21 questions for Wildcat college freshmen

For all my high school seniors out there getting ready for college, wondering, Will I be homesick? What if my roommate and I don’t get along? How do I avoid the freshman 15? Is all cafeteria food disgusting? How will I make any friends? Am I going to be swamped with homework? What if I have to have a communal bathroom!  Have no fear all the answers are here! The first year of college is undoubtedly one of the biggest years of growth and change in a young person’s life. You make new friends, live in a new place, sometimes with people you’ve never met, and with covid being thrown into the mix there’s a lot of adapting required. Freshman year is hard enough without having to deal with a global pandemic but our Wildcat graduates of 2020 held their own and are back to share with us some of their favorite memories, lessons and advice for starting your freshman year off right! My interviewees include Ryan McCord (Chaminade University of Honolulu), Tristan Ihlenburg (Grand Canyon University), Tenley Lubisich (Westmont College), Haley Stahl (TCU), Julia Huchler (Hawaii Pacific University), Gabe Reichle  (University of Oregon) and they’re here to answer all of your questions!

#1 “What was your first night at University like?”

Ryan shared, “I flew to Hawaii by myself so landing by myself was super surreal but I was pretty excited.”

Tristan spilled, “That night was surreal because it was something that I knew was coming and I thought it was going to be harder for me but it ended up being easier. I think my mind didn’t think it happened until the first facetime call with my family. It also felt good to feel some freedom from the daily routine at home too.”

Haley exclaimed, “Being without my parents felt super weird at first and it honestly took me awhile to adjust to not having them there. The first few weeks were brutal and I was super homesick, but I eventually made friends and they ultimately became my family.  I would encourage everyone to try and avoid going home at first just because it truly forces you to become independent.”

“My mom was not able to move me into my dorm on campus because of COVID regulations. Moving in a line was very stressful and difficult. My first night in the dorms was not as hard as I thought it was going to be, my 5 other roommates and I bonded over moving into college alone and learned more about each other that first night because our 2 week quarantine began,” Julia informed.

Question #2 “What has been the highlight of your freshman year?”

“The Highlight of my freshman year was being on the basketball team and going to the sweet 16 in the ncaa tournament,” Gabe exclaimed.

“My highlight was making Acrobatics and Tumbling Nationals in Waco, Texas and being ranked #4 as D2 school competing against much bigger schools like University of Oregon,” Julia beamed.

Haley gushed, “The highlight of my freshman year was taking a road trip to Nashville with four of my college friends after finals week. This was a great way to end the year and we had a lot of fun exploring new states that we had never been to. My school also hosted a “state fair” on campus with free food trucks and a lot of games/rides, so that was also super fun to attend.”

Tenley answered, “My highlight was exploring Santa Barbara and all the amazing friends I met! We had lots of fun beach days and attempted to try every coffee shop in Santa Barbara (there are a LOT of them)”

Julia Huchler on Deadman’s Catwalk hike (Julia Huchler)

Question #3 “Advice for meeting new friends?”

Tristan said, “If you put yourself out there and say yes to everything at the beginning of the year when everyone is meeting people it’s a lot easier to make friends. You also have to keep the mindset that everyone is in the same shoes as you are, you’re all new to college and you don’t know everyone which is very different from high school. I’d also say be yourself, the people that you attract will be people that are into the same things you are and will be pretty cool friends.” 

Tenley confided, “It was really difficult to make friends.  Due to Covid we couldn’t have many classes in person or any events so I met the majority of my friends on instagram or while attempting to find a roommate before I moved in.”

“Going to college during COVID made it hard to meet people at first, but I ultimately found a great friend group. My best advice would be to get out of your dorm room and reach out to people over social media. Yes this can be kind of awkward at first, but in reality everyone is in the same position as you and just wants to make friends. Asking someone to get lunch is super easy and quick and if things are weird you always have an out by saying you need to get to class,” Haley reassured us.

Gabe commented, “There are people everywhere. Get to know the people that you live around in your dorm and you will make connections and meet more people through them. Go out and join a group or something.”

Question #4 “Suggestions on how to make your dorm more comfortable?”

