Rock your first year; learn from my mistakes


Photo credit: Kaitlyn Curry

Hey, opinion section! I’m Kara, an incoming junior getting ready to send in some distant thoughts from Edinburgh, Scotland, where I’ll be studying abroad this semester. But before that, I want to talk a little about Trinity. Though things are going much better nowadays, I was a lonely, lost kid my first year. Here are five mistakes I made as a first year so you don’t have to.

1. I didn’t join an organization I was passionate about until sophomore year.

In order to develop strong college friendships, you need to find ways to work with people for many hours toward a shared goal — preferably a goal you care about a lot. This means you should either throw yourself passionately into an intense, group-focused class or join something.

Trinity students make friends rushing fraternities or sororities, practicing for theater productions, slaving away on engineering group projects, or even getting involved with political groups on campus. I got close with people by staying up all night designing newspaper pages with them in a small, windowless basement. By far my biggest regret in college so far is not joining the Trinitonian earlier.

Working together will inevitably heed friendship. Especially if there are all-nighters involved.

2. I prioritized relationships over friendships.

Look, I’m not going to lie: Trinity is a great place to find cute humans. Many of these cute humans are also kind, bright, ambitious and warm.

You’ll probably fall in love at least once while you’re here, but don’t forget that if you spend all your time on one person, you might miss out on the amazing friendships you could be developing with the other wonderful people Trinity has to offer. This advice is especially relevant during orientation and the first few weeks of classes. Don’t allow a relationship to become your whole life before you make friends.

3. I was intimidated by people who were smarter than me.

Speaking of falling in love, a big reason I picked Trinity was how articulate and intelligent the students seemed. Upon coming here though, I found myself intimidated by those smart students — and as a first year, I never thought of myself as one of them.

There were perfectly kind, generous, amazing people who irrationally intimidated me. I could have easily tried to talk to them, but I didn’t have the self-confidence.

Here’s a message from current me to past me, and to the class of 2022: You deserve to be here! You were chosen from a giant pool of applicants to come to an awesome school. You are capable of so much. Life is too short not to talk to the girl who makes smart comments in Literary Methods.

4. I believed the liberal arts haters.

You know the ones — those people who hear you’re an English major, ask if you want to be a teacher, and then stare at you like you’re from Mars when you say, “No, I actually don’t know what I want to do yet.”

When I was a first-year, others seemed to suspect I was doomed career-wise. So, I thought I was doomed career-wise.

I think my first-year self would be shocked — but happy — to learn that by the end of sophomore year, I’ve worked as an English tutor, edited a national literary journal, interned at a startup accelerator, and reported and edited for the Trinitonian.

Job prospects exist for all liberal arts majors: You just have to work hard and keep looking.

5. I thought I couldn’t befriend professors.

Don’t get me wrong: There’s a balance to be struck here, and you’re not going to befriend your chemistry prof in the same way you’d befriend your roommate. Still, I was misguided as a first year by internet advice columns saying you’d better be as formal as possible when emailing your professor for the first time.

Those pieces of advice are for the average UT student in a 500-person lecture hall, but you are at Trinity, and there are maybe 12 people in your FYE class. I guarantee your professors know who you are, even if you’re quiet. You probably don’t have to introduce yourself in an email, or spend 30 minutes crafting an absolutely perfect one.

As your Trinity career goes on, don’t be shocked when your professor sends you an article you might like, loans you a book, asks you to babysit her kids, commissions a piece of art from you or even offers solid life advice.

You’re just not going to be invisible at Trinity. People will care about you here. Welcome home.