I have learned many things throughout my time at DePaul. From discovering how to manage my time to learning more about how to be a great musician, I know that I will be able to cross the stage at graduation feeling like I really learned significant things during college. But as a freshman, I had no way to know what my college experience would end up being like. There were so many unexpected moments, lessons, and opportunities that I encountered in just my first year of college alone. As I look back on my time at DePaul, I ask myself what I wish I had known when I first began this crazy-cool journey of college. I think that I can summarize the things I wish I knew as a freshman at DePaul in three basic points: one that is practical, one that is profound, and another that is pretty straightforward.
The Practical: Learn
how you work best and go for it.
I can remember many-a-night during my freshman year when I was doing a lot of musicianship (music theory and music history) homework or was studying for an exam. By sophomore year, I realized that I often work best alone and that group studying or homework sessions only work for me if I feel solid about the material and just need someone to quiz me on it or check over my work. Although many people would regularly meet together to learn test material as a group, it didn’t feel rude to study on my own and meet with a classmate or two the night before the exam or before the homework was due. I discovered what worked for me and felt no shame in doing what I needed to do. But if you work best in groups, find other people who also do and form them as soon as possible!
Everybody else is just as unsure about life as you are.
It really is true. Although we all express it differently (or don’t ever express it!), most people have no idea what their futures hold. Many of us aren’t quite sure what we want sometimes, and all of us have insecurities. I entered college with high expectations of myself; I thought that I had to have everything figured out. I also thought that I had to have everything together all the time, and I kept to myself the fact that I actually had no idea what I wanted to do with my major or with my life! I would show up to lessons, terrified that my professor might find out that I wasn’t feeling confident in my playing that week. Or, I tried to not let my new friends discover that I was actually super homesick and stressed some days. And with time, as I discovered more of who I was and what my fears, insecurities, and dreams are, I realized that those are important things that I am allowed to share with others. Once I began to stop expecting so much of myself and allowed myself to open up to others about how adjusting to college can be hard, I learned that I wasn’t alone. You are entering a completely new stage of life when you start college. Entering college marks a time in your life where you are more independent than you have ever been before, and it’s scary. You’re faced with big decisions that must be made in a not-so-distant future. So, allow yourself to not know everything about yourself or about life. And tell people; you might just be surprised by how many others feel the same way! And this nugget of truth doesn’t even just apply to college freshmen- all of us are unsure and scared about life sometimes!
straightforward: You go to school in an incredible city—embrace it!
College really does just fly by. They all said it to me when I chose DePaul and moved into my dorm. I can hear my parents saying it now: “You couldn’t have picked a better city! Take advantage of Chicago; it’s your playground for the next four years. And remember- college really does just fly by”. That’s literally what they said. So enjoy where you are. Go to random school events you just learned about 5 minutes before they began. Make new friends. Try different things. Take advantage of free things, both at DePaul and in Chicago! Go to artisan fairs and food festivals. Go to the zoo, go ice skating, visit the Bean and take as many selfies as your hipster heart desires; attend concerts, have a picnic in a park, have a NAP in a park, attend master classes, walk to the lake. Get your nature fix, your shopping fix, your I’m-going-to-pretend-to-be-a-tourist fix. Host movie nights in your dorm room. Try to be fancy and serve cheese and crackers and sparkling soda. Go to pet stores with friends. Take a random train route you’ve never taken and get off at a random stop (as long as it’s safe). I wish I had done more of these things as a freshman, when I lived in the dorms and had so many new friendships to pursue and no jobs or extra obligations to consume my time.
Freshman year is an irreplaceable nine months of your life. I grew so much, learned a lot, and I discovered so many incredible things. But there were still things I wish I had known—don’t let these be the three things you wish YOU had known as a freshman at DePaul!