“I brought pictures from home and I liked that,” Ryan commented.

Tristan advised, “Make it most like you and home as possible!! If you have pictures of friends and family definitely put them in there! Also if you have favorite decor or things that you like decorate you dorm for sure! Make it like you really live there!

 “Decorate your room!! I have tons of photos of family and friends and it’s really comforting, I also tried to decorate with things that make me happy so I had a massive flower walls and lots of blankets to cover the hospital-esq furniture,” Tenley explained.

Question #5 “How did you plan meals?”

“Our food was provided by Sodexo, the number one food provider for US prisons… yah it was horrible, really greasy and salty. Covid also made it so we couldn’t have a fresh fruit or a salad bar anymore so it was a struggle to eat healthy. My dorm also did not have a functioning kitchen so I got a large mini fridge and ate a lot of cold meals or things I could make with a kettle, greek yogurt, fruit, oatmeal… the works,” Tenley shared.

“It was hard finding healthy and nutritious foods to fuel my body, being an athlete and having practices. I stopped relying on my meal plan to get actual meals and only swiped my card to get fruits, yogurts and small snacks that I could stalk up on and put in my fridge,” Julia explained.

“At first I struggled with getting into a food routine, but I eventually developed a weekly schedule and stuck with it throughout the semester. I am fortunate to attend a school with relatively good meal plans and dining locations, so I never had a problem with the food, however, I definitely would recommend exploring all your restaurant options on campus because it’s really easy to get tired of the food if you’re only eating at one place,” Haley replied.

Tenley Lubisich on the beach in Santa Barbara (Tenley Lubisich)

Question #6 “Things you wish you brought or wish you hadn’t brought to school?” 

 “1st semester I didn’t bring any warm clothes for camping in Flagstaff or Sedona and that was a bummer. I didn’t research Arizona at all before I went and I thought it was just desert and dry. Phoenix is, but places in Arizona have mountains that are really cold sometimes so that was something I didn’t plan for,” Tristan lamented.

Tenley exclaimed, “A FAN! My school was built in the 30s which means no AC and Santa Barbara heat is harsh in the fall.”

“I was overall prepared for what to bring to college, but it’s important to remember that dorm rooms are quite small and you should only bring the things that are necessary. My roommate and I coordinated who would bring what before moving in, which helped prevent overcrowding in our room. For example, I brought a straightening iron and she brought a curling iron and then we agreed to share, rather than each of us bringing both,” Haley noted.

“I didn’t really need all of the shoes I brought. They took up a lot of room and I didn’t wear all of them,” Gabe added.

Question #7 “How long did it take you to feel comfortable with your roommate?”

“At first it is a little awkward, because you don’t know their sleep schedules, daily routine, if they go out, if they’re a messy person. Because all 6 of us had to quarantine for 2 weeks I think we were kind of forced to get to know each other quicker,” Julia explained.

Tristan began, “You really have to communicate well with the other person. If you don’t it can be awkward and rocky sometimes.”

“It was really difficult. We were polar opposites and generally ignored each other for the majority of the year. But I broke Covid protocol and spent the majority of my time in my friends rooms and it was pretty manageable,” Tenley remarked.

Question #8 “Any favorite classes or teachers?” 

Tenley grinned, “I loved my American Government class! It was discussion based and truly fostered a community of deeper listening and empathy and seeing things from alternate perspectives. We had outdoor classes all year so we were really subject to the elements. It was really windy one day and the white board got blown over and took down my professor with it. He was completely fine but it was really funny and we got done with class early that day.”

Julia gushed, “My favorite teacher was my WRITING1200 teacher because 5 other freshman and I on the acro team all had her. She was super understanding with all of us missing school to go to Texas twice and having to log on via zoom for 6 out of the 16 week course due to quarantines. On the last day of the semester, she came to class wearing an Acrobatics and Tumbling shirt. She said “I absolutely love watching you guys and how strong you girls are, it is so impressive!” It really made our days!”

Haley Stahl at a TCU football game (Haley Stahl )

Question #9 “Funny memories this year?”

“The first day of school my friend and I tried to transport out 9 foot surfboards to the beach on my moped. It took us about 30 minutes to figure it out. Although it was very sketchy and people honked at us as we drove by, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way,” Julia laughed.

