It’s currently 1 a.m., and I’m curled up in bed with my ugly-but-so-satisfying tomato sweatpants on and my laptop propped at a convenient angle so the screen is parallel to my face. Finding me might prove to be a bit of a challenge as throw pillows, tissues, problem sets, and a water bottle of EmergenC shield me — or more accurately, imprison me — from the outside world. However, if you do find me, I’m what you would call a hot mess. Hot, because I have a fever, sore throat and a nasty cough. And messy? Well, that you already know. Welcome to my fifth week at Stanford University.
Contrary to the not-so-hot day my roommates and I have been having — highlights include taking my first econ midterm in my current state of well being, losing an expensive family heirloom, crying over the mediocrity of a PWR essay and the imminent doom of the F that is to come and craving junk food but only finding fruit in the fridge — college has been everything and more that I hoped it to be. Every day I find myself learning or growing in one way or another, as I am immersed in a range of knowledge from listening to people’s crazy life stories, to a professor’s passion over a subject, to figuring out how to get from one class to the next in the span of 10 minutes. Needless to say, as a freshman here at Stanford, there is a pretty steep learning curve.
I was talking to one of my dorm mates, Peter Guzman ‘20, and he definitely agreed with me about the need to learn how to “adult.” “For me, as cliché as it might be, it was figuring how to work the laundry machine,” he said with a grin. “I was attempting to put the detergent into the laundry, but instead I dropped 16 washes of Tide over my clothes, my white shoes and all over the floor. I guess it’s a good thing my mom gave me 92 washes worth of Tide.”
Like Peter, I realize that the moments when I learn the most important lessons about how to function in college are not my finest. It took many mornings spent in a towel outside my dorm room as I got the “what a freshman” look from upperclassmen to learn to never forget my keys when I went to the shower.
However, for other friends, the learning curve was a bit more serious: learning to not cross their limits when it came to alcohol. One of them asserted, “Drinking was fun, and it definitely let me let loose a bit. But there was a point where I realized I was just testing my limits. And that was definitely something I regretted later in the night. But at least through this experience, I have learned that 12 shots before Eurotrash is not something I plan to do again.” And that is one of the best mentalities that you can have as a freshman in college. If something works, keep doing it. But if something or someone is hurting you in any way, drop it or them from your life.
But not all of the learning moments are bad. For instance, another one of my close friends, Hailey Wilson ’20, told me about how the food is almost as unique and varied as the people at Stanford. “Guess what they have at The Axe and Palm? Bacon on a Stick. Only at Stanford could they have bacon on a stick.”
Like bacon on a stick, there are so many incredibly small niches to learn about Stanford and make your own. Whether it’s finding a spot in the GSB where you can study, or finding a quicker bike route to make it to your classes on time, learning about the school itself can make the place feel less like a summer camp and more of a home.
We are blessed to go to such an incredible school with D1 athletes, math geniuses, published authors and so much more. But as freshman that makes it easy to forget that you are only starting to learn how to “adult,” and that college is a time when everyone is learning how to “adult” too. Learning to live on your own and with your own responsibilities is a constant trial and error process.
So don’t beat yourself up if you end up getting a 10% on your first midterm that you spent weeks studying for. Take it as a positive learning experience and tell yourself that you learned what doesn’t work for you when it comes to studying. But also, give yourself a pat on the back if you learn how to Caltrain back and forth from Stanford to San Francisco. It might not seem like a big deal, but these are the types of lessons that teach you how to survive in the world as an adult.
The most important lesson I learned as a freshman so far? Yes, we go to Stanford, a school filled with mind-blowing athletes, intellectuals and future politicians. Yet like you, all of them also are learning how to assimilate into this entirely new environment.