Freshman Year-the journey begins

So I’m expecting a lot of typical questions after this past semester. How was your freshman year? Did you make lots of new friends? How were your classes? Do you like your school? Are you sad to be done? What are you doing over the summer? These are the typical questions after my second semester of college. I have answers to these questions. They are all right here. So if you have awhile, read this long post about my freshman year, the first of the journey through college. Will it get personal? yes. Will it be long? probably. Do you want to spend the time reading it? I don’t know, but here it goes anyway.

Lets tackle the first question. How was it? How was my freshman year? That my friends, is a very good question. It also has a crazy and long complicated answer. But I’ll do my best to tell you. In the words I can think of to describe it, all I can come up with is crazy, scary, eye-opening, humbling, and difficult. Those are some words to describe it, but those sound pretty negative. My freshman year was also joyful, new, silly, fun, and again crazy, in the good way. Basically, my freshman year was a huge roller coaster that traveled through all of my emotions and experiences. So lets start from the beginning: Welcome Week.

Welcome Week. The time where I am supposed to meet all of my new friends, get used to the new campus I will be living on, get along with my hall-mates (our house as it was called), learn about my so-called strengths, learn about every single resource available on campus, get used to living on my own, and finally get a handle on what the rest of the year would look like. Yeah. So all of that sort of happened. I met my house, was shy as ever, if not more shy than ever, I met my leaders who wanted to party with us in some apartment, got mostly confused about everywhere I went on campus, and definitely did not adapt to living alone with only a roommate. Now, luckily I knew my roommate very well. She’s been one of my closest friends since middle school. We had no awkward adjustments there, but she also already knew everything about campus. Her sister is a junior at the U, and she had taken a year of classes already with PSEO. She was almost an expert so all of this “new” information might not have been as scary for her. Maybe it was. I don’t know. But she seemed to be handling it much better than I was. All of welcome week was basically a blur. I remember going to several parts of campus, seeing Jermaine Davis, the football game, and maybe a few other random events. Jermaine Davis was the keynote speaker, and I remember him because he was a great speaker. It was one of the only nights I remember actually kind of enjoying myself. The rest of the week I was too terrified and annoyed by all the talk of drinking already happening to have any fun. I didn’t really go to events that I planned on going to. I just wanted to hide in my room. I didn’t want everything to happen so fast. I wasn’t ready for college. I wasn’t ready for the College of Science and Engineering. During college day I was even more scared. I was surrounded by geniuses. And mostly males. The expectations were high for me, I didn’t think I could do any of it. Basically, I just needed a friend. And I had one, but I didn’t even feel connected to Katie anymore because she seemed to be doing fine. I didn’t want to seem pathetic. So most of my welcome week was a panic attack. So that is how it all started out. I was a wreck.

My messy personality didn’t end there. I was still a mess starting classes, and I finally went to go see someone. I started seeing a psychiatrist for my medication for depression and anxiety, and went home a lot to see my parents the first few weeks. I tried to see a therapist sometime into the semester. She scared me. She wanted me to know exactly what I wanted help with and what to do to fix me, I felt like I was being interrogated. I know I have to have some sort of treatment plan, but her expectations were too much for me at once. I didn’t know what I needed help with, I just knew I needed help. She sent me to some place for academic help thinking that was all I really needed. I didn’t actually go to that place for awhile. I just gave up again for awhile. Sometime in the semester my mom was so worried she had my adviser talk to me. My adviser took me to the Disability Resource center to see if they could help me. I hate that word. Disability. I had anxiety and mental health problems but never before going to the U had I thought of it as a “disability”.  The lady talked to me and also sent me away for academic help somewhere else. She said she couldn’t help me with anything there.

