Kaplan: For freshmen, finding what you don’t like is essential to finding what you do

Marisa Kaplan, Op-Ed Contributor

Before I left for Northwestern, I thought the transition to college would be easy. After all, the pictures my friends posted on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram presented college as a breeze. However, through a few weeks at NU I am still trying to find out where I fit, and most of my friends are, too. From choosing a major to picking extracurriculars, the adjustment has challenges. Even something as seemingly trivial as finding a study spot can be a challenge.

First I tried the Lakefill, but ants and tiny spiders invaded my backpack, jeans and seminar reading. Lisa’s Cafe seemed appealing, but there I found myself chatting more than actually working. The same distractions plagued me when I tried to work in my room. As soon as I walked into Main Library, I was immediately overwhelmed. The library felt more like a maze than an inviting place to get my work done. I felt like a Wildcat Goldilocks: one spot was too hot, one was too cold, and I had no idea where to find the one that was just right. I began to worry I wouldn’t find a place to feel comfortable at NU, to study or to stay.

Finally, I found my sweet spot. Between the wooden bookcases and towering windows of Deering Library I finally felt my most productive. The room wasn’t too quiet, nor was it too far from my dorm. It was well lit and cozy.

I realized this process of trial and error was not only necessary to find the right study spot, but also to adjust to college as a whole. During Wildcat Welcome I remember feeling a pit in my stomach and my heart racing as I went to discuss my class selections with my Peer Adviser. I had and still have no idea what I want to major in. It often feels like there is pressure to arrive on campus and immediately know where we fit in. However, I received sage advice from my PA: Try things out, and by trying certain classes you’ll find out what you love and what you can’t stand. In order to find the things where we truly excel and are happy doing or the places we study best, we must first try things that make us miserable. I keep reminding myself it is unrealistic to arrive at college and immediately have everything figured out.

I must remember pictures can be deceiving and that everyone presents their best selves online. On social media, college looks like all fun and games, rather than the trial-and-error process of adjustment this first quarter actually is. Instagram does not tell the whole story, and only through trial and error will I find the things I am passionate about and works for me.

Finding my study spot after a few weeks on campus assured me that adjustment takes time. Though it might take me from the Lakefill to Lisa’s, from Main to my room, the process of finding a place at NU won’t be captured on social media.

Marisa Kaplan is a Weinberg freshman. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.