By Debby-Esmeé de Vlugt
If you are a freshman, chances are that you have just changed your whole life around. After graduating from high school, you had to move away from home, make new friends, learn how to live on your own, and study at a much higher level than before. This can be quite overwhelming, but you are not alone.
As a third year student, I have been through all of this myself. I have been absolutely broke on several occasions, I have felt uncomfortable around new people, and more than once have I woken up at four at night to study for a test. There are issues that every student at UCR runs into at some point, and I would like to give you a heads up by telling you about the things I wish I knew as a freshman at UCR.
In the Roosevelt community, you are always around your classmates, neighbors, and friends. This can be quite overwhelming at first, because not everyone automatically feels comfortable around new people. The most important things to remember are to take alone time sometimes, and to be yourself. Everyone here is a little weird, and I cannot think of anyone who is not accepted for who they are. I remember being very intimidated by other students in my first semester, but I now realize that everyone is different and this is what makes UCR such an interesting place!
Work Hard, Play Hard
Each IntRoweek, our Dean talks about the famous three fish: one for academics, one for social life, and one for sleep. This story will be repeated several times during your years in Middelburg, and there is a good reason for this. As a senior, I can assure you that you will go crazy if you only focus on your studies. You definitely need to work hard, but everyone needs to blow off steam sometimes, which is why RASA organizes so many events and parties throughout the semester. Your mind and body need some time to relax. Besides, college memories are some of the best, and you do not want your main one to be that project that you put too much effort into.
Planning your time can be extremely difficult, especially when you are trying to juggle a dozen tasks a day. You have received a study planner on the Convocation Day, and I strongly suggest using it actively in the year to come – it could save your academic career at UCR. Students who have dropped out in the past have often declared that it was too difficult for them to organize their to-do’s and extracurricular activities. If you want to prevent this, you should take a look at the workshops that are organized by the Study Skills Center this semester. In addition, it would be smart to make a three-year planning once you know which tracks you want to follow. Ask your tutor about this, or make one yourself by creating a list of courses to take per semester using the Provisional Long-Term Course Offerings document and the Graduation Flowchart. However, do keep in mind that this planning could change, as certain courses might be cancelled, time slots might clash, or you could experience a change of interests.
Watch Your Wallet
If you have never lived on your own before, it can be challenging to manage your own money. You might end up with €0.17 left in your bank account if you are not careful enough, which is something I had to learn the hard way. A useful tip is to buy your text books on the UCR Book Bazaar page, and to try to sell them again when the semester is over. Borrowing them from the library could sometimes also be a good option, but you cannot keep these books forever. For parties, Elliott is the cheapest spot, for home essentials like cleaning products and kitchenware you could best go to Action, and Albert Heijn Basic products are the cheapest pantry staples. Another idea is to take a look at the list of places where you get a special RASA discount.
It is very easy to be carried away by the workload and active social life that you are pulled into as soon as you start your studies here. We only have fifteen weeks of class per semester, but this will seem endless if you are not able to enjoy yourself. Never be afraid to ask for help when you need it: we are all in this together, and you are part of a community that wants to see you thrive.
Debby-Esmeé de Vlugt, Class of 2016, is a social history, religious studies, and philosophy major from Harderwijk, the Netherlands.