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The Freshman Survival Guide: How To Make The Next Four Years The Best Of Your Life

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Dear Freshman,

I first want to start off by saying congratulations. Getting into college is a major accomplishment, and it’s one you should be proud of.

You have made it through four years of school, the micromanagement of teachers, the dreaded SAT/ACT the rules and regulations of living with your parents. Now, the time has come for what these past four years have been building towards: college.

These next four years will be an incredible, life-changing experience, but nothing will quite compare to your first year, or even your first couple of months going off to college and being in charge of yourself.

Nothing can really prepare you for what’s about to happen next. Once you kiss your crying mother on the cheek goodbye and give your father a hug, they will pull away in the family SUV and it’s going to hit you: “Holy SH*T I am on my own.”

As I said, nothing can really prepare you, but this is what I find to be the best blueprint for not overdoing it, not becoming overwhelmed and not failing out:

The Roommate

Meeting your freshman roommate may be one of the most nerve-racking experiences ever. What if he or she’s totally f*cking weird and praise Satan?

Don’t worry; we have all had those terrifying ideas about someone who will be sleeping four feet away from us. Hopefully, you have done the proper amount of Facebook stalking and you will not be placed in that situation, but if you do find yourself in an unfortunate circumstance, just take a deep breath; it is not the end of the world.

Whether God took a cookie-cutter and created the perfect roommate just for you or you have been placed with your polar opposite, you must establish rules to maintain a healthy relationship.

Love or hate your roommate, it’s still 50 percent your room and 50 percent his or hers. Establishing boundaries and good communication will ensure that you two will not kill each other.

This can be as simple as requesting him or her not blast music at 4:30 am on a Tuesday, or something to gain more privacy, such as placing an object on the door if you bring someone home from a party.

Dorm Living

Moving into a dorm for the first time presents plenty of opportunities to meet new people. You instantly have dozens of other like-minded young adults living in a close proximity to you. Some of these people you will like and some you will have no interest in befriending.

The important thing is that you attempt to befriend new people. You need to be open and outgoing, and in the first few weeks everyone is going to try and become friends with one another.

You are all in the same boat, starting from scratch. This is why you should go to the floor meeting the first day, scope it out and see if anyone’s worth your time.

Hang out in your room with the door open, and invite people in. If all else fails, you can just get really wasted one night in your hall; nine times out of 10 you’ll find someone else drunkenly stumbling around and become good friends with them.

Hookups

Sharing intimate moments with someone you barely know is a part of the college culture. With our generation, these encounters have become that much more casual.

A college “hookup” is an important part of the overall experience. Whether it’s your first time, or you consider yourself a seasoned vet, it gives you the ability to experience things you have only heard about on TV and in movies. You can seek out some of your deepest, darkest fantasies without the harsh judgment of others.

It’s important to remember a few things; college is not an endless sexual orgy. You must respect one another, and treat your partner with decency.

Most of you will be trying things for the first time, sharing new experiences and sensations with new people. Sex is a powerful thing and must not be treated solely as a game. Nothing would be worse than establishing a reputation three weeks in as the kid who gave a quarter of the people on his or her floor Chlamydia.

Clubs and Organizations

Chances are you are going to a university that is larger than your high school.

The amount of people on campus may seem overwhelming at times, but as contradictory as it may sound, you may even have a hard time meeting people because there are just so many.

Joining a club, or becoming a part of an organization is a great way to meet people with similar interests as you. Also, this can be a great thing to add to a résumé and a good way to give back to the community.

Most schools offer hundreds of different options. These options can range from joining a fraternity or sorority to becoming apart of the school’s Quidditch team (seriously, schools have Quidditch teams now).

Time Management

With so many new and exciting things going on, coupled with the fact your parents are no longer overseeing your every move, it can be very hard to be productive in a positive way.

Going to class, or actually paying attention in class can present itself as a challenging obstacle for many new freshmen. Of course, there are always going to be better things to do, but doing what you want is not always best, and what may be best is not always what you want.

You have to go to classes to stay in school; learning how to manage your time effectively is one of the hardest life lessons you will learn. Nothing will be more embarrassing than having to head back home after a year and transfer to a community college.

College is an unforgettable experience. It is a time to find yourself, and shape yourself into who you want to become. It will be overwhelming and exhausting. You will want to quit and give up at times, but I promise you, this will be the best four years of your life.

Enjoy every second you have, even the challenging parts. Before you know it, it’s all going to be over and you’ll be walking across the stage on graduation day.

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Why Every 20-Something Should Live Abroad At Least Once In Their Lifetime

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Going on vacations for a week is easy. Room service and free WiFi at the Ritz-Carlton is just a click away, if you have enough money.

You can hire a tour guide and sip cocktails at a poolside bar all you want, but it is difficult to immerse yourself in local cultures and get out of your comfort zone on short-term trips.

An extended period of time abroad, however, can help you grow into a better (and more employable) person.

Language skills
This one is pretty obvious: Being surrounded by native speakers and being forced to speak a foreign language on a daily basis can make a lot of difference.

You interact with locals every day, watched television shows, movies and read books in local languages.

The best part is that you will get to know the territory beyond what textbooks offered you back in college. You will have an opportunity to observe how locals engage with each other, instead of hearing an awkward-sounding, heavily edited tape.

A bigger food lexicon
You’ll meet dishes you would never imagine existing when you go to another country.

It will be difficult not to retreat back into familiar tastes of Burger King grilled chicken sandwiches and soda. It is a double-edged sword, however. After you leave the country, you will crave dishes that are hard to find in your home country.

But that’s what local cooking classes are for.

More empathy, less hate
From interacting with locals face-to-face, you’ll learn that you actually share a lot more in common with them than you thought. You’ll learn to treat them as humans with feelings and ideas rather than stereotypes.

If there is an earthquake halfway around the world, a military conflict or an outbreak of an epidemic disease, you call to see if your friends are doing fine. If something terrible happens near where you live, your friends from other countries will return the favor.

Tragedies plaguing many parts of the world will hit closer to home for you. Having friends from different backgrounds and circumstances helps you walk in their shoes. I believe the ability to empathize with each other is the essential ingredient to world peace.

You become more knowledgeable about your home country
Leaving your country can make you a minority. You will be bombarded with questions about your native country from the people in your adapted one. Some are benign and some are offensive; some are adorably curious and some are cringe-worthy.

But there is no need to be up in arms every time someone makes an assumption. These questions teach you something valuable about how others view your country and its people. You will be able to look at your upbringing from another’s perspective.

At the same time, they can be informative for the curious souls who were bold enough to ask you. Don’t discourage questions; believe me, you will learn to handle them better (from constant fact-checking and Googling “US history” 10,000 times). Plus, who has not asked ignorant questions to minorities before?

Leader and team player
Who loves both a complex thinker and an empathetic person? Employers. Research and self-help books by successful folks in the corporate world have repeatedly shown that good leaders connect well with followers, are good listeners and know how to take constructive criticism.

Who are these wonderful individuals? They tend to be people who have spent a chunk of time abroad. They are often people who had to figure out how to navigate daily tasks in unfamiliar environments with upbeat attitudes.

They are bold; they take risks, and they thirst for knowledge and bestow it to those who want to be enlightened. They seek out challenges, they’re humble and have a desire to give back to this beautiful world.

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