“We had a huge hail storm and all the California kids thought it was snow so people were doing anything they could to make make-shift sleds to sled down the side of the mountain on the hail, which after 2 minutes turned into mud.” Tenley expressed.

Tristan laughed, “I think wiping out on my skateboard in front of like 30 people. Everyone at GCU usually rides a skateboard, longboard or scooter to get to classes and so I was riding my board and ate it after class one day.”

“A homeless guy riding around campus at 2 am on a bike blasting music somehow,” Gabe added in.

Question #10 “How is college different from high school?”

Tristan started, “College is social and definitely a period of freedom before becoming a true adult. It also is the time where you can meet people that have the same interests as you. It’s a clean slate for you to meet new people and study what you love.”

“You’re totally independent and on your own with school. If you need help you need to go get it yourself and stay on top of things it’s not forgiving like high school,” Gabe recalled.

“College is very different from high school in the sense that you do a lot more studying for tests rather than actual assignments. For many of my classes tests accounted for 75-85% of my overall grade, so it is important to get into good study habits early on in the year. Teachers are also a lot less lenient with due dates in college, so I wouldn’t recommend trying to procrastinate homework,” explained Haley.

Question #11 “Favorite thing about your university?”

Tristan beamed, “The atmosphere and people. GCU is unlike any other school I visited and the people there are what sold it for me because the relationships you have there can stick with you the rest of your life. Plus it doesn’t hurt to be in the sun 24/7!”

“I love Santa Barbara. Campus is intended to be a jumping off point. They want their students to get integrated in the Santa Barbara community and enjoy all the area has to offer,” Tenley gushed.

“The location! I’m 5 minutes from the beach. It’s always sunny and I’m glad I chose to be a little further from home because it pushes you to grow up,” Julia smiled.

Ryan McCord practicing with his team (Ryan McCord)

Question #12 “Favorite game experiences?” 

“I attended both football and basketball games this year, both of which were super fun. Each school has their own pre-game activities and as a student you get a lot of free merch at the games. It was also super fun to sit in the student section and learn all the chants, people go crazy in college with school spirit,” Haley chimed in.

“The student section was so much fun! everyone was so excited to be there and the student section is always very involved in the games,” effused Tristan.

Question #13 “Do you feel like by the end of the year you knew most people or you met new people each day?”

 “I felt like I knew most of the people. I met new people here and there, but that was mostly because they didn’t live near me on campus or they didn’t come until 2nd semester,” explained Tristan. 

“My school is only 1,200 people so I know a large majority but I don’t know many of the upperclassmen on lower campus so I’m excited to get to know them when I move down there next semester,” Tenley explained. 

Haley said, “Although I made a lot of friends, I was still constantly meeting new people each day. The college is HUGE so you have the opportunity to meet so many people and thus don’t have to be friends with people you don’t want to.”

Question #14 “Was the workload this year much harder than high schools?”

“I think it was harder in the aspect of trying to balance workload with the social part of college. I think it was easy only because it was something I wanted to learn because it is what I want to study,” Tristan stated.

Tenley shared, “I took all morning classes so even though I had very difficult material to learn the work load was manageable and I was generally done with homework and classes by noon and had my whole day free.”

“My workload in college has been way harder, but I am also in a difficult major and minor. Overall, the content is definitely more difficult, but it can totally be manageable if you learn to prioritize classes and find a study schedule that works for you,” Haley explained.

“I don’t think the workload was harder. It’s just more on your own responsibility to get work done. Professors will study the due date once in the syllabus and then it’s up to you to make sure you turn it in on time,” Julia added.

“Don’t freak out about the workload, it’s not that bad but it also depends on what classes you take and how well you manage your time,” Gabe assured.

Tristan Ihlenburg and friends on a hike (Tristan Ihlenburg)

Question #15 “Morning and nightly routines?”

