The Nuances of Freshman Year

The Nuances of Freshman Year

Graduating from high school and going to university abroad is undeniably a daunting experience. Being unsure about every aspect of university life is completely normal, but since coming to Jacobs I’ve realised just how different my experience was compared to my expectations coming into freshman year. In this article, I write about my first-year experiences, both positive and negative, to give you a real and honest reflection about the beautiful memories and friends I made, the struggles I faced, and how I managed to overcome them.

I remember feeling extremely lost in my first year, particularly during my first semester, at Jacobs and felt that there was no one I could relate to. Desperately wanting to prepare myself for the chaos of university, I distinctly remember the times I used to search “What to expect at university” on the internet only to find a myriad of study guides and advice pieces. At the time I thought this was what university was: a place where I was going to study and work hard, make a ton of friends, be liked by many, and emerge out of each and every semester feeling thoroughly accomplished. Although this isn’t exactly a wrong perception towards university, it certainly isn’t a holistic one.

To begin, I struggled immensely with making friends – a lot more than many of the freshman in my graduating class of 2023. You see, I’d arrived on campus on the 1st of November instead of during the standard O-Week and move-in day in late August and early September. I would like to thank COVID for generously prolonging my wait by cancelling flight after flight to Bremen, but also giving me my student visa on the 29th of October – my birthday. Prior to this, I had been informed by Jacobs that the last acceptable day to arrive on campus due to the COVID situation was the 1st of November. I remember receiving the email from the immigration centre back home on my birthday, and the consecutive chaos that erupted from within my household. There I was on my living room floor hugging my brother with my grandma on one phone booking my PCR test at the hospital and my mother rushing to book my flight ticket. Looking back, I remember feeling so grateful for having such a supportive and loving family who I know would drop anything and everything to come to my aid.

Thus marked the beginning of my journey. Once I arrived at Jacobs, I realised just how much I had missed out on. Orientation week, the campus bar’s famous Halloween party, and months of ample opportunity and time to make friends. I had now arrived a month before exam season and noticed everyone was busy with their labs, experiments, research papers, exam preparations, extra-curricular activities, and so much more. I felt lonely. It wasn’t so much that I hadn’t made any friends yet, but more so that I didn’t know how to which made me feel incredibly alienated from campus life. Arriving during the peak of stringent COVID regulations in Germany certainly didn’t help either.

I ended up making and falling out with a few friends, and I’m sure I’m not the first person to tell you this, but this is perfectly normal and acceptable. That winter was probably the hardest few months I had at Jacobs, especially considering it was my first winter experience, but what got me through it was knowing how hard I’d worked to get to Jacobs, the love and support from my family back home, and a particular best friend that would hop on daily 5-hour long calls with me almost routinely just so I had company and a friend to rely on.

My second semester was amazing. I met and befriended the same people I am best friends with today. We all shared common ground, enjoyed each other’s company, and most of all, we looked out for each other. I cherish these friends to this day and I’m confident that I’ll maintain this opinion for the rest of my life. My friends and family back home served as a reminder of my love for home, and my friends at Jacobs made me feel at home. Everything fell into place during my second semester, and I finally was able to feel like less of a stranger to Jacobs. I started pursuing more opportunities on campus, exploring what Bremen had to offer, meeting with and making friends, and was ultimately much more grounded now than during my first semester. I learned then that this process took time and effort, and that university life wasn’t just going to create and hand itself over to me. I molded my campus life into what it is right now, and I’m excited to see how my soon-to-be final year at Jacobs will make me feel when I ultimately reflect on this article in a year’s time.

Understanding that everything takes time, patience, and effort demonstrates so much maturity and helps a lot with slowing down the pace of life. Often, we become utterly engrossed in our day-to-day lives that we forget to take a step back and reflect on our accomplishments and struggles. Life is hectic and while everyone may look organised, successful, and happy, I cannot emphasise enough how learning to overcome obstacles while also being kind to yourself is exactly what you need to be comfortable with in order to truly transition into independent living and adulthood. Building resilience and establishing your purpose at university goes a long way in making your transition to campus life feel smoother. Know that nothing truly stands in your way of establishing a sense of home in your university life as long as you give it time, and that ultimately, every struggle you overcome goes a long way in solidifying your identity.






The Nuances of Freshman Year