Finding patterns key to navigating freshman year

Starting off freshman year at the University of Illinois, regardless of where you’re from — whether  it’s the suburbs of Chicago or China — can be quite daunting. Being surrounded by about 32,000 undergraduates can make you feel as though you’re simply a speck in this universe. 

But after two weeks on campus, I found that it’s not completely impossible to find your place. Finding a pattern is key.

Last week, my peers and I walked around campus, noses dug into our phones or holding maps with both letters and numbers. We would awkwardly show up to class 45 minutes early or 45 minutes late. We would walk to the Ikenberry Dining Hall for lunch in hopes of finding a familiar face to eat with. Otherwise, we’d quietly eat alone in the corner pretending to complete important tasks on our phones. Getting used to four different websites that our geology, history, math and chemistry teachers’ use would confuse us. We would scamper to the Illini Union Bookstore in hopes of finding our textbooks, search T.I.S. for all the correct materials, or try to make a shady deal with someone on Facebook for the required materials.

Then came Quad Day where we scouted and walked tirelessly up and down the Quad in hopes of finding those few clubs in which we would feel welcome. Despite being warned by upperclassmen not to give our emails out to every club, we foolishly did so. I mean, how could I not sign up for underwater hockey and the knitting club?

I, for one, was completely overwhelmed. All the choices and opportunities here blatantly confused me. I always had this ideal image of college in my head, like most freshmen do. I wanted to be able to do everything from leadership to basket-weaving, and still have time to excel in my studies. But being faced by over 7600 clubs was a bit too much. I was trying to find familiarity by thinking, “Oh, Environmental Science Club, I did that in high school!”

But what I failed to realize was that the blanket of familiarity had already been completely ripped from me. I felt naked standing there having to figure out exactly what I wanted to do. I didn’t have the comfort of signing up for things with my best friends or knowing most of the organizations. 

It hit me when I stood on the grassy area in front of Foellinger Auditorium, dumbstruck. No one is going to be there to make these choices for me anymore. No one will be there to teach me to separate my laundry, colors from my whites, no one will be there to make healthy dinner choices for me and no one will be there to map out my college experience. For the first time in my life, I had to become completely self-reliant. 

I was independent, and at this point, I really started to miss home. 

Walking along Green Street, taking the long way back home and not knowing the shortcut, and pulling the door instead of pushing, I felt like a complete dork! All I wanted was to be able to go to school, come back home after a long day and sit in my bed listening to music. After half an hour of complaining, I decided to walk around the Quad more to see what else was there. Instead of finding more choices though, I strangely found familiarity. Walking for three hours allowed me to pinpoint exactly what was where.

And that is the beauty of college. 

Choices are constantly thrown our way, but when we stop to spend time exploring, we start to see patterns. Time donates to us the ability to see what is right and wrong for us. 

As the second week rolled around, I embraced the fact that I would be independent now. The best part of it is that I now know to take the 22 Illini bus to Green Street, I know to go through the building instead of walking around and I easily push and hold the doors for my peers. My routine is set because I know how much time it takes to get from class A to class B and which dining halls are the best. 

And even though we may not have everything completely figured out yet, we have the next three years of our lives to do so. After all, college is a four step experience.

Simran is a freshman in Media. She can be reached at [email protected]