As a junior now, I would like to share a small guide on how to make the most out your freshman year. Here's how:
1. LIVE IN THE DORM
One of the best decisions I made was to live on campus, in a dorm. One thing I didn't realize after I moved out is that living in a dorm gives you a sense of community. Guess why: freshman year is probably the first year students live away from their parents, just as I did. The difference to me is that the distance from my family is 100 times further than my American friends' families. Your roommates and "floormates" will help you get through difficult stages during the year. They are supportive and understanding because we are all in the same boat.
2. GET YOUR MONEY'S WORTH
Did you know besides tuition, you have to pay other fees as well? Those fees go to on-campus offices, organizations, and facilities. All of those are in your service, and you have access to those services. For example, you have full access to the Recreational Center(the Rec). You can work out, swim, play badminton, etc. The fees also go to the Campus Shuttle system, where you can take a free bus from the Minneapolis to St. Paul campus, as well as just between East Bank and West Bank. My point is, you paid for those services, so use them. Spend an hour every other day working out at the Rec, taking the shuttle between classes, using the Gopher Way tunnel during the winter. These small things will contribute to a great year. And research shows that working out 3 times a week during finals week can boost your grade!
3. Get involved
Personally, I get bored easily when I'm not doing anything (except summer I guess). That's why I always find things to do when I have free time during the school year. I've found that keeping myself busy during freshman year is not a bad idea, because now I know my limit, I know how much I can handle during a period of time, and I applied that in my sophomore year and in the future when registering for classes, scheduling my work hours, involving myself in school organizations and socializing.
4. Don't be afraid to apply!
I get this kind of question from people frequently, and it goes like this: "How can you get a leadership position in an organization when you are a freshman?" or "How can you get an on-campus job during freshman year?" My answer: "Apply, apply, apply!" And it's true. I applied to 20 different part-time jobs on the UMN employment website, and finally after 1 month, I got a job. The same goes to being elected onto an Executive Board of a student organization. Go to their events, get to know other people, and start applying. Yes, you are a freshman and no, you don't have much experience. But don't give up. If you have the determination and the ability to show others your skills and your contribution, will you get a job or get elected onto the board? You betcha!
5. Remember to have fun
Freshman year is when you show the best of your ability, and that's when you have to work hard. But college is not all about studying and working, it's also about having fun. Don't be shy about your ability to communicate, or a cultural difference. Think about it this way, there are 50,000 students at the U of M, and there must be at least 10 other students who are interested in learning about you, about your country, and your culture. Set aside your book, go out there, explore, and make new friends.
Bonus: Picture of the Ambassadors Freshman year (left to right: Fabio, Alejandro, Avishek, Kevin, Bach)