Last week was my fifth “first week of school” — I’ve made it to junior year. Now the cacophony of construction around campus, the revolutionary handing out newspapers by the escalators, and the frantic commuters bumping into one another off the bus stops all bring to me a comforting familiarity.
But I can easily forget that for many others, the UIC campus environment is entirely foreign territory.
“The freshman transition is pretty difficult,” said Ciana Clinton, a freshman and member of the UIC track and field team.
Clinton moved to Chicago this summer from the Bay Area. I was humored by the all-too-real first-year struggles she has already encountered last week.
“I really don’t understand the ‘syllabus,’ or where to find it,” she said. I replied with a quiet, but concerned, “Oh, no.”
“And it has been weird trying to figure out what to do with my free time between classes,” she said.
Acknowledging how every minute we have matters, she still finds difficulty in figuring exactly how to use that time effectively. Clinton said finding time to eat has become a challenge in the midst of adapting to all the newness.
I enjoyed listening to Clinton talk, because looking at my own experience in retrospective, these worries have all worked themselves out rather well. Syllabus and class structure is now second nature to me. I can successfully navigate UH elevators, I know where BSB is, and I don’t even need to think twice about accessing all my class documents on Blackboard.
However, I am learning that every year brings about a whole new set of pressures and anxieties. Now that I’m responsible for developing multiple research projects, working a job, searching for an internship and dreaming for the future of the criminal justice system, adapting to new classes and being on campus this semester is quite honestly the very least of my worries.
But the beautiful part of talking with Clinton made me realize something that has brought me a sense of peace now looking at my current fears:
When I started college two years ago, every thing I initially found overwhelming and challenging has now become so normalized that I barely recognize it as an obstacle anymore. I survived and thrived two years, and most of the time I had no idea what I was doing. I just asked a lot of questions, and did it anyway. We, as college students, are in a constant state of refinement. Although Clinton’s current worries seem easily resolvable from my perspective, I cannot diminish the challenge she is currently facing, because I am also confused, just in a different way. But we’re in the same boat.
“I think I’m going to end up doing well this semester though, I just need help and patience and willingness to keep going when I experience failure,” Clinton said.
It is absolutely crucial to our success as students to be OK with not allowing “not knowing” how to do something from hold us back from figuring it out along the way. While I quite honestly have no idea how to go about finishing my current research project, I have a whole department of faculty who are able to help me figure this out. While I have no idea how I am going to stay awake during my evening stats class this semester, if I survived an 8 a.m. last semester, I can do this. I will do this.
In a state of humility and acknowledgement that I, a junior in college, definitely don’t have it all together, I hope you feel confident in this reaffirmation that we are all in this together. Therefore, may this semester, Fall 2018, be the semester for asking for help when needed and being confident in our ability to learn and grow because, hey, we’ve made it this far.