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Elizabeth Breitmeyer / Gavel Media

It’s Not Forever: Reflecting on the BC Freshman Experience

I am a big proponent of reflecting in hindsight, particularly when it comes to personal growth and change. Spurred by a moment of looking through my camera roll, reminiscing over memories from the fall of 2020, I often find myself thinking about the reality of growing up at BC. As I scroll through our shared album, I see the faces of the same friends that I live with now, as a senior, and think about how much we’ve all grown into ourselves. Through identity crises, shifting plans of what to major in, finding our niches, and deciding how to decorate our living spaces, we’ve all grown into individuals who are content, grounded, and probably over-involved. However, we most certainly did not start here, and it is commonly understood that freshman year is the worst year at BC—and we were no exception.

At first, I thought the problem was unique to the class of 2020. It was easy to blame the global pandemic for the negative experience I had willingly put myself through. COVID testing multiple times a week, not a single in-person class, clubs over Zoom, and awkwardly socially distanced dining halls were impossible to ignore and seemed to be the likeliest culprit of the unease I felt. My friends and I would choose a room to hang out in and would spend the entire evening quieting each other, fearful that we would be caught with more than the allowed guests in each double room on Upper. I would spend eight hours in the basement of O’Neill, slowly working through my hundreds of pages of reading and sneaking food in my backpack, hoping no one would yell at me for pulling my mask down in order to feed myself. I would silently beg a higher power that I don’t believe in to make sure my roommate woke up in time to leave the room before my virtual therapy session that I had warned her about many times. And more often than not, I would text my friends that I wouldn’t be able to make it to our nightly 6 p.m. Mac dinner, failing to offer an excuse, knowing that I was simply too depressed to leave the room. 

The end of freshman year brought a big sigh of relief. There were hundreds of good moments, but the experience itself had put me through the wringer. I had seen the toll that being a student on this campus had taken on my friends as well. We were all expected to fit right in, succeed academically, and do it all while having a huge smile on our faces and overflowing with gratitude for being accepted at this prestigious university. That was simply not the reality of what I felt it was like to be a student at BC. As a freshman, I would have described the environment as demoralizing, exhausting, and unforgiving. And as I continue to move through my years here at BC, I see that I was not alone in the freshman struggle. As we’ve seen the restrictions of the pandemic be swept away from campus, that same heavy feeling remains, and it seems as though nothing is being done to change it. It’s deemed a right of passage with people offering words of encouragement, saying it will get better, but why must it be awful in the first place?

With time, I have felt more comfortable in my yearly return to campus, often harboring extreme excitement about reuniting with my friends and meeting the new freshmen who join my favorite clubs. While there were some nerves going into this final year, they were never regarding my place on this campus or my ability to succeed academically. I no longer feel the crushing weight that I felt freshman year, but that does not negate the experience. If anything, I am lucky to have found my footing and spaces that accept my ever-changing self. While I am deeply proud of the person I have become, there is no valid reason for freshman year to have put me in such a low starting spot.

Although some level of discomfort when transitioning to college is warranted, BC should not excuse the sadness and hardship that is often normalized as part of freshman year here. I’ve seen friends and people I care about transfer or take leaves of absence immediately following freshman year—people who, like me, had posted on social media about how much they loved BC, hoping to say it enough times to eventually fool themselves into believing it. It should not have taken me three years to feel genuine happiness in this environment, especially when I had originally been over the moon when accepted. There is an urgent need for BC to take better care of its students, offering not only extensive support networks, but also programming for students who find themselves struggling to find their community. It is not fair that freshmen feel alone and defeated on a campus that prides itself on its picture-perfect image and student body. It is also imperative that we do not normalize this experience but rather offer a reminder that students are not alone, and there are upperclassmen who were in the position they are currently in. 

It can be grueling to embrace your freshman year, but know that you do not deserve to feel out of place and incapable. You deserve to feel uplifted by the campus community and you deserve better. No one deserves to wait until their junior or senior year to really feel like they belong. It may seem infinitely far away, but feeling happy on this campus is possible, and every Eagle deserves it.

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Bleachers music enthusiast and hammocking fanatic. Hoping to make the world a better place through oxford commas, feminism, and bagels.