First-Year Focus: Full steam ahead

Coming to terms with the end of our first year


Rachel Wei

Giant tour groups stroll around campus, wide-eyed, and attentive. Carrying their white Barnes & Noble gift bags filled with brochures boasting of Vanderbilt’s amazing academics, status as having the happiest students and a campus that doubles as an arboretum. Occasionally, a trio composed of a nervous aspiring Vanderbilt student flanked by both parents tries to blend into the rest of campus, acting like they are not scrutinizing all the students going about their day.

As the end of the year dawns, many first-years, including myself, are having a hard time growing accustomed to the idea that we will soon no longer be on Commons. It’s funny how eager most of us were to become sophomores in high school, but are now desperately clinging onto our status as first-years in college. We’ve grown to love our isolated part of campus that cushioned the transition to college and most of us now genuinely call home.

Hearing high school friends getting into schools, seeing MOSAIC students wandering around campus and hordes of tour groups storming the grounds, has really brought home the fact that it will soon be time for us first-years to move on. Faced with registering for upperclassmen housing, many first-years were forced to seriously consider who they wanted to still hang out with and be friends with moving forward. With class registration opening soon, and the summer upon us, it’s time to accept that our first year is coming to an end.

Coming to terms with the end of our first year doesn’t have to be all nostalgia and tears; all things must come to an end. I think many of us have had enjoyable, challenging and eye-opening first- year, so I’m excited to see what’s ahead for sophomore year. Looking ahead to the end of this school year and the year ahead, we should use everything that we’ve learned this year, especially challenging experiences, to power our transition to becoming upperclassmen.

Becoming upperclassmen can feel like a second challenging college transition, according to many. Being scattered across main campus, without our comforting, isolated Commons to return to every night can be scary. Taking a full intermediate course load can also be an additional transition. Finding new organizations to join, or vying for leadership positions within current organizations can also be a challenge.

Despite the challenging aspects of our year ahead, I’m confident that many of us have had impactful experiences this year that have allowed us to grow into more confident, competent and autonomous individuals. Think of what scared you coming into college. Was it not ruining your clothes in the laundry? Or, not being able to find where Wilson Hall was? Perhaps it was not having a single other person from your high school here with you at Vandy.

Thinking back to our fears coming into college, and how we were able to overcome them with flying colors can be a great encouragement moving forward. We have the skills necessary to succeed, and will continue to gain additional skills through future experiences and challenges. We are more than ready for the upcoming year and all it has to offer. Meanwhile, we can kick back (as much as exams allow) and savor our last few weeks as first-years on Commons.