Five Common First-Year Problems and How to Overcome Them

Grace Oliver ’18
Contributing Writer

1. Fitting into the house community

Attend house events: This is probably one of the best ways to get to know your fellow housemates. Don’t be afraid to join in on weekly tea or Hump Day Cookies on Wednesday. You’ll feel so much more comfortable once you’ve made an effort to get to know people.

Eat with your housemates: Take every opportunity you can to familiarize yourself with people; mealtime is the perfect time to introduce yourself and chat with housemates. Most houses have designated house tables in the nearest dining hall. Don’t feel intimidated to sit down and have a conversation. Chances are, if you’re a fellow housemate they’ll want to get to know you too.

Get to know your HONS and SAAs: They want to make sure you’re feeling comfortable, safe and happy in the house. If you’re feeling nervous about getting more involved or attending an event, tag along with one of the student leaders. Not only are they bound to be there anyway, they are also likely to have the company.

2. Choosing a major

Take a variety of classes: This is your year to be wild and take all the classes you never imagined you could. You are free to explore all your potential academic interests, and maybe some other subject areas as well. Even if you’re positive about what major you’d like to pursue, use this time to take classes that truly interest you; you’ll be happy you did when you think back to your first year at Smith and remember how awesome that class on “How to Live” was.

Use your resources: If you are intrigued by one subject and are interested in the major, gather your resources. Talk to professors, advisors and fellow students to learn everything you can about the subject area and how you might go about pursuing it.

3. Making friends

Join an org:  This is one of the best ways to meet people with similar interests. Do your research and find something that appeals to you. Most clubs on campus are very welcoming and it’s never too late to join!

Talk to your classmates: If you’re looking to make connections, don’t succumb to the temptation to simply show up to class, scribble out a few illegible notes and then hightail it out of there. Instead, start up a conversation with someone. Introduce yourself. Bond over the initial feeling of hopelessness you all felt when you saw the impossibly long list of terms for the exam. You might even form a study group; this way, you’ll be well prepared for the exam and you’ll have the opportunity to create relationships along the way.

Go off-campus: Avoid getting stuck in the Smith Bubble and get off campus in any way that you can. This could mean attending events in Noho, volunteering locally or visiting the other Five Colleges. You’ll be surprised by how many connections you can make outside of Smith.

4. Homesickness

Explore: Spend some time discovering various parts of Smith and the general NoHo area. Secure a comfortable study spot on campus or in one of the various cafes downtown. Actively try to make Smith your home away from home, and immerse yourself in the community you’re a part of.

Call home, but not too much: Call your loved ones from home, but don’t miss out on important opportunities because you were on the phone with your family. Though they will probably appreciate a call to make sure you’re alive now and again, they’ll understand that you have to live your life here too.

5. Finding Balance

Plan ahead: Use a planner or calendar to plan out everything, including assignments, readings, presentations and even the seemingly less important activities like picking up your mail or returning a book. Write it all down. Nothing is more satisfying than looking at your to-do list at the end of the week and realizing how much you’ve accomplished.

Know your priorities: Know your limits when it comes to handling your social and academic life. If you have a paper due by 11 p.m. but made plans to attend a concert, be responsible and do what you think is right. Your friends will understand.

Relax: Make a point to take it easy sometimes. If you don’t do something non-school related once in awhile, you’re going to burn out. Remember: balance is key. Study enough, and live enough. No more and no less.

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