Julia gave me the run down, “Most mornings I had a wake up time of 4:45 and would drive my moped to practice which was 15 minutes away. Have practice from 6-8am class from 8:45-10:00 and then another from 10:30-11:45. I would quickly grab food and change and head to the beach to do homework and tan until my 3:45-5:00 pm writing class. On days I didn’t have class I would go to practice, grab breakfast and then head straight to the beach. My night routine varied depending on classes but I would usually go for a walk or run at 5:30 by the beach and workout with a couple of my teammates. After, we would grab dinner, shower and finish up any other homework. ”

Tenley walked me through her routine, “I woke up at 6, went on a walk for 30 mins to an hour then I showered and got ready for my 8 am class.  I did classes till 9 or 12 depending on the day, then I would do an asynchronous assignment or homework. Then I would get lunch, go to work or the beach and hang out with friends. Then I’d go to sleep around 11/12.” 

Question #16 “Is it hard to stay healthy while in college?” 

“What worked for me was building a time into my schedule each day to get in exercise, whether that be by going to the gym or going for a walk outside with friends. Exercise is good for you both physically and mentally, so I would definitely recommend making the effort to get in a small workout a couple times a week. For me, I would always go to the gym after my classes to take a mental break from studying. Additionally, I made the effort to eat healthy by limiting the amount of times I would eat at our campus chick fil a to once a week. There are lots of healthy options in college, but unfortunately they aren’t always the most convenient and require planning in advance,” Haley explained.

“It was in the beginning of the year but once you have settled into the routine of things you find a groove and you can make time for that,” Tristan commented.

Tenley answered, “Yes, our dining commons did not provide any healthy/fresh options and the gym was closed all year due to Covid.”

Question #17 “How did you get around campus?”

“I always walked around campus, but there are a lot of people that bike and/or skate around my campus. As a freshman that lived in the dorms on campus, I personally didn’t find it necessary to bring a car to school, however, it is convenient to find friends that do and I will likely bring my car by junior year if not next year,” Haley announced.

“My school has three campuses. One is where we live, eat and it has 2 classrooms. It is small enough that you can just walk around. The second campus is all classrooms and it is about a 10 minute walk. I personally enjoyed the walk but some students did skate board. The 3rd campus was only for science labs and it was across the island, a 20 minute shuttle ride, which is as free to all students. If you have a car you could also us that however I only had a moped and the distance was too far,” Julia explained.

“Campus is only about a mile long so I would walk around campus and take the shuttle to any off campus stuff but I got a car for my last month,” Tenley added.

Question #18 “Advice on communal bathrooms, kitchens and washers and dryers?” 

“We had communal washers and dryers! I think just make sure you get your stuff on time! I never got anything stolen but I knew people that did,” Tristan warned.

“We only have communal tables and washers and driers. I found it was easiest using tide pods so I didn’t have to carry a whole jug of detergent across campus to do my laundry. Obviously have a big laundry bag,” Julia mentioned.

Tenley said, “It’s not bad, again, small school so I never had to wait for a washing machine or shower, but get a shower caddy with holes cause if not it will mold, and get shower shoes.”

“The only advice I have about doing laundry in college is to make sure to set a timer on your phone for when your clothes are done. If you don’t, people will throw your stuff on the floor, as there are limited washers for the amount of people living in the dorms,” Haley advised.

Question #19 “Sorority or frat recruitment process?” 

“Recruitment this year was online, however, I know many schools are planning on doing it in-person again this year, so I am not sure how that process will look. The best advice I have is to be yourself and to go into the process open-minded. If you go into it only wanting one sorority/fraternity you will likely be disappointed, so remember to stay positive and to focus on what qualities you’re looking for in a sorority/fraternity,” Haley reported. 

Question #20 “Best ways to meet new friends?”

 “Don’t be afraid to approach people whether it is online or when you are on campus. Everyone feels lonely or afraid to talk to someone, so be confident and go say hi,” Tenley encouraged. 

“Don’t stay in your dorm room, go out and do something,” Gabe exclaimed.

Question #21 “Parting advice?”

Tristan cheered, “College is supposed to be fun!! As long as you are passing your classes don’t stress!”

Haley concluded, “Time management is key in college. While it is important to get good grades, you should also allow yourself to have a social life. Find a good balance and good friend group that supports you academically and you will have a great college experience!”