Dear Freshmen: November
You may have heard the frequent saying that you’ll “find yourself” in college. After all, adults always describe college as a place of unbridled freedom and opportunity, the best environment for exploration and self-discovery. When I heard this saying, freshman Andie expected that, if I had successfully “found” myself after four years, I should graduate confidently and sure of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I should have found the perfect major and the career destined for me
Looking back at my expectations freshman year makes me smile, not only because there is no “perfect” major or career, but because I assumed that this is what “finding myself” meant. I focused on an idealized, successful version of myself and projected that image to be the end goal of college. While it is good to have at least a loose plan through college and to set long-term goals, a crucial part of “finding yourself” is looking inwardly in the present. You and I didn’t arrive at college as a blank slate. Finding your major, career, and passions first requires a self-awareness of your identities and the ways they affect how you navigate the world.
A major self-reflection for me my freshman year was when I started learning more about my background as a Filipino-American. In classes and discussions, I contextualized my family’s immigration to America, my experience in living between “two worlds,” and the struggles I faced while growing up in a majority-white neighborhood through a scholarly lens. When I joined my college’s Filipino club, I found pride in celebrating and sharing Filipino culture and learned from others’ experiences. Understanding where I came from informed how I interacted with the world. I’m always reminded of the saying, “Know history, know self” — with this knowledge of self, I now know that my identity as a Filipino-American is more complex, but also more beautiful than I had previously thought. I know that I am invested in issues facing Filipino-American and Asian-American communities, and that all my interactions and decisions in life are affected by this part of me.
This reflection was just one of many my freshman year that contributed to this grand, never-ending process of “finding myself” that continues even after college. As you start your freshman year, I hope my experience influences the way you think about approaching the next four years. My advice is to avoid confining yourself to a singular image — the diplomas and careers come after the self-reflection. Take advantage of college’s freedom and many opportunities to question and deeply explore parts of yourself, including your own background and home cultures. I’m excited for what you’ll find.