Chapter One

First Year Reflections

A student's reflections and lessons learned from her first year at Santa Clara University. College is a short season of life - with its fair share of challenges and blessings- but one that is to be cherished and embraced.

  As I reflect on my first year at Santa Clara University, it feels as though everything passed in the blink of an eye. I can remember summer orientation like it was yesterday, being greeted by the welcoming leaders, surrounded by new faces. I remember meeting my roommate in person for the first time when she entered the dorm room with an enthused “Hello!” and a warm embrace. The year was a time of growing, of being broken and re-built, of expanding horizons, being humbled constantly, seeking solidarity and finding common ground.

Coming to college was my first opportunity to live independently. I was now responsible for all my schoolwork, time, relationships, and of course, my laundry. While I’d like to say it was easy and simple, this year definitely came with its challenges. There were times I wished I could leave and quench my thirst for adventure in a foreign country. There were nights where rather than sleeping, I was up crafting research papers due to the inevitable culprit of procrastination. Then there were days I completely forgot about my laundry and found the dripping pile of garbs plopped on top of the washing machine, and other days where I decided to fold someone else’s freshly cleaned clothes. Yet, there were also the irreplaceable life-giving experiences that came from being here at Santa Clara University.

I don’t believe I attended Santa Clara by accident or coincidence. The friendships and memories shared, lessons learned in and out of class, and skills gained, I could not have received anywhere else. People from all over the world arrived at Santa Clara just as anxious and eager as I was. We all came from different backgrounds, families, cultures, and yet, here we met as equals in solidarity with one another. I loved having opportunities to listen to my classmates’ stories from growing up, experiences so different from my own. The people I became friends with have supported but also stretched me to step out of my comfort zone and realize that anything unfamiliar is an opportunity to discover something new. 

Now that I’m in the homestretch of completing my first year, I’ve had some time to reflect on three big lessons that I learned.  One of the biggest lessons for me was learning to have the ability to say “no.” Probably not something you’d expect for advice from a first-year college student; but saying “no” to one thing allowed me to wholeheartedly say “yes” to what I was truly passionate about. At the beginning of the year I probably joined around seventeen different clubs, but by the end, there was only one or two I actually invested in. And the greater the investment, the greater the reward.

The second lesson I learned was to rejoice even in tribulation. While this is still something I’m learning to practice, I’ve realized that much of what I consider good or bad, is simply based upon perspective. I often saw difficult times as trials that I couldn’t overcome, or schoolwork that I was incapable of successfully completing. However, I’ve come to understand that the only way to truly grow, whether spiritually or academically, is to be pushed and challenged. Hard work is one of the most valuable skills any person can develop, and paired with discipline, one can achieve the unreachable. Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” 

Last but not least, reflecting on how fast this year went by has reminded me how short and valuable life is. It sounds cliché to admit, but the year truly did happen in the blink of an eye. Time once seemed so infinite as a young child, but the older I get the faster it slips from me, often without my notice. An excerpt from a book I encountered earlier in the year, included a quote that I have kept ever since, “The supply of time is truly a daily miracle, an affair genuinely astonishing when one examines it. You wake up in the morning, and lo! Your purse is magically filled with twenty-four hours of the unmanufactured tissue of the universe of your life… No one can take it from you. It is unstealable” (The Art of Manliness, Brett and Kate McKay). Every morning, I am given twenty-four hours to purposefully spend and generously give all that fills my purse. Each day is an opportunity to encounter the unfamiliar, to invest in my passions, and to embrace hard work. Each day presents choices to make, and with every choice - big or small - this short life is carefully shaped. Looking back on the year, amidst the ups and downs, the challenges and blessings, this first chapter of my college experience was downright extraordinary. Though it’s just the beginning, I eagerly look forward to whatever the next chapter has to offer.  

freshman year,gratitude,growth,reflection