I spent the first half of my summer in Uganda where the average lifespan is about 58 years old. 58. How would you start living differently if you only had 35 or so years left to live? I asked myself the same question and started making some changes in my daily routine that I wish I had made during my freshman year. This isn’t your typical “freshman survival guide.” This is about maintaining physical, emotional and psychological balance throughout one of the most transformative stages in your life.
Are you healthy? Do you have a family that loves you? Are you on track to graduate college and begin a career? If you answered yes to any one of those questions, you’re already more fortunate than billions of people on earth. The fact that you even live in America is a privilege. Realizing how fortunate you are will make you more empathetic in life. Empathy is the most important thing you can learn in college.
Until around December of my freshman year, I was seriously considering transferring to the University of Southern California. My great-grandfather wrote one of their fight songs. My grandparents met there, as did my parents. It was my number one choice and I was rejected for fall admission, but could transfer in second semester. Santa Clara was fun, but by week three things were uneasy. I wasn’t branching out socially, disliked most of classes and felt like another face in the crowd. In the end, I made the best decision of my life and continued at Santa Clara. So stick with it. This is the best university in the world.
When I returned from winter break of freshman year, I rushed and joined Pi Kappa Alpha. It’s too bad the school doesn’t see eye to eye with the Greek system. Some of the strongest student leaders at Santa Clara are affiliated with a fraternity or sorority. This newspaper’s editor-in-chief is in Kappa Alpha Theta. The associated student governement vice president is in Alpha Phi. My point is, if you want to rush – do it. Greek Life has so much to offer beyond social events. If you don’t end up in a fraternity or soritity, no big deal. Just find something else to get involved in. And do it early. If you’re interested in journalism, come stop by the newsroom on Wednesday nights. Every year you wait to join a club or organization, your motivation to join it weakens. Just get involved.
You only have a few years at Santa Clara, so make the most of every single day. You have no idea how quickly it passes by. Fill your time on campus exploring academic passions and developing deep human relationships. Then take advantage of an opportunity to get outside the bubble. Ride the Caltrain up to San Francisco. Go on a camping trip. See a live concert. Have fun.
We have gym facilities, basketball courts, tennis courts, turf fields, a pool and a track. You belong to all of them. Use them. I remember beginning freshman year thinking I was going to go to the gym every single day. You will realize very, very quickly that this is nearly impossible. Life happens and gets in the way. It’s easy to fall into a bad routine of sitting around and making excuses to avoid being active. Don’t let this happen to you. Any kind of workout will release endorphins that feel great and keep your head straight, especially if you’ve had a rough day. Staying in shape also helps with self-control, self-discipline and self-confidence, which will all contribute to your success in life.
Your college journey will not be smooth. There will definitely be times when you feel overwhelmed, depressed, helpless and pissed at the world. I broke down in tears on the phone talking to my parents during the winter of sophomore year trying to explain how my days were full of highs and lows, with no steady sense of happiness. If this happens to you, which it very well could, remember my first piece of advice. Put it in perspective of how bad things could be, then realize you will get through it. And when you do, you will come out stronger and wiser than before. Also never lose your positive attitude. It can be easy to get caught up with all the negativity in this world and theres no use in dwelling over it.
The best part about Santa Clara is the people. You will meet lifelong friends here. You will have professors that change the way you look at the world. And you will learn to appreciate the value of every single one of your fellow students. Do not judge people, learn their story. Be kind. Show respect. Never underestimate.
Of course, there are several other pieces of advice I want to give you. Eat healthy, get lots of sleep, take your GPA seriously, yada yada yada. But you’ll figure those things out along the way. That’s what going to college is about. Working hard every singe day at becoming the ideal version of you. So start now, before it’s too late.
Gogo Jones is a senior communications major and the managing editor of The Santa Clara.