in my life.
With two weeks of the school year remaining, I get a little choked up every time I think about leaving the University of Michigan, a place that has truly become my new home. Looking back at my first few weeks to my last, the contrast is humorous. I want to pay homage to the parts of my freshman year at the University that made it so special.
My first few weeks of class, I had to use the Google Maps app to get from building to building. Being both directionally challenged and in a whole new environment is quite possibly the worst combination. Sadly, Maps wasn’t able to lead me to shortcuts, no matter how advanced the newest update may appear.
First semester, I had to walk from South Quad Resident Hall to the School of Public Health three times a week. For those of you who are geographically savvy, this is typically a 15-minute walk, but for the first three weeks of classes, it took me almost exactly 20 minutes to get to class. Maps was like my baby blanket, and I was too scared to go in any other direction other than where Siri directed me. Eventually, when heading to class with a friend one day, she looked at me wildly when I told her I had never cut through the Diag. Like, literally, I had never walked through the Diag to get to class. Finally being able to understand the intersecting paths around the emblematic ‘M’ on the Diag was a life-changing experience.
One fundamental part of the University’s character is the people that you meet here. I know, not everyone is great; it’s not a perfect place. But coming to this school, I never could have fathomed what it was like to be surrounded by so many smart, passionate and engaging students. There’s a competitive spirit to the University that challenges each student to become the best they can be. And believe me, there were, are and will be so many times where I will sigh in frustration that I am the dumbest person on campus. But having the opportunity to learn in an academically rigorous environment surrounded by peers who foster ambition and achievement is an unparalleled experience. No matter how hard the classes may seem, your classmates, professors and the campus environment are teaching students to grow and achieve more than they have believed.
Another fundamental part is the school spirit and our glorious game days. To be completely transparent, I am not a football person, but I love U-M game days with all of my heart. There is something so incredible about thousands of students, dressed in maize and blue, singing “Hail to the Victors” and willing a win out of our team. Win or lose, there is always unprecedented pride toward our team and our school. The student body feels as one unit, united by the spirit of the University of Michigan.
To the future Wolverines: Don’t take your freshman year for granted. Of course, it will be hard, and the University won’t feel like home with the snap of your fingers. But hold tight to the little moments, cut through the Diag and sing “Hail to the Victors” like it’s the last game day of your senior year.
Julia Cohn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.