Passing the Torch to First-Year Students


Alissa Van Dress

Copy Editor Alissa Van Dress discusses her freshmen year and what she learned from her experiences.

Alissa Van Dress, Copy Editor

Some of us refer to our college as a “home away from home.” By some of us, I mainly mean myself. But, why don’t we just call it our home? After all, it is a place where many of us eat, sleep, and live. What makes us afraid to call it our new residence? 

For starters, I am what you might call a “dweller of the past.” Change, for me, is hard to welcome with open arms. I accept and acknowledge the significance of change within my life, but I still can’t let go of what was. I catch myself preferring the past over the present and even the future.

As I am now going into my second year at John Carroll University, I have learned so much about how normal it is to undergo change, even on a daily basis. While it may be daunting, change evokes knowledge and fosters a capacity for personal growth. 

Although I recently learned that change should not be feared, I wish I had more guidance coming into college as a starry-eyed freshman. To provide insight for myself and for this article, I researched some tips that I didn’t know prior to my freshman year to help the incoming first-year students in their leap of independence.

A galvanizing article in The Atlantic includes sixteen useful lessons for college students starting their departure away from home. The author writes, “in this phase of life, you will sometimes think your inner dramas are more compelling than, say, the light in the trees, or the pink-streaked sky, but you are wrong.” 

It sounds so strange to admit, but this sentence resonated with me deeply. I have noticed a growing admiration for the little things in life like nature walks in a park, spending time with family, or simply hanging out in a friend’s dorm room and talking for hours. Sometimes, your head gets lost in all of the craziness of studying and deadlines that you forget to enjoy the world and absorb its beauty. 

When I find myself getting stressed to the point of having tunnel vision and disregarding the little things previously mentioned, the only remedy for me is to pause, take a deep breath and become engrossed in something else. We are taught to limit all distractions. However, some are necessary to clear your mind. Some liberate your soul.

With that being said, go take therapeutic walks around campus, work out in the Corbo fitness center, dance in your dorm room like no one is watching, sit in lawn chairs in the main quad with friends, attend football games at Shula stadium, etc. Whatever helps you relax, take those breaks and take care of yourself. Listen to your limits.

Finally, the article also gives another universal piece of advice that I know I will carry with me for the remaining years: “Even when you are stressed about an exam…try to appreciate the onetime splendor of being immersed in friends… having nothing expected of you from the universe but reading and thinking and arguing and expanding your known world.” 

College is truly magical. We are able to focus on our journey and go after our goals. We can pursue new hobbies and continue old ones as our worldview magnifies and our purpose becomes clear. There is so much to do in college besides the typical hardcore studying that comes to mind and JCU encourages us to explore the eclectic paths that pique our interest.

While it is easy to get distracted from your goals in a college environment that is prone to change, JCU is a home to where many students are proud to belong. If you think you are veering off your path, JCU’s loving community is here to bump you back on track. The counseling center located in Dolan Hall is a great place to seek guidance. They understand that we are trying to piece our life together at this young age and they don’t expect us to go through that alone. They want to help us while still allowing room for independent growth. 

This university is full of new faces, friends and family waiting to meet you. Embrace the changes and promise yourself that you will learn from them. Once you do, this transformative time may bring a lot more serendipity than before.