Sink or Swim

I was full of excitement the day before my freshman year of college began – then my parents left to return home. And there I sat, amid boxes of clothes, hangers and Easy Mac dinners. I asked myself, “What now?”

I was overwhelmed the first couple of days, but then decided I was not going to fall between the cracks of college life. I became my own guide and explored the campus, not shying away from flyers handed to me, but reaching out and grabbing them. I spent many breaks in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center, standing in a meditative state in front of the bulletins, jotting down the events I found interesting. I attended events where I didn’t know anyone, and I didn’t care. I made sure to call home every day to see how my family was doing.

I was and still am eager to make the most of my college experience. I went through the same thing many freshmen may be going through now.

Feeling like a little fish in a big pond? Don’t let campus life drown you. Take these tips and learn how to swim instead of sink.

Sure, it can be a bit refreshing once you’re free from the parental grip, but there are times the mind wanders toward home.

Here are a couple tips on easing homesickness:

• Decorate your room similar to your room back home. Bring your favorite pillow, DVDs and whatever other things remind you of home. Family photos or pictures of pets are always comforting. Put up posters of favorite musicians or celebrities. By adorning your room this way, your new place will feel less rigid and more welcoming.

• Call your family and loved ones often. You can let them know how your day went. Speaking to them can be comforting and can help pump you up for a long day.

Lost in transportation? Here are ways to get around:

• It’s helpful to carry a USF map around with you in your backpack.

• If you aren’t too enthusiastic about walking all the way to the other side of campus, the Bull Runner can help. The buses also stop at the University Mall and Wal-Mart if you need to buy groceries or other things. It’s fare-free – just make sure to bring your school ID when boarding from off-campus locations. For more information, go to

• HARTline buses pass through USF. It can take you anywhere from the Muvico movie theater to downtown Tampa. Information on the HARTline route can also be found on the Bull Runner Web site.

• Outdoor Recreation, a division of USF’s Campus Recreation department, provides a variety of adventure trips. You can do everything from moonlight canoeing to white-water rafting. To view its fall schedule, go to

Being shy ends now. Here are some tips on how to make friends:

• Get involved in organizations outside the classroom that suit your interests. You will be involved in what you love, and meeting other students with the same interests makes way for more conversations.

• Don’t be afraid to speak to a fellow peer sitting next to you in class – who knows what you both may have in common. When final exams creep closer, arrange study groups with other classmates. Don’t forget to study, though.

College only happens once, so squeeze the most juice you can out of it. The last thing you want to do is live with regret over things you wish you did. Perhaps these tips will make college a smoother transition from home life to college life.