Say hello and learn from those who have made it

Cleveland in Color

Welcome, undergraduate Class of 2019. Family and friends have been giving you well-intentioned undergraduate advice since your senior year of high school. By now you’ve received a number of diverse synopses—everything from offhand warnings to young love advice to precautionary reassurances. As a current graduate student at Case Western Reserve University and an undergraduate CWRU alumnus, I have a plethora of dos and don’ts to tell you. You might be an graduate student like me by the time you learn all the lessons of undergraduate life at CWRU. That’s natural, that’s how it is supposed to work. There are some that you need to learn now, that you need to grasp quickly and many that some realize only in their upperclassmen years or even afterward. Let me help you get a head start on navigating what will quickly become the best four years of your life.

Your Brain is a Sponge

Learn. Don’t kid yourself into thinking you are only here to build a network and get wasted on weekends. Learn all that you can and befriend your professors—they will come to be the hip, wise friends you always wanted.

At the same time, remember that people’s eyes aren’t on you. No one here is judging. In fact, the friends you make during your undergraduate career will be the most accepting, spontaneous group of people you’ll meet. And frankly, most of your classmates won’t know who you are. What a great opportunity to try something you would have never tried back in the day. If you were a jock in high school, no one here knows. So join Swing Dance club, attend a slam poetry performance and grab a coffee with that quiet international student in your calculus class. You’ll be glad you did. Few venues offer the diversity that undergraduate does.

That being said, if you’re still down, research around. There’s never a better time to roll up your sleeves and slap on some nitrile gloves. Getting into research groups early will make for a great resume if you intend to apply for graduate programs or internships later on.

Check, not Wreck, Yourself

Your body isn’t your punching bag. Your mega metabolism may be ballin’ the first few years of college, but don’t expect pizza to nourish your new undergraduate bod. Take care of your body, make healthy decisions and don’t resort to all-nighters whenever you have an exam or a paper due. Trust us—taking an hour after class to study throughout the week will bode well. Waiting for the last minute makes for crabby students, stress acne and poor exam scores.

You’re in school, not jail. Live a little. Go out during a weeknight. Get dinner with your friends. Go to events that make you laugh. And don’t forget to believe in the “Cleve.” Cleveland has so much to offer outside of University Circle; make sure you have a buddy system or a ride and go out to explore the wonderful hotspots in Cleveland. These are the moments you’ll remember when you graduate—not that you scored a 95 percent on that organic chemistry exam after locking yourself in your room for three weeks.

Staying in your room for that long is not hygienic; and just as importantly, it likely also means you forgot to call home. Keep mom and pop on speed dial. You’ll be surprised how much you miss your parents, so make it a habit to call them often. It is important to keep your ties to home strong, to remember where you came from and to permit your parents to feel as though they are a part of your forthcoming adulthood. They raised you, after all. Don’t be shy to ask for their advice.

Friendships for Forever

Don’t make shitty friends. If you feel as though a new friend is not giving you the respect you deserve, they are not your friend. Don’t spend your precious youth attempting to make them “see” you. Seriously, if they’re worth your time, they’ll see you for who you are without you putting on a show. Don’t let anyone make you feel poorly about what’s in your soul. You are beautiful and you deserve people who know it.

That also means that when it comes to parties, don’t party with losers. Along those same lines, don’t party with people you don’t know. This goes for girls and boys alike. Go to parties with friends and don’t trust people you met yesterday. If you go to a party and don’t feel safe, leave. There are a million great people here at CWRU—but there are also bad people too, and as the youngest members of our campus, freshmen can be at risk in the wrong scenarios.

Not satisfied? Then shut up. Don’t complain about where you are. Not only does it make you less likely to enjoy your life, it keeps people away or invites other misery to join you. You are so lucky to be studying here. Wake up every morning with gratitude in your heart (even if your roommate snores like a train). You aren’t in Kansas anymore. Doesn’t matter if you’re from Kansas or not, your university years are designed to yank you from your comfort zone and shake you down to your bare frame. You’ll learn so much about yourself that you’ll feel like you’re taking a crash course in identity every day. The best part is that you’re thoroughly in love with the person you find at the end.

Sarah Jawhari is a biweekly columnist for the Observer.