Calming the College Nerves

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

This post is for all the incoming freshmen out there who are nervous for the first day of college. I felt exactly the same as you do. I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self that it would all be OK…It’s not nearly as scary as I thought it would be! This is what I would tell Freshman Claire if I could.

Starting something new is always nerve-wracking, and that’s my first piece of advice: remember that everybody else is nervous, too. No matter how calm and collected your classmate seems, chances are they’re anxious on the inside. It’s OK to admit that you’re nervous. People will probably find it relatable.

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Something that helped me a lot was finding my classrooms before the first day of class. Nobody wants to be running across campus five minutes before class, frantically trying to find their building. I write down my classrooms and go on a quest to locate them all the weekend before term starts…even now, in my fourth year of college.

It’s a good idea to get to class early on the first day. It gives you a buffer in case you can’t find the classroom, plus you get the pick of the seats. But don’t panic if you get there late – professors understand that the first day is hard! 

My biggest piece of advice is to take a deep breath and get through it because it only gets easier after the first day. You can do it!

Surviving Shakespeare

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

As an English major, I knew I wouldn’t make it out of college without studying Shakespeare. I managed to make it to my junior year before having to register for the dreaded class. I bought the four required plays and showed up to the first day of class, resigned to my fate. 

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But as we started reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I discovered, to my shock and amazement, that it was a pretty entertaining read. It helped that my professor was enthusiastic about the material and had some fun ways of teaching. For the midterm and final papers, we had the option to write a creative retelling of the plays, and my imagination took off. I had a hard time sticking to the 10-page limit. 

It turns out that Shakespeare is amazingly fun to adapt. I never would have guessed that my Shakespeare class would provide so much inspiration for the Creative Writing part of my English major. But by the end of the term, I had an outline and three chapters written of a novel inspired by Twelfth Night, which I’m still working on six months later. 

What I learned from my Shakespeare class is that keeping an open mind is the best way to enjoy a class. You never know what new interests you’ll discover. Not only did I finish this required class, but I had a lot of fun doing it.

What classes did you unexpectedly enjoy?

Homeschooling, Hens, and Happiness

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

When people find out that I was homeschooled, they tend to have a lot of questions. Once a classmate asked me, “Was it hard to go from homeschooling to college?” Good question! The answer is both yes and no.

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The stereotype is that homeschoolers are weird, and it’s true that I’m a little strange sometimes. I have a pet chicken, after all (who likes to perch on my feet and help me with homework). But homeschoolers are just normal kids. We talk, laugh, argue, and exchange memes just like kids at traditional school. I took classes at a homeschool co-op called Village Home, so I wasn’t a stranger to the classroom setting. And academics are never really the concern – people want to know about my social life.

Here’s the thing: Making friends is hard for anyone, not just homeschoolers. College is an adjustment regardless of where you went to school. I started classes at PCC during my last year of high school to make the transition easier, which helped a lot. By the time I transferred to PSU, I felt right at home.

What was the hard part? Sitting still in class for two hours! Truthfully, though, it was the little things that were the strangest – learning how to take the bus, figuring out how a cafeteria works, and taking midterms for the first time. In the end, homeschooling isn’t all that different from college. In fact, my two worlds collided when Pathos published these photos of my chicken, and I couldn’t be happier.

The Pixelated Page

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

Sometimes I have a hard time concentrating on physical books. My eyes wander off the page or I find myself reading the same sentence over and over again. For whatever reason, I don’t have this problem with ebooks. 

Nothing will replace the smell of a new book, but ebooks have perks of their own. You can search by keyword, easily highlight, and bookmark without dog-earing the page. It’s easy to enlarge the text. Plus, ebooks don’t take up valuable dorm room space or terrify you by falling off the shelf in the middle of the night (the dangers of being an English major).

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Not all professors allow digital texts in class, but many of them are amenable if you talk to them about it. As long as you’re not slacking off on Reddit during class, electronic devices are an excellent tool. The great news is that most public domain texts (that is, books that were published before 1920) are available for free online on gutenberg.org. Most libraries allow you to check out ebooks. You can also email PDFs to your ereader rather than printing them out.

So while nothing will replace my love for paper books, I’ve come to appreciate my Kindle. These days you can buy an ereader for as low as $30, like I did, which is less expensive than some textbooks! It’s easy to bring with me and have hundreds of books wherever I go… And I’ve gotten a lot less papercuts.

The Perks of Summer School

by Claire Golden

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If you’re reading this, you made it through finals week! I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to sleep for about three weeks and then eat a lot of cake – not think about summer classes. But this will be the third summer I’ve taken classes, and though my post-finals brain may protest, I’ll be happy to have something to keep me busy once summer boredom sets in.

What’s so great about more homework during the summer? I’m a former homeschooler, so I don’t think in terms of the “school year.” There’s no time limit for learning! It can be rough going from being a full-time student to having no classes at all, so taking a few credits can help keep your brain occupied. Plus, it means you can take a lighter course load during the year.

What I like best about summer classes is that many of them are online. Being homeschooled means I’m used to this format, and I love it. You can read the lectures at your own pace rather than frantically taking notes in person. Online discussions mean I sound way more eloquent than I do in real life (thank you, backspace key). If you’re going on vacation, you can work ahead in the syllabus so you don’t have to do homework on the beach.

Most importantly, you can go to college in your pajamas. Thank you, online classes, for helping me earn my degree in style.

15 Hours Behind

Noowong_Headshot By Anchitta Noowong

I moved from Bangkok, Thailand to the United States roughly six years ago. I left my friends and family behind to get a higher education, and to follow my dream of pursuing film as a career. 15 Hours Behind is an experimental film based on my personal experience of homesickness.

The Last Word

IMG_7864  by Molly MacGilbert

I’m graduating next month. Just typing those words feels hard to believe. My college career did not follow a linear path; I attended four different colleges in three different time zones, with a year off in the middle during which I worked at a bagel shop and partied too much. I’ve learned so much in the past five years—and I didn’t learn all of it in textbooks or classrooms. As I prepare to leave PSU and enter the so-called real world, I will impart a few quick lessons I wish I could’ve told my freshman self:

  1. Sit in the front of the class. Simple but effective. By sitting near the front of the room, you’re up close and personal with the material. It’s harder to get away with smartphone distractions, side conversations, watching pigeons through classroom windows or daydreaming. The times I’ve habitually sat in the front have left me pleasantly surprised by my test grades.
  2. Get involved in the student community. This is something you’ve heard a million times and, like me, have maybe been reluctant to listen to. When I first transferred to PSU, I read the Vanguard every week and wanted to contribute. I included this goal in to-do lists, planner pages and new year’s resolutions. It wasn’t until my senior year that I finally wrote my first story— and I could not believe how exciting and rewarding it was to see it in newsprint. My only regret is not getting involved sooner.
  3. Use a planner. With Vanguard and student blog responsibilities, internships, a 6-credit capstone and homework, I could not have stayed afloat without my planner. Weekly and daily to-do lists and color-coding helped me manage my time confidently and efficiently. Once deadlines and due dates are on paper, they’re no longer building up in my head and stressing me out. Don’t think of yourself as a slave to your planner, though—just do things piece by piece, do the best you can and know that you will handle it all.

To those of you who are still powering through your education, you’ve got this! And congrats to my fellow soon-to-be graduates—we’re almost done, and it feels good. Feel free to comment your own tips for ruling your schooling!