I was starting to do pretty poorly in school, not doing well on tests at all. I tried to get help again, and towards the middle of the semester I was afraid of failing a class. I went in, and asked academic advising what to do about it. I was terrified, and I felt so ashamed for already struggling, in a class I had taken in high school too. It was humiliating and scary. He listened to what I said and how I was worried about getting into my major. He told me not to project so much. He saw my AP score, which was a 1 and asked me what happened. I told him I basically had a panic attack during that test, and answered about 5 questions. So he sent me back to the Disability center for help. I told him they said they couldn’t help me, but I made an appointment and brought my doctors records and they finally were able to help me. I got some accommodations for test anxiety. It helped. My semester started going a little better. However I still ended with poor grades and was again terrified of getting into my major.

Then I had something positive come along, I went to Venice with about 17 other people in CSE to study climate change. We got to see the beautiful historic city and some surrounding towns as well in Italy. It was beautiful, and an amazing experience. I had Italian wine, made new friends, and felt more connected with my college. Things were starting to look up.

Then second semester started. Things were going better, but it was still hard to get by. My classes only got harder. Which is expected. I know that but it didn’t make it easier to deal with. Balancing everything was getting hard again. I had gotten more involved with my bible study, and decided that I wanted to make God a priority in my life more than stressing about school. I thought it would help. It kind of did, but then I started to get behind again. My sleep issues were making it hard for me to get up for class, I was missing classes for various reasons, and studying was getting harder to do because I wasn’t totally enjoying my classes. They were just hard now. And I hated that my life still had to revolve around studying. I thought there was more to college than that. I felt guilty whenever I tried to take breaks even though thats what people were telling me to do. I was telling my doctor about everything, so we increased my medicine to try and help with my sleep and my anxiety.

And then my breaking point happened. For the second time in a year.

I had just gotten back into therapy, and I told my therapist about what was going on lately. I mentioned the passive suicidal thoughts I had been having, and that I wasn’t sure why they were happening. I knew I didn’t want to go through with them. Recently that week I had also had a plan for it, so I knew it was getting worse. My therapist then spent the rest of the session making a plan for me to stay safe. I told her I was okay for now, but I ended up going in the next night. I was admitted for about 5 days. Getting back out, I was even farther behind, and my professors weren’t all very helpful.

I did get on a better medication. I am happier now. The semester was ending okay, but I ended up withdrawing from one of my classes. The semester ended not where I wanted to be but I took it as a sign. I’m finally deciding to move away from the engineering field. I think it will be a better fit, and I believe it’s what God is calling me to do. I can help people more directly in other fields, and my empathy will be useful. My plan right now is to try to go into occupational therapy after getting an undergraduate degree in Kinesiology.

So there was not a lot of positive in that first half, but now to the next question. Did you make lots of new friends?

At the beginning of fall semester, I was thinking I would make no friends. I felt very out of place in the dorm I lived in, and I was thinking nothing would get better. But then I went to my bible study. I didn’t connect right away with people, but as I continued to go, and second semester when small groups of discipleship started, I felt so at home with those girls. I had planned on getting involved with a few organizations on campus, but I really ended up only getting involved with Cru. That was where I felt at home. I started going swing dancing with them, went to fall retreat, and woman maker, and I tried to make it to bible study every week. I loved everyone I met in Cru. Some things we talked about were confusing, but I’m really glad I connected with a community centered around Christ. I loved everyone I met, and will be living with 17 (yes 17) other woman in Cru next year in Dinky Town. I am also going to be a part of the worship band.

I also felt connected to absolutely no one in my hallway at the beginning of freshman year. I thought none of them would like me, none of them would respect that I didn’t want to party or maybe even the fact that I was so religious. I was so wrong. Granted, none of them are my new best friends, but I got to know most of them by the end of spring semester and they are all wonderful people. So will I miss living in my loud and gleeful hallway? Maybe a little. I’ve told myself I won’t, but I am truly glad I met all of them and got to know them a little better. They didn’t even really judge me, no more than using my welcome week nickname of Crazy Chloe for awhile, but I brought that on myself (not good at thinking of adjectives on the spot). Anyway, they were all pretty cool people, I got to know my suite-mates better over the course of the year and I love those two. So living in the dorm was annoying at times, and frustrating, and very different (I’ve never lived with guys ever so that’s new) but it was worth the experience. My freshman year wouldn’t have been the same without them.

