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Shejuti’s guide to making the most of your first year

This past week, a quick glance around Northside might have felt overwhelming. You might have noticed many teary-eyed parents prolonging their goodbyes, flocks of eager first-years trying to mask their enthusiasm with nonchalance and the overjoyed reunions of upperclassmen returning to campus. Intense emotions always permeate Case Western Reserve University’s campus during orientation, and the excitement at the start of the semester is often inescapable.

The anxiety might also feel just as inescapable for a first-year. After all, it can be difficult to adjust to such a completely different stage of life. This might be many students’ first time away from home, and with that comes the burdens of independent living—planning meals, balancing alone time with social time and even doing laundry. With all there is to adapt to, it’s vital to narrow things down and focus on what is most important to you.

To make that easier, I’ve compiled “Shejuti’s guide to making the most of your first year.” Of course, everyone’s CWRU experience will be different, and what a first-year political science major wants to get out of their four years may be entirely different from that of a biomedical engineering student. However, these pieces of advice are hopefully universal to a great college experience, and they can serve as gentle reminders to do what is best for you.  

Join meaningful clubs

Most students understand the usefulness of clubs for finding friends and gaining leadership experience, which are essential. What I have found to be more important, however, is the fact that clubs are a way of avoiding burnout and finding things to love beyond academics. This is your chance to break out of the toxic high school mindset of doing what could have been impactful work just to put it on your resume. I have found that the activities you couldn’t imagine not being involved with—like The Observer—despite a busy schedule, are the ones that occupy your time in the most fulfilling way. Find something you care about, whether it’s journalism, henna or letterboxing, and your time here will instantly become more enjoyable. 

Be open to making friends with everyone

You don’t want to be stuck with the first group you see just because you’re afraid no one else will want to be friends with you. There are so many incredible people to meet at this school, all from different backgrounds and walks of life. It’s okay to branch out, it’s okay to meet people from a new group and it’s okay to hang out with two separate groups that might be at odds with each other. The beauty of college is in being able to hang out with whom you want—you have a choice. Make your choices based on whomever you genuinely enjoy being around. The friend group dynamics and circles will fall into place afterward. 

Schedule your alone time

Maybe it’s because I’m an introvert, but sometimes college life can get tiring. It’s easy to get caught up in the chaos of Discovery Week, immediately followed by classes and constantly figuring out how to balance a social life with academics. But even a meal alone at Leutner Commons can be enough time to reflect and regroup yourself. The more you schedule your alone time based on your own needs and level of extraversion, the less likely you are to become overwhelmed and overburdened as the year progresses.

Seek out mentors

They’re not just your professors, and they’re everywhere. From your Orientation Leaders and the peer tutor you always end up with, to the random upperclassman you befriend who happens to be in your major, there is always someone at CWRU who has experienced whatever big, scary situation you’re facing. And if they don’t understand your exact situation, they might know someone who does. Don’t be afraid to seek advice, and the more comfortable you become with interacting with these mentors, the more opportunities you’ll find offered to you.

Find your balance

I know it’s an incredibly vague last piece of advice, but I think it’s the secret to everything in college and a great recap of everything in this guide. 

Everyone says college is about finding yourself. With that comes finding what your mind and body need to enjoy your time here and to achieve your goals. Do you need a lot of friends, or do you prefer a close few? Which clubs are right for you? Will getting involved in a lot motivate you, or will it stretch you too thin? How much alone time will allow you to refresh but avoid entering an existential crisis? Is studying for hours sustainable for you, or do you need social breaks in between? These are questions you will definitely not be able to answer in your first few weeks, and I’ll be honest, I still haven’t answered a lot for myself. But even just reflecting on them brings you closer to that perfect balance, and each day you’ll “find yourself” a little more. Good luck Class of 2027, and welcome to CWRU.

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About the Contributor
Shejuti Wahed
Shejuti Wahed, Social Media Content Creator & Video Editor
Shejuti Wahed (she/her) is a third-year student studying neuroscience and psychology and minoring in bioethics. She loves making videos and writing for The Observer, but you’ll also find her organizing her ultra-specific Spotify playlists, making breakfast food for dinner and giving out hugs to everyone in sight.

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