Zora wrote a really beautiful, honest blog post this week that left me inspired to be a little more forthright in this week's post. While I've tried to make this blog "real" and to not sugarcoat anything, I have also tried to paint Luther in a really good light - it is the Admissions department that I work for, after all. While I don't at all want to take back anything I've said (I love Luther! Come here!), I think there is a beauty in the truthfulness and authenticity that these student blogs are and have the potential of becoming. So, this week, I'm going to write about what it is like to be a sophomore at Luther College (based on my own experience).
1. Thank God I'm not a first-year any more.
The first year of college kind of really sucks (again, see Zora's post for a more recent perspective). The first part of the year feels like some weird sleep-away camp where you have freedom from your parents but you still have to follow the authority of your RAs and professors. You have to work the on-campus jobs that no upperclassmen want to take (except me -- I got lucky). You have to learn where, and how, and how much, to study for your classes. You feel some kind of external peer pressure to have the rest of your life planned out -- and everyone else on your floor wants to become a doctor (not that you really know anyone else on your floor). You feel the need to latch on to people and hang out with them, not so much because you really like them or want to be friends with them, you just don't want to be that one kid who is by herself all the time. Also, you have to go to Paideia three times a week, limiting what classes you can take in your schedule.
2. I can study abroad!
I left the subzero Iowan winter and headed across the world to the Middle East to study borders and identity for the month of January. I rode a camel, met the Canadian Prime minister, ate like it was Thanksgiving at a Shabbat dinner, climbed a few mountains, prayed in a mosque, walked the Via Dolorosa, and went snorkeling in the Red Sea. I also had some of the most interesting discussions of my entire college career, learned about cultures totally different from my own, and had time to reflect on how I identify myself and how/if I identify with a religion. I met some of the nicest people in the entire world who I likely wouldn't have met otherwise, and we continue to hang out this semester. ... I also got four credits for doing this.
3. I made peace with not knowing (at least most of the time).
When I started at Luther, I was pre-accepted into the Nursing program. There was a security in that - I would be able to find a job with a four-year degree, and I could do a huge variety of things with this degree in the field. By second semester of my first year, I was really sure I didn't want to be a Nurse any more, but I hesitated to let go as then I would be one of those kids who doesn't know what they're doing with their life. Finally, I mustered up the courage to change my concentration of study on what I'm actually really interested in - the mind body connection - and I started taking classes in the Psychology and Dance departments. I still have no idea what I'm going to do with this, but I know whatever it is, I'll be way happier than I would be hooking someone up to an IV every day.
4. I made friends with upperclassmen.
While I loved that Luther made a huge effort to create this community amongst first year students, I was frustrated that within my major I never really interacted with students older than me. Paideia was entirely first-years, my choir was entirely first-years, the religion class I took was only for first-years, and all of the Nursing courses were for first-years. I also had to take a lot of "Intro to ..." classes, which generally have a lot of younger students in them. This year, I have most of those courses out of the way, and I'm noticing more and more that I'm hanging out with students who are grades above and below mine -- and I'm really happy about that. (Especially being a 21-year-old sophomore and finally having friends on campus who are also legal).
5. I brought a car to campus, and subsequently got off campus a lot.
A car is 100% not necessary at Luther, but I brought one this year as I would be going back to Minnesota once a month for my yoga teacher training. However, my life totally opened up by having a car accessible all the time. For example, running out of shampoo isn't quite as tragic, and the cafeteria doesn't get as monotonous when you can go out to eat more frequently. While I absolutely adore Luther and its beautiful campus, getting away from it once and awhile has made me appreciate being on campus much more.
6. Grades don't seem to matter as much.
None of my friends seem quite as uptight about their grades as we were our first year. Yes, we all want to do well and to have our GPAs reflect that, but I've noticed that while we're at Luther longer, we're realizing that there's more to college and to life than what's going to appear on your transcript. We're here to learn, and you can learn in a variety of ways, inside and outside the classroom. The goal should be learning in every sense, not achieving that "A". (... I still want that "A", though, let me tell you). Trying to keep this perspective has made the year a lot less stressful for me and a lot of my peers.
7. Classes are harder.
Do you want to take Organic Chemistry? Neither do I, but a lot of sophomores do. You're also expected to write research papers for classes where they don't build it into class time for an entire month like Paideia does (cruelty!). ... Maybe this is the real reason why we don't care so much about grades...
8. The dorms are better.
Never again will I have to wade through the flooded floors of the Ylvi showers. (I hope the architect who designed two shower stalls with one shared drain didn't graduate from Luther...)
9. My roommate is my favorite.
I could not ask for a better person to live with. She and I are very close friends and share a lot of mutual friends, but we also both have other groups of friends and do other things on our own. We watch movies together, have roomie backrub/cuddle time before bed, talk after the lights are out, and eat the yummy food the each other's mom sent us. She also leaves me really cute notes on my desk and lets me borrow her clothes. Having a roommate like this makes college so much better.
10. Thank God I'm not a first-year any more.
Honestly, it sometimes amazes me that I got through that freshman year. It definitely wasn't all bad, but it definitely was one of the hardest times of my life thus far. But I trekked through the mud, and it's beautiful on the other side.
You'll get there, friends. You'll get there.