Don’t rush your individual experience or make long term decisions before you are ready.

Whether you’re from halfway across the nation or here in Nashville, entering a new environment with people you’ve never met brings a tidal wave of new experiences. If you go about it the right way, you’ll have several years to explore and experience with the people you meet. If you rush the experience, you might end up hindering other things in your life, such as your grades, and your time at Vanderbilt could be cut short.

You may find yourself thinking “let me do this before classes get harder”. This is perfectly fine. Go out with your friends, go to parties, go explore the city, but be mindful of the balance of work and fun. You may be able to balance your time as fifty percent fun and fifty percent work, but as you go through the year, this balance will need to change accordingly to fit your schedule. Identify when you need to reel yourself back in. Yes, the fear of missing out is real, but there are only so many ideas and plans to make before they are recycled. Maybe you missed a certain party, but the exact same one will come back around.

During your first year, you will also be given the opportunity to make decisions that could affect you for years to come. Choose them wisely. Whether it’s a relationship, organization, fraternity/sorority, or even your major, do not be afraid to take your time or to change your mind. Make choices based off of your happiness, interests, and needs. The expectations and choices of others should not control your decisions. If you like someone in the beginning and they begin to annoy or bother you, don’t feel pressured to date them. Regardless of what your friends say or how much the individual has done for you, you are not obligated to be with someone. If you feel like you hate certain classes that are specific to your major, determine whether or not you can handle doing it your entire life. It’s tempting to choose majors that will pay well or look good. But if it does not make you happy and you are not passionate about it, will you be able to work to your best potential? Be sure to talk to people with different perspectives and weigh the pros and cons before making life changing decisions.

Take care of yourself

Between the stress of classes, maintaining friendships, keeping up with those back home, sleep, and anything else that life decides to throw at you, you have to find a way to balance and keep yourself healthy. Make sure you are eating, sleeping, and handling your stress in healthy ways. Although it is necessary to sacrifice sleep to complete work, ensure that you are not sacrificing meals or your health. In order for your body and mind to perform at its highest, you must provide yourself with energy it can use. Don’t cut out exercising or healthy food in exchange for energy drinks. The way you treat your body will reflect in its performance. There may be times where you have to miss class to take care of yourself. Regardless of whether or not your professors excuse sick days, you should take time to rest if you are sick or seek professional help.

If you end up struggling in any way, go to the Student Health Center for your physical health or the University Counseling Center for your mental health. Ditch the stigma of therapy and try to go to a few appointments at the UCC. No one has to know you’re going or why you are. The UCC has expanded to accommodate the amount of students that go each year, therefore I can guarantee you that the people you know or look up to have seeked help through the UCC. Another resource is the Center for Student Wellbeing, which provides skill building workshops, areas to meditate, recovery support services, and many more. To find more information about these resources, you can visit https://www.vanderbilt.edu/healthydores/.

Your first friend group is not your last.

Your friend group might stay the same throughout your time in college, but if it doesn’t, it is okay. Some of the friends you gain your first year might not be where you fit best. You don’t have to be best friends with your roommate or the people you meet the first few weeks.  Having a buddy to be with you is comforting when you are entering a room full of people you don’t know, but it is not a necessity. At some point, you have to just go for it, even if you have to go alone. If your friends are not interested in an event, but you are, go. Meet people at that event that share a common interest. Always put your needs as an individual first and trust your gut. If your friends are going out to a place you are not comfortable with, don’t go.

Although we are all individuals, your friend group could be a reflection of you. Be mindful of the values you share or do not share with your friends. Other students, professors, and campus faculty might take notice of your friend group and how you all interact. If you ever find yourself surrounded by people you are no longer comfortable with, do not hesitate to separate yourself from them. It might be unsettling to lose company, but you will quickly find others who can be real friends to you. Sometimes a few close friends are better than twenty distant ones.

There are three more tips I would like to share. They will be presented in the next issue. Until then, enjoy the beginning of your first year

By Alaysha Harden