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  • Writer's pictureElisha Bae

Finishing the First Year of College

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The spring semester is allegedly slightly longer than the fall semester. But why is it that it felt like the semester went by so quickly?

I only have four years to enjoy Swarthmore, and the first year is already gone. I can't believe how fast time flies when you have the best time of your life. My finals are done, I'm back in Korea, and I would like to take this time to reflect on what it was like, finishing the first year of college.

Thoughts on What Happened
  • This was the first time in my life that I went abroad to a different country and lived there. The longest I've been away from home was two months, and that really did make a difference in my approach and readiness to do something so new. I was less intimidated by the 'life' aspect, and more nervous about how my high school experience would have prepared me for college. Fortunately, the knowledge and wisdom I gained from everything I did at NLCS Jeju helped shape my college experience, especially in classes. Though I used this year to take a break from taking on administrative/leading roles, I had a lot of fun just taking part in things that I found fascinating.

  • The classes I took in the spring semester were definitely more interesting and in-depth than the ones I took in the fall semester. I did end up taking that Tolkien & Pullman class, which was as much fun as I expected! Everyone there was a fan of Tolkien, so getting into the lore of things was just amazing. We all knew what each other was talking about! I just wish the professor had given us more time to talk amongst ourselves. I also took a behavioral neuroscience class; it was more biology-based than psychology-based than I thought, but nonetheless, it was a great class that provided the necessary foundations for understanding behavior and the brain for my future psychology classes. The professor was phenomenal in terms of teaching style and passion. My last class (I only took three credits) was a philosophy class on religion and what it means to be 'rational'. The professor did a great job of not being biased in any way, and letting us be the judge of things. I got to read, analyze, and discuss texts that I would have never encountered through this class. It was a great way to see what different people thought about religion.

  • When the weather got warmer, I took the time to enjoy the beauty of nature. When I'm in Korea, there are so many buildings and cars that I can't always focus on nature's tranquility. It also doesn't help that I have to take the elevator down 35 floors to get outside. At Swarthmore, I was able to just open the door and step into the warm sun and fresh air.

  • I should also mention that I found a great church to go to every Sunday, thanks to Tehya. It's called Blue Route Vineyard, and I've already merged into the community there. While there aren't many young adults like me, there are some, and the whole church is very active in terms of their faith. The main pastor, Mark, is a great man and he delivers God's words so well. I've made two good friends there -- one is Charlotte, who is a part of the prayer team. I would go up to get prayer when I felt down, happy to be alive, or 'just because'. She is such a sweet soul. Coincidentally, there's a Korean person at BRV, who moved to the States when she was quite young. She's like a second mom to me when I'm at College. We had lunch together once, and I really hope I can continue to get to know her better! Her faith is burning brighter than the sun. The Swarthmore Christian Fellowship is also a community that really inspires me to get closer to God. We have meetings every day of the week except for Sundays, and the people are such bright souls that truly hold God in their hearts. I love going to the Bible studies and talking to them about God.

  • Though I think I mentioned this before in previous posts, I just love the people here. They click well with me. They're are very genuine people -- there's no one who I can think of is trying to pretend to be something. Because of this, the interactions I have with my friends are comfortable and fun. My list of hobbies grew here since I'm trying out new things. I'm glad I have different interest points to share with my friends. And the professors are also very caring about the students. They care about my well-being and are willing to get to know me better. Honestly, even if the courses were bad (they are most definitely not, though), the people here would make up for it.

  • I do have some worries, about next year. The biggest one is my dorm, which is located far away from the main campus. During the fall and late spring, things would be fine, but I'm worried about how I'll travel back and forth when it's the middle of winter. I might have to get an electric scooter just for this sake. But my room is supposed to be bigger than most other doubles, and I'm using a bathroom inside my room, sharing with only two other people. It's also considered a quieter dorm since none of the parties happen here. So there are some ups and downs.

  • There's also the topic of choosing a major. At Swarthmore, we have to decide on a major by the end of sophomore year, and I never thought it would come this quickly. I'm pretty set on majoring in psychology, but I wonder if I'll want to do a special major in education or a minor in some other subject. Hopefully, things will be clearer as that time approaches.

  • From a similar perspective, finding research opportunities to support my future academic career has also been on my mind lately. I know some of my friends have already gotten a chance to participate in these, and though I don't feel like I'm lagging behind, there are times when I would think about whether I'm doing everything I can possibly do to ensure that my life after college continues to be this enjoyable. I know there are professors conducting research all the time at Swarthmore, so I just have to be more active in terms of seeking those opportunities.

Lessons Learned
  • Even though I have some worries here and there, I have also learned a lot from my first year at college. The biggest thing is to take chances to try new things, especially if you're not sure if it'll be a pleasant experience or not. When I was left hesitating, I tried things out anyway, and 9.5 out of 10 times, the results were great.

  • I also realized how important it is to look at the world and everything that happens around me from a positive perspective. If you get caught in an endless loop of despair, it can be hard to break through and try seeing things from a better angle. Being optimistic about things can have a domino effect on other things, such as your mental health and overall happiness.

  • One other thing I re-learned was that first impressions are not everything. We say this a lot, but sometimes, it's hard to internalize it. For me, I met some of the people of Swarthmore through online platforms first. And I ended up creating an imaginary version of the people and what they would be like based on the things they posted, said, or did. But online personalities can be very different from what the person is actually like. So for the first few weeks of college, I had to completely tear down what I had built up, and see people for who they really were.

  • Another big lesson I learned was that excessive worries and overthinking don't help much. Seeing it written down like this, it looks obvious, but I guess I'm naturally inclined to plan things out and go through scenarios in my head before things happen, which can lead to thinking about a situation too much. This kind of goes hand in hand with trying new things and taking things in with a positive attitude. I learned that sometimes, it is better to let things happen and act accordingly. I'll let God be my guide.

Improvements for the Future
  • I had a very successful and fulfilling first year at college, but there are some things that I want to do more of, stop doing, or start doing. In terms of my faith, I want to go to more SCF meetings -- when things got busier, I kept using that as an excuse not to take out a portion of my time for God. I'll also keep a prayer notebook to know when and how God works through me. For a similar reason, I'll do daily devotionals to start my day and end the day with prayer.

  • I'll try to worry less about situations that I can't control. Instead, I'll focus on making a change in things that I can influence.

  • I also want to examine how I study and learn how to study efficiently, but without cutting corners. During my high school years, I have gotten away with doing things quickly but without really understanding what I was doing. At college, I want to try to comprehend what I'm studying, not just do it for the sake of finishing tasks.

  • Finally, I want to enjoy every moment that I have at college and not worry about whether or not I'll remember that exact moment and how I felt. Keeping a journal (it doesn't have to be a bullet journal) would probably help me feel less scared of forgetting something important that happened. This blog would also help with that.

There you have my summary of the first year of college! Swarthmore is already my home, and I hope it'll continue to feel that way throughout the remaining years! I'm also excited about what's to come!

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