What I Wish I Knew as a Freshman

College is a time of big changes in your life, and those changes can be both pleasant and absolutely miserable. For me, they were miserable.

I went to a small high school in Vermont, where I was the captain of the football and lacrosse teams and just an overall popular guy within the school and the community. Life was good for me; I had as many great friends as I could possibly ask for, and I was content with where I was.

When I rolled into college my freshmen year, I tried to be optimistic – for about a week – but not long after that, I started getting feelings of regret and loneliness.  Castleton was the absolute last place that I wanted to be. It was hard for me to leave my life, my family, and, more importantly, my best friends, who I had been with my whole life.  I spent that whole first year miserable and depressed. I went home every single weekend, trying my hardest not to leave my past life behind me.

Life since has gotten much better, all because of a few simple changes. These tips certainly will not be universally helpful, but if I can help even one person get through some hard times, I will feel better about my tough start.  

So that said, here are some things I wish I knew as a freshman:

You are not too cool to participate: This was a big one for me. I roomed with a friend from high school, so when the time came to participate in orientation events or activities put on by community advisors, I turned up my nose at the idea and refused to get out and do some events. I chose to just be with the person I knew best at school. I missed out on opportunities to meet new people and make friends by not participating in campus events.

Realize that college IS a new chapter in your life: As painful as it may be, high school is over, and you’ll be better off not trying to avoid that fact. Keep your great memories and hold them close, but it is time to go out and make some new ones!

Talk to someone: Alright… to be honest, I heard this from professors all the time especially in first-year-seminar, and I neglected to listen. Don’t be like me. Talk to someone. Whether it’s a friend, or a roommate, a professor, a CA, or even someone in the Wellness Center, I promise it will feel better if someone knows how you are feeling.

Make campus your home: Going home on the weekends is great. I still do it from time to time. But for me, each time I go home, it makes it harder for me to want to come back. So try to make your dorm as comfortable and as homelike as possible, and stay on campus on weekends. It is hard to get a college dorm to replace the place where you grew up, but the more at home you can feel at school, the better.

Evaluate your options: All colleges are different, college isn’t for everyone, and that is perfectly fine. Evaluate if Castleton is the place for you, and if it isn’t, try something new.

This is by no means a one-size-fits-all solution to a happy freshmen year. But if I had done these things, my first year here could have been much better.  

Take a deep breath, and just know that everything will be okay.

-Isaac Ryea

Isaac is a senior multidisciplinary studies major with a concentration in special education. In his spare time, he volunteers for Special Olympics.

 

 

 

 

Math, Music, and Mentoring: TRIO Star Jasmine Keefer

At one point, Jasmine Keefer didn’t know if she’d be able to attend college. Her parents didn’t have the resources to help her, and as first-generation college student, she found the financial aid maze bewildering. “If I wanted to go to school, I’d have to pay for it myself,” she says. She knew she’d have to work two jobs to pay for her tuition – and even then, affording college would be a struggle.

But when Jasmine arrived at Castleton University in Fall 2014, help was waiting. Through the Summer Transition Program (STP), a week-long program for new students, she grew comfortable on campus and formed firm friendships. She also connected with the Academic Support Center’s (ASC) full-time counselors. Kelley Beckwith, Director of Academic Services, helped Jasmine unravel the intricacies of financial aid. With the help of Kelley and Castleton’s Financial Aid officers, Jasmine found a way to pay for her education. She’d still have to work, but she could remain at Castleton and pursue her goal of becoming a teacher.

But Jasmine did more than stay at Castleton – she thrived. Today, Jasmine is a senior multidisciplinary studies major with a concentration in math and a 3.30 GPA. She is also earning a certificate in civic engagement. After graduation, she hopes to obtain a master’s degree in special education and eventually teach math in a K-6 school.

The breadth of Jasmine’s extracurricular involvement would be impressive even if she weren’t working two part-time jobs while studying full time. She plays trumpet in Castleton’s wind ensemble, jazz band, marching band, and spirit band. Since her sophomore year, she has also served as the treasurer for Phi Eta Sigma, a freshman honor society. Jasmine believes her activities complement her academic endeavors. “My passion is playing trumpet,” she says. “It doesn’t have anything to do with teaching, but it’s important to do something you love.”

While Jasmine’s academic prowess and time management skills are impressive, her personal warmth and dedication are even more remarkable. Since her first year, she has worked at the ASC as a learning center assistant, helping senior support staff with reception and special projects. “LCAs should be welcoming and knowledgeable about our department, and Jasmine has been wonderful in that regard,” says her supervisor. At Castleton, Jasmine has also served as a STP mentor, TRIO Texting mentor, and, most recently, STP lead mentor. As a mentor, Jasmine nurtures students with the same fears and struggles – financial, personal, and academic – she once faced. For Jasmine, that role doesn’t end once the program concludes. “The most satisfying thing has been maintaining relationships with mentees,” she says. “It’s cool students feel comfortable coming to me with problems.”

Jasmine’s dedication doesn’t just impress her fellow students. During her time at Castleton, she has earned the respect of faculty and staff. Becky Eno, academic counselor, has known Jasmine since she enrolled in Summer Transition three years ago. She admires Jasmine’s persistence. “Jasmine has faced financial and personal challenges every year,” Becky says. “Yet her determination to succeed, her work ethic, her willful resilience always triumph in the end. She is an inspiration.”

-Dorothy A. Dahm