And then there’s my trip to Venice. Those CSE kids were some of the greatest and smartest people I have ever known. Our leaders were also really awesome, and it was great to connect with some faculty. I loved going on that trip. I shared a room with someone from the same county as me (small world guys) and then she ended up being in the campus orchestra right next to me the next semester. I bonded with people I probably wouldn’t have met if it weren’t for that trip, and I’m so glad I was able to go.

And I can’t forget one of the most important friends I made this year. My mentor Claire. She is so sweet. It was something I signed up for going into freshman year, I was paired with someone in my intended major, and she became one of my most trusted friends. I was terrified meeting her, and going into CSE, but we really connected after awhile, and she helped me realize that maybe I could handle CSE, it would just take some readjusting and hard work. I mean, it turns out that I probably couldn’t, but that’s okay. The important thing is that she was there to support me. Even when I was hospitalized, she came and visited me. I am so grateful to have met such an amazing young woman.

So, summing up that, I actually did make a lot of new friends. I am really happy about that, and that was one of the highlights of my freshman year, all the people I have met.

Now, how were my classes?

Well. They were hard.

That’s really about all I can say. I enjoyed some of them, not as much as I have in the past with school, and they challenged me more than I would have ever expected. Yes, it’s good to be challenged, but I was getting so worn down from school that it all started feeling like this huge weight I needed to be keeping above my head before it crashed on me. So yeah, not the greatest. I definitely was taking hard classes, but I know that I should have at least been a little more interested in the subjects. Another sign that I’m not meant for engineering.

Do I like my school?

At first, not really. I was terrified and overwhelmed and I was worried that I would never feel at home at the U. But I really do love my school now. I even have school spirit about sports for the first time like ever. The University of Minnesota is a great place, and I love every day the new places I find there, and all the things around me to do. I love the city. Suburbs were great growing up, but living in Minneapolis, but still on campus is amazing. I think it has a lot of beauty, and I love how much is always going on. It’s exciting. Not noisy, well sometimes, but not too much. There is some crime yes, but that happens everywhere. One of the best things though is the culture of our campus. We have so many international students coming to study various things, and I have been exposed for the first time to several different types of people. And I mean that in the best way. I love seeing so many new people everyday, and yet still so many familiar faces around campus. My professors have all been pretty great, minus a few, and I have gotten to know them. It only takes going to some office hours here and there. There are so many different resources that are there to help me, and I love that too. It took awhile for me to find the right ones but I found them. I love my school and there is no place I would have rather spent my freshman year.

Now, am I sad to be done?

Honestly, not really. It will be sad to be apart from my bible study this summer, and I am sad to not be living with my best friend anymore, but I am mostly relieved its over. Freshman year was exhausting and hard and I am ready to move forward with my life outside of school for awhile. I learned a lot about myself this year, and I am glad to have some time to sort through everything that has happened.

What am I doing this summer?

Well for the next month or so relaxing at home with my family. After that, the biggest reason I’m not sad to be done is that I am going to be working at camp from June-August. And let me tell you, that is going to be the best job I have ever had. I get to counsel younger girls and lead them to Christ, while being my silly self and having all sorts of fun at Camp Cherith. I’ve been to Disney several times, but the REAL happiest place on earth, is Camp Cherith. That is where I am TRULY happy, where I find God’s peace, and his joy, and the beauty of this earth he created. I also get to see His face in every girl I meet there, and his love spreading like wildfire through the staff and campers. I can’t wait to go back there and spend my summer surrounded by that love and joy.

So there you have it, that was my freshman year as well as some of what is to come. Like I said, it’s been a roller coaster, but I am so thankful that I had this experience, and I will be happy to come back to the University next fall to tackle whatever new challenges come my way.

Yours truly,

Chloe

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