BostonNU guest column: Experience: the best teacher

Two scratched wooden chairs, a semi-varnished kitchen table and a ready-to-be-stocked mini-fridge are hoisted up onto a second floor balcony on Symphony Road.’

‘I don’t think I can hook up my Xbox to this,’ yells one resident as he tilts an impossibly large TV sideways to fit through the propped-open door. It’s that time of year again: ‘ move-in day. A quintessential rite of passage among all college students, not to mention a particularly rigorous endeavor in one of the most densely populated academic cities in the nation.

Recent high school graduates have traveled from all over the country to arrive at the greatly anticipated next chapter of their lives. This four-, or at Northeastern, five-year interval of critical decisions and abundant pressures between hall passes and ‘the real world’ is known simply as college. And the anticipation is killer. It’s not until you arrive at the iron gates of your destination that you begin on your autonomous journey down the path of academic growth, social interaction and monumental self-discovery.

You’re at a university to obtain a degree, right? As it’s the central reason for your attendance, this is the most crucial area of your life right now. Like many ambivalent undergraduates, when I first got to college, I had no idea what I wanted to study. Setting up a schedule of seemingly permanent classes around an ambiguous major can be daunting. It’s best to keep in mind that right now, nothing is set in stone. (That is, except the husky statue greeting all new co-eds in Ell Hall.)

As the semesters continue, utilize the help of your academic adviser to tailor your course load according to your field of study. And although this should go without saying, I’ve found it’s completely necessary to actually go to class. Sometimes attendance is mandatory and sometimes it isn’t, but your physical presence in a classroom is essential. And believe me, I know it’s hard, and that snoozing through that dreaded 8 a.m. class always sounds more appealing.

So what happens after you’ve made it out the door, sat in your morning class and are ready to re-enter your room? At home, you probably relax in relative solitude, but in college, you’re considered lucky to have your own side of a shared bedroom. Compromise with your roommate and communicate about your living styles early. And always bring flip-flops for the shower.’

Are you the messy roommate with macaroni and cheese crusted onto a bowl under your bed like I was? Do you need loud music and chaos surrounding your books to study, or do you prefer complete silence and seclusion? Striking a balance will make a potentially uncomfortable transition feel more natural, and subsequently, more livable. This should eradicate the infamous roommate horror stories you’ve heard from disgruntled upperclassmen.

By now, the first day of classes has passed and it’s nearing the weekend. At once, you’re inundated with options to kick-start your two days free of academic obligations. So, what to do with all of this free time? Being safe and strategic about college weekend-life will allow you to have fun and steer clear of precarious situations. Engaging in social interactions is a valid and necessary part of a complete college experience. And rightfully so: ‘ We work too hard to sit in on the weekends, right? Fill your spare time with extracurricular activities, student facilitated groups and volunteer organizations as a way to feel connected and meet people with similar interests. When nighttime rolls around, travel in pairs or large groups of people ‘- be safe and rational. Believe me, you don’t want to be the person wandering around the city at 2 a.m. who lost her friends and dorm key hours ago. And in college, it’s good to remember, a reputation is easy to get and hard to lose.

When I was a freshman, there were a few things no one told me but I wish I had known. I’ll fill you in without that ‘I told you so’ mentality. First, don’t buy your books until you go to the first class. You might buy the wrong edition, overpay, or maybe even both. And the $110 ‘used book’ price tags don’t ease the pain. It’s better to wait.’

Second, stock up on quarters if you don’t get Laundry Bucks. I have gone for weeks with dirty laundry piling up in my room because I didn’t have any change. Also, if you want to actually fit into your freshly laundered clothes, find time to exercise. They don’t call it the ‘Freshman 15′ for nothing. Take a walk around Boston, join a heart-pumping on-campus workout class, anything to stay active. Your heart (and head) will thank you.’

And lastly, don’t procrastinate. Like the two students distraught over the chance their Xbox might not work, there are infinite distractions in college. By prioritizing your time smartly, you will get the most enjoyment out of your semesters. A senior honors student once told me, ‘study hard so you can play hard.’ And isn’t that what college is really all about? It’s worked for me ever since.

‘- Hanna Trudo is a junior journalism major.

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