How to Survive Freshman Year

By Rebekah Devorak | Opinions Editor

There are few firsts in life that are as equally thrilling and terrifying as journeying into the freshman year of college. For many, the past handful of school years, especially high school years, were spent with the same people, at the same place and in the same city. Based on that, it’s easy to subconsciously associate the word “school” with the word “familiar”. However, stepping onto a college campus for the first time is often anything but familiar. It can be overwhelming; for the first time in a long while, there are so many truly new experiences at hand. But how does a student, with a freshly-printed high school diploma in hand and eagerness in heart, begin to navigate through it all to have a successful school year? Fear not, for this list of tips and tricks are sure to help any incoming freshman survive his or her first year of college.

Take the Stairs. Not only will taking the stairs give students an extra opportunity to get active, but it will also shave a couple of minutes off of the commute to class. Elevators are great but incredibly busy right before or immediately following classes. Opting for the staircase instead (and burning a couple of extra calories along the way) is especially helpful if someone only has 10 minutes between classes to get from one end of campus to the other. For any student whose only choice is taking the elevator, College Hall and Rockwell Hall have pretty decent ones in terms of speed and space. Fisher Hall, Cavenin Hall and Forbes Garage elevators, on the other hand, are a little nightmarish.

Beware of Buildings. This fact alone is a lifesaver: Students rarely enter a Duquesne building on the first floor. For example, the sky walk to Fisher Hall will take students onto the sixth floor, entering College Hall from the Academic Walk side puts students on the second floor and walking into Gumberg Library has students on the fourth floor, just to name a few. Be aware of this when examining class schedules. It’s confusing at first, so it might even be a good idea to leave for class five minutes early for the first few days until this setup becomes second nature.

Utilize the Library. It may be distracting to study for upcoming exams or complete class projects in a dorm room because there are so many – well – distractions. Roommates, Netflix or mini fridges packed with snacks may steal attention away from the work that really needs to be finished. Don’t let this happen; instead, visit the Gumberg Library. There are three silent studying levels here for anyone who seriously needs to concentrate on his or her work, and two levels where talking is permitted for those who study better in a more social environment. Just be warned: Tables can fill up quickly in the weeks leading up to midterms and finals. When this happens, be courteous to others and try to share tables with fellow students. That way, everyone can ace their classes. Gumberg also has numerous computers and printers that are available for student use.

Find the Free Food. This one is a no-brainer. Who doesn’t love free food? This is a great way to give meal plans a rest, especially if students are close to running out of swipes at the end of the semester. Free food is usually common at different Duquesne events, which are typically widely advertised on bulletin boards throughout campus. For commuters, the Commuter Lounge also offers weekly free food; every Wednesday, students can visit for free peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. On the first Wednesday morning of each month, the Commuter Lounge also hands out free donuts and coffee.

Say Yes. This is stereotypical college advice here, but there’s also a reason to why it keeps getting mentioned over and over again by practically everyone. College is for experimenting. It’s for branching out. It is one of the last times where someone’s sole purpose is to learn. Don’t let this opportunity pass without taking full advantage of it. When a stranger from class asks for a lunch date, say yes. If the chance to travel abroad arises, say yes. If a club asks you to join, say yes. If an internship position opens up, say yes. Obviously the goal is to not become inundated with responsibilities by constantly saying yes to everything that pops up. Rather, college, especially freshman year, is the chance to really open up and try new things that someone may have not thought him or herself capable of doing before.

Ask Questions and Participate. Never be afraid to ask questions, inside or outside of class. Taking two minutes to ask a question can save students a lot of trouble later on in the future, especially if it pertains to school work. Professors are here to help, and virtually all of them offer some sort of office hours where students can visit if they are uncomfortable with asking questions in class. But chances are if one student has a question about material covered in class, another student has the same one, too. To go along with asking questions, make sure to get involved with answering questions. Participate in class; it can be intimidating to speak up in a room filled with strangers, but contributing to class discussions is beyond beneficial. Consider it as an extra study session. After all, the more students know before sitting down to prepare for a test, the easier and quicker it is to feel 100 percent ready for it.

Visit the Commuter Lounge. Nothing is more daunting as a freshman commuter on the first day of class than having a break between classes and absolutely no place to spend it. There’s no dorm room to hide out in and sitting in the car for an hour seems kind of lame. Luckily the first floor of the Duquesne Union houses the Commuter Lounge, a place where commuter students can hang out, study, relax, eat and socialize in between classes. There’s also a computer lab down there, which is typically less crowded than Gumberg Library or the labs in the dorm buildings. A hidden gem is the dimly lit hallway that leads to the computer lab; there’s a row of comfortable lounge chairs, and it’s the perfect spot for when anyone needs a little Netflix break. Also, another quick tip that has less to do with the Commuter Lounge and more to do with commuting in general: Don’t freak out if the Forbes Garage or surface parking is full. The Parking Office will accommodate any student with a pass (yes, even a surface pass) in the Locust Garage. Simply call the office, and they will be more than happy to help.

Check the Weather. For any student who is about to live in Pittsburgh for the first time, always check the weather before leaving the dorms. The city is practically famous for its finicky weather, so it’s best to know whether an umbrella or winter hat will be needed before the moment where it starts pouring down rain or blowing negative degree winds. For commuters, have weather appropriate essentials (such as rain boots, an umbrella or sunscreen) packed in the car, just in case.