This past week back at the U of A, I've been noticing how college freshmen are so obviously college freshmen. They wear lanyards, spend hours picking out their first day of school outfit, and cheer out wrong names of players at football games. While I find all this amusing, I also totally remember the excitement, anxiousness and remarkable amount of cluelessness that comes with being a brand spankin' new college freshman.
My first semester of college was certainly an experience. And I use the word "experience" in the way that Randy Pausch used it in his famous Last Lecture, where he said that "Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted." The first semester of my freshman year of college was a whole bunch of not getting what I wanted. Not getting things that I applied for. Not fitting into the group of people that I wanted to be friends with. Not having any of the guys that I was interested in be interested back. Not achieving the grades I wanted (and kind of assumed I would get). That's just a whole lot of experience right there. But as Randy Pausch also said about experience in his Last Lecture, "experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer." I was able to learn from my first semester of frosh year, and have a very successful and enjoyable second semester -- and I'm hoping to keep using my experiences to improve and grow as a student and person.
And since experience is probably the most valuable thing to offer college freshmen (except for free food because free food always wins), here are some things I learned/wished I would have realized during my first semester of college.
Just stop with this whole lanyard business.
Lanyards aren't even that convenient when it comes down to it. There are actually wallets with little key holders and clasps on them, which are infinitely more convenient than lanyards will ever be.
Stop trying so hard to be part of a group that you don't even truly fit in with.
Yeah, that group of people that you met at orientation just seems super awesome and cool! But give it a couple of weeks, and you'll see that you don't have much to relate to them over. Yet you still try so hard to be a part of the group. You feel left out when you see Facebook photos of events that they had that you weren't invited to. You try to make conversation with them, but you realize that you don't have too much in common except for loving One Direction. And as impossible as it seems, talking about Zayn's hair or Harry's tattoos all day every day gets old. Instead of being hell-bent on being BFFs with the first people you meet, try to branch out to new people, or remember to keep in contact with friends you had in high school.
During my first semester of college, I spent a lot time trying to get myself motivated, listening to inspirational music and reading articles on study tips. But I actually spent very little time being motivated and working hard. I didn't want to start studying or doing homework until I felt fully inspired. Which meant that very little work actually got done. During my second semester, I learned that you just have to dive right into working hard. You can't wait till you feel fully ready. Because when do you ever feel fully ready for anything? Like basically never. I'm pretty sure I leave my apartment every morning rushing and feeling like I must have forgotten something.
Second semester, you'll come to love doing work in coffee shops and libraries. You'll learn to love working hard. You don't need any outside sources to convince you to want to work hard; you'll want to work hard for yourself.
It'll get better.
The campus won't feel so unfamiliar. Your homework will feel much doable and even possibly enjoyable. Your time management skills will get better. It just takes some time. You want to just be able to hit the ground running. But you'll first have to learn to walk. Yeah, the first semester is a struggle, but a worthwhile one that teaches you a whole lot about yourself.
During the first semester, it feels like you should be excited to be in college, but you're just not. You're constantly confused by people who say "I love college" and "College is the best time of your life." But give it a few months. You'll come to really love where you're at. You'll believe that your campus is beautiful, and you'll constantly refer to the University of Arizona as the best university EVER. You'll find a group of friends who you can really talk to and not stress about fitting in with. And you'll hate the thought of being away from college and its endless opportunities and freedom.
So, even though my first semester of my frosh year was just four months straight of not getting what I wanted, it was an experience I wouldn't trade. And it's an experience that I offer to current college freshmen to learn from. But, even more valuable than my lessons learned, is your own experience. Everyone has a different adjustment to college. Maybe you're the one who can and will hit the ground running. Or maybe you're like me, and you just need to learn to be patient. So, even if you feel like you're not getting what you want out of college, just realize that it is an experience for you to learn and grow from. Because this is just the beginning.
Below we offer an example of a thoughtful reflective essay that effectively and substantively capture the author's growth over time at California State University Channel Islands (CI). We suggest that you write your own essay before reading either of these models-then, having completed your first draft, read these over to consider areas in your own background that you have not yet addressed and which may be relevant to your growth as a reader, writer, or thinker.
Any reference to either of these essays must be correctly cited and attributed; failure to do so constitutes plagiarism and will result in a failing grade on the portfolio and possible other serious consequences as stated in the CI Code of Conduct.
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Sample Reflective Essay #2
Author: Nekisa Mahzad
I have been a student at California State University Channel Islands (CI) for 5 semesters, and over the course of my stay I have grown and learned more that I thought possible. I came to this school from Moorpark Community College already knowing that I wanted to be an English teacher; I had taken numerous English courses and though I knew exactly what I was headed for-was I ever wrong. Going through the English program has taught me so much more than stuff about literature and language, it has taught me how to be me. I have learned here how to write and express myself, how to think for myself, and how to find the answers to the things that I don't know. Most importantly I have learned how important literature and language are.
When I started at CI, I thought I was going to spend the next 3 years reading classics, discussing them and then writing about them. That was what I did in community college English courses, so I didn't think it would be much different here. On the surface, to an outsider, I am sure that this is what it appears that C.I. English majors do. In most all my classes I did read, discuss, and write papers; however, I quickly found out that that there was so much more to it. One specific experience I had while at C.I. really shows how integrated this learning is. Instead of writing a paper for my final project in Perspectives of Multicultural Literature (ENGL 449), I decided with a friend to venture to an Indian reservation and compare it to a book we read by Sherman Alexie. We had a great time and we learned so much more that we ever could have done from writing a paper. The opportunity to do that showed me that there are so many ways that one can learn that are both fun and educational.
The English courses also taught me how powerful the written word and language can be. Words tell so much more than a story. Stories tell about life and the human condition, they bring up the past and people and cultures that are long gone. Literature teaches about the self and the world surrounding the self. From these classes I learned about the world, its people and its history; through literature I learned how we as humans are all related. By writing about what we learn and/or what we believe, we are learning how to express ourselves.
I know that my ability to write and express my ideas, thoughts and knowledge has grown stronger each semester. I have always struggled to put my thoughts on paper in a manner that is coherent and correct according to assignments. I can remember being told numerous times in community college to "organize your thoughts" or "provide more support and examples". These are the things that I have worked on and improved over the past couple of years and I feel that my work shows this. The papers I wrote when I first started here at C.I. were bland and short. In these early papers, I would just restate what we learned in class and what I had found in my research. I did not formulate my own ideas and support them with the works of others. The classes I have taken the past couple semesters have really help me shed that bad habit and write better papers with better ideas. I have learned how to write various styles of papers in different forms and different fields. I feel confident that I could write a paper about most anything and know how to cite and format it properly.
There are a couple of things that I do feel I lack the confidence and skill to perform, and that is what I hope to gain from participating in Capstone. I am scared to teach because I don't know how to share my knowledge with others-students who may have no idea what I am talking about. I hope to learn more about how teachers share their knowledge as part of my Capstone project.
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Careers in English and Writing
The English program at California State University Channel Islands prepares students for a wide range of exciting and rewarding careers, including:
- English teacher
- Social media strategist
- Media production (film, TV, internet)
- Print and digital publishing
- Corporate communications
- Foreign service
- Human resources
- Foundations/non-profit management
Learn more about CI's English Program