Sincerely, a Senior
I was twelve years old when I stepped on the Northwest campus for the first time. We were moving my brother into his dorm for his freshman year, and I remember thinking, "I'm going to go here." Fast forward eight years, and here I am, writing this blog about my experience. Moving into my dorm freshman year, I was hit by a sense of "this is what I have been dreaming about." While it was an amazing feeling, the realization also came with so many expectations and hopes that I didn't even know I was carrying. I hope my experiences and thoughts looking back to my first year of college will give you some encouragement as you step into a new season of your own, whatever that may be.
Let me start off by saying that freshman year, at any school, comes with a huge learning curve. You're around new people, with a new place to live, new classes to adapt to, and more. You are entirely removed from your normal. No one will enter their first year of college and do it perfectly, but I entered my freshman year thinking I would be the exception to that rule. I had done Running Start at a community college for two years already; I would totally be a pro going into my first year at NU, right? Oh boy, do I wish I could go back and tell my freshman self that I was only eighteen, and no one expected me to adjust to all the changes immediately. So, the first thing I would say to any incoming freshmen is this: it's okay that you're still adjusting. It's okay that you call your mom to ask how many tide pods you should use for your laundry. It's okay that your bed isn't always made. It's okay that you don't work out every day like you said you were going to. You're adjusting, you're young, you'll figure it out!
The second thing I want to tell you is: making friends takes time. Before I came to NU, I had a small pool of friends at home. I always had acquaintances and surface-level friends in my high school classes, but I had very few close friends. When I came to NU, I think I expected that people would just automatically come to me (clearly, I thought I was pretty cool when I was eighteen), and that didn't happen (BIG shocker there). When you are an incoming freshman, everyone in your class is in the same boat – you're all brand new. That newness comes with such a cool freedom in that you have the chance to really meet whoever you want. Making friends, real, close friends, will take time and that's okay. In fact, that's healthy! No one is expecting you to know who your people will be within the first six weeks, or even the first six months. Meeting people takes time, getting close with people takes time, making friends will take time.
The third piece of advice I wish I could give my freshman self is this: you don't have to say yes to everything. Burn out happens, and if you are saying yes to everything, it will happen even sooner. Picture this: you just moved into a brand-new room, and now you are living with a brand-new person you (probably) don't know very well. You are then placed in classes and small groups with a ton of other new people who are also adjusting to this new way of life. Then, on top of all that, you get invited to all of these fun new events to meet new people and do new exciting things. That's a whole lot of new. While all of those things are great, they can be overwhelming and ultimately lead to feeling exhausted if you don't give yourself time to rest. There will be a lot of fun events and so many people who want to go do things with you, but you don't have to say yes to all of them. Say yes to the things that sound life-giving and are cool opportunities to meet new people, but listen to what you need. If you're physically and mentally drained, say no and take a nap. If it just doesn't sound like something you'd enjoy doing, go find people who want to do something else. There is freedom to say no! Yes, go to some events and make awesome new friends, but you do not have to say yes all the time.
Finally, the piece of advice I most wish I had received as a freshman is this: their spirituality is not a measure or a benchmark for yours. Going to a Christian college is so awesome because it gives you the opportunity to grow in your faith while getting an education. This experience can teach you how to apply that faith to your future profession. On the other hand, going to a Christian college can be hard because it can become really tempting to compare your faith to someone else's. I remember coming to school and meeting all these amazing people who really love Jesus. Sometimes it made me question if I was on their level. "Did I do my devotions as well as she did? Did I get into the worship as much as he did? Do they have the same questions I do?" All of these thoughts ran through my head when I first came to NU, and that is so normal, but those questions are so unnecessary. My friend spending an hour each day doing devotions doesn't make my fifteen-minute quiet time less important. The guy next to me, leading worship on stage every week at his church, doesn't make my worship in the car any less seen by God. The questions and doubts I was wrestling with were not signs of a lack of faith, but signs that I am diving deeper into what I believe. So often, we compare our faith in Jesus to other people, and it causes us to lose sight of the one we believe in. God doesn't compare us to one another, and He doesn't expect us to be at the same "level" as another person. He sees us where we are, and He loves us anyway.
I want to leave you with a verse from one of my favorite passages in the Bible:
"Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare." Psalm 40:5
May you, incoming freshmen, see the wonderful plan that God has for you and have the faith and trust in Him to declare it boldly as you go through your time at NU.
Sincerely, A Senior