Navigating Your First Weeks at UConn

By Lina Layakoubi, Peer Research Ambassador

As thousands of new students are welcomed to UConn, the excitement is palpable on campus. With each new student comes the beginning of a new journey, and though this transition can be fantastic, it is also a time when many students are facing new challenges and anxieties. I can say from personal experience, your first few weeks at UConn will probably be a little chaotic, but within this chaos you will find new passions and overcome new challenges. I want to share some tips that can make your transition less stressful!

1)  Settle In

At this point you’re probably just discovering UConn’s seemingly endless resources. Maybe you’ve left the Involvement Fair with a list of ten clubs you want to join, or you just opened Blackboard and have no idea how to post a discussion board. It may seem like everything is moving at lightning speed and information is being thrown at you from all sides.

If you’re anything like I was, you might be feeling stressed about making the most out of every minute. My best advice at this point is to slow down and take a breath. I promise none of the clubs or activities or dining hall “specials” are going anywhere. What’s most important now is acclimating yourself. Regardless of if you’ve lived away from home before, being a part of the UConn community is a major lifestyle change. Try and find the things that work for you and establish a routine. I remember my first semester on campus, I felt like I was being pulled into activities left and right. It took me a long time to feel settled and I think I caused myself unnecessary stress trying to do everything at once. Taking some time to settle into a routine gives you a chance to take small steps towards making new friends, learning new study habits, and discovering activities. Freshman year is about exploration. It’s about taking your time and figuring out what works for you and what you want out of UConn. Calming yourself down and settling in is the first step to having a great first year!

2)  Get Organized

    You’ve arrived at UConn, and you don’t know what to do next. My advice, get organized. This can mean finding classes, making a schedule, or reading syllabi. You might be sitting in your dorm room and wondering what exactly you want to do this semester. For me, I found it helpful to reflect on my past. Maybe there was a subject or activity you did in high school that you thought was interesting and want to pursue further. Maybe there is a skill you’ve always wanted to learn or a dream that was never realized. Take these as inspiration for your direction.

    UConn is equipped with clubs, classes, and facilities that can help you realize your goals—sometimes in unexpected ways. I remember attending a few meetings for Knit NICU on a whim and I left knowing how to crochet. You might not know exactly what things you want to pursue but any interest can guide you towards experiences that can teach you more about yourself. If you are thinking about research especially, taking time to reflect on your experiences and interests can help guide you towards resources. Try and make realistic goals for yourself. You are not going to be able to join every club or even eat at every dining hall your first week. If you can take some time and figure out priorities for yourself, your semester will go a lot smoother.

    3)  Explore!

      You’ve heard about all these “resources” but maybe you have no idea where to start. If you’ve made it to this blog post, you’ve at least begun to search through UConn’s abundant webpages. Taking time to explore department websites, student organization pages and all those pages you find clicking from link to link will help you get a better idea of what’s out there. Just on the OUR website, you will find blog posts, schedules for workshops and other useful information. Don’t feel like you must read everything, but skim through some pages and see what you find!

      Week one there will be many events going on around campus. Plan some time to walk through them and talk to students! Oftentimes students running booths at the Involvement Fair will be upperclassmen, and even if you decide you don’t want to check out the club their advertising, talk to them! You will probably leave the conversation knowing something you might not have known if you stayed in your dorm. As you walk from building to building, read the posters. There is usually something cool being advertised (you might find an event with free stuff). While I know professors can be intimidating, taking some time to chat during office hours or after class might also uncover your own interests.

      My advice is to look around at these various things but prioritize just “enjoying the ride.” There might be something you remember a year from now that you finally have time to check out or maybe there is something you know you don’t want to spend time on. Regardless, pushing yourself to peek at these things will benefit you if you take your time and don’t completely overwhelm yourself.

      Take your first year for what it is: your first year! There will be time to see everything and time to build your skills. Exploring and trying new things is the best way to figure out what activities make you happy. For the career concerned students, no one is judging you based on your first year. The best way to be successful is to use your first year as a chance to grow and learn. I hope that any of this can be helpful to you as you begin this journey!

      Lina is a senior majoring in Biological Sciences. Click here to learn more about Lina.