All college students remember their freshman year. They remember the excitement, the nervousness — the feelings of total possibility and complete fear. It’s a unique experience. It’s as joyous as nerve-wracking and as exciting as terrifying. It’s great, but only if it happens once.
I came to the University a year ago as a transfer student prepared to continue my education in full stride. I had been a college freshman once and even a sophomore. I had endured all of the wonderful and not-so-wonderful experiences that went along with those years and learned from them. I had become a capable and successful student able to maneuver through the arduous maze that is college life. I was ready.
When I came to this fine school, I expected to continue my glorious path to straight As and an excellent undergraduate degree without skipping a beat. I had already endured so many late nights studying that I knew it could get only easier. I knew what study routines worked; I had eliminated my mistakes and trained myself to think at a collegiate level. I was ready. I was going to be a junior in college, and I was going to act like it.
I was wrong. I was a freshman all over again.
At first, I wasn’t sure what was happening, and I wasn’t willing to consider anything worse than just first-day nervousness. But then it became first-week nervousness, after that first two-week nervousness. After walking around campus for several weeks camouflaging my many inquiries with an omnipotent façade, I finally gave in. I had been so successful at my previous institution that I had forgotten the troubles that new and exotic situations can cause.
I wanted to have it all together on my own, but I didn’t. I didn’t know where things were on campus, wasn’t used to running on Michigan time and certainly didn’t understand what kind of workload was in store for me. I was a freshman, and hadn’t figured it out until just then.
Now, that isn’t to say I hadn’t received a fine education from my previous university, or that I didn’t have the mental capacity to handle classes at the University of Michigan — but I didn’t feel like a junior college student. I needed to ask questions, to make mistakes and to do things twice.
And so I sought out help from others — even those students at the University that were younger than me — and decided to do what was necessary to be successful. The tipping point finally came when I realized that my success was more important than my pride.
So ask questions. That goes for not only transfer students and freshmen, but also for sophomores, juniors, seniors, fifth-year seniors and anyone else enrolled in a class. College is hard, and although this University is one of enduring quality and tradition, it will not hesitate to vigorously challenge and discourage its students. From time to time, we all find ourselves feeling and acting like freshmen. It’s painful and inevitable. Students should not and must not combat these instances with begrudging disregard, but rather take them head-on. Students need to embrace the moments when they feel like freshmen and take a second to ask a question or look something up. Spend extra time double-checking and triple-checking things, because in the end, it’s worth it.
Now that one year has passed, it’s much easier for me to see where I went wrong and what I should have done. I made it through my first year and came out the other side smarter, more qualified and with a simple message of hope. It does get easier. If you work hard, success is on the horizon, so keep at it. And to all of the transfer students out there: Welcome to your second freshman year, and good luck.
Stephen Yaros is an LSA senior.