Before I get started giving advice and dropping knowledge on how to start the semester strong, I want to first acknowledge the shared experience of most college students (especially those who are new to campus) and also the specific challenge of coming back to campus during a pandemic. You all are stepping into something unprecedented, and the university community will continue to help navigate these unique circumstances with you.
College is already an equally terrifying and exciting place- there is so much to learn and do. You are so ready for freedom (no more parents or family members watching your every move!), yet you also want someone to tell you what to do. You feel confident (hey, you got into UGA!), yet you also feel totally inadequate. Please know this. Every student that steps on to campus feels this push and pull at some point. Perhaps some are more comfortable than others with all of these opposing feelings and emotions, but I can assure you of this- you are not alone.
Also, this semester comes with high anxiety and fear as students come to campus during a pandemic. There will be a lot of uncertainty to navigate- including online learning, staying safe and healthy, and maintaining mental, physical, and emotional wellness. Please use the mental health resources on the Coronavirus student page or contact Student Care & Outreach should you begin to feel as if this is all too much. As a UGA community- we are in this together, and we are here to help.
Now that we have acknowledged that things are not exactly normal, let’s get to the tangible advice and resources for starting the semester strong!
When I look back at my college experience, there are three lessons that ultimately, I wish I learned earlier and more often:
- Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.
- Learn to manage your time and get organized with classes and assignments.
- Find a safe, welcoming place on campus or in the community where you are free to be you.
Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.
Remember those opposing push and pulls I mentioned earlier. This is where you get to practice and flex those muscles on learning a new place, new friends, new classes, and a new way of life. Nothing is ever magically easy when you are learning something new. It takes time, practice, and moving forward through the sometimes-uncomfortable feelings you encounter along the way.
I can assure you that these awkward and uncomfortable things WILL happen:
- Getting lost on the way to your first class
- Taking the wrong bus at least 3-5 times in the first month
- Saying yes when you want to say no to a new group of friends asking you to tag along for food
- Feeling very nervous about meeting with your professor for the first time after a failed exam or assignment
These examples (and more!) will feel uncomfortable, and then it will begin to get easier. Anyone in any transition in life goes through these feelings. You will feel it on the first day of your internship, your first day on the first job after college, and the first date with a new partner. Just keep going and keep pushing yourself to push through those feelings so that you can remind your future self that it gets easier. You got this.
Learn to manage your time and get organized with classes and assignments.
One of the biggest lessons that I learned in college (especially in my first year) was how to manage my time, my assignments, and how to study effectively. With your new-found freedom comes the responsibility of keeping track of deadlines all on your own. It only takes one late assignment or one failed test to realize the consequences of not staying on top of those weekly assignments. You begin to see the value of sleep (no more staying up at all hours), of choosing a specific time each day to focus on schoolwork instead of hanging with friends, and of using your phone to set reminders about important dates so that you are no longer surprised when that 10-page paper is due is tomorrow!
For additional tips and resources, check out the Division of Academic Enhancement’s fantastic resources on time management, test preparation, note taking skills, reading comprehension, and writing and studying skills.
Find a safe, welcoming place on campus or in the community where you are free to be you.
One of the most amazing and wonderful things about college is that there is truly a place for everyone. Now is your time to find your place on-campus or in the community.
Here are a few ideas to help you get started:
- Meet with an involvement ambassador to get involved in a student organization. You may want to find an organization that aligns with your ethnic or sexual identity, religious affiliation, leadership on campus, or a specific career or personal interest (Humans vs. Zombies, anyone?)!
- Attend the upcoming Virtual Part-Time Job & Internship Fair to apply for a part-time job on-campus or off-campus.
- Find an experiential learning opportunity through your college or department.
- Find ways to volunteer in Athens and in other communities through the Center for Leadership and Service.
UGA can be big and overwhelming. It is easy to feel lost or unseen among the crowd. Try to find a way to make UGA smaller. Find that student organization, community service project, or part-time job on-campus that helps you to create relationships and a support system. Find the place where it feels easy to be you.
Although we face unique challenges this semester, we hope that fall 2020 will be a semester of learning and growing for you all! As a UGA community, we will likely share a special bond of getting through an unprecedented virus together- learning to lean on one another for support and extending our capacity to show care and compassion for one another.
So, let’s start this semester strong and fill it with hope!