Welcome to UCSB! I would like to go over a few things you will hopefully accomplish your first year in college. Think of this as a syllabus of sorts. These are challenges that are all more or less essential to you doing well here, especially during that fateful first year. Not everyone is going to pass with flying colors, but hey, keep your head up. You are about to start life at the best school in the country.
1. Your Major Doesn’t Mean Much Right Now
I mean it. You are a freshman who thinks they want to be a mechanical engineer and that’s awesome. BUT, there’s a very real chance you realize you’d rather spend your days learning several languages and translating video games into proper German than designing internal combustion engines. Changing majors is perfectly acceptable, so this year I encourage you to not get too attached. Undeclared? The world is yours.
2. You Should Go To Class
I am not your mom or dad, nor will they be here, so this is on you now. Do it, do it often, do it past midterms and do it until the final. Then you can stop. The pros far outweigh the cons of physically being in your classes, and sometimes your professors will have some absolutely fascinating (also useful, at least for the quarter) knowledge to drop all over you. By the way, school is very expensive. Either you and/or your parents/guardians are paying top dolla for you to be in those classes.
3. You Shouldn’t Go To Class
Your parents still aren’t here. We all need a break sometimes. Nights out have a way of sticking with you a wee bit too long the next morning, so before you end up dry-heaving your way out of Campbell Hall at 8:30 a.m., maybe reconsider what’s best for yourself and those around you. Additionally, professors at times will have some shockingly un-fascinating things to say to you. I’m not advocating for skipping class. I’m just saying, cherish those classes where your professor puts all of the notes on Gauchospace.
4. Meet People All Year Long
There are so many people outside of the first group of friends you make in the dorms, and you should meet them. Yes, the dorms make it very easy to make friends fast. Your neighbors live so close; why not make friends with them? However, you should continue your conquest for companionship outside the confines of your dorm. Just like that glorious major you think you’ve decided on, don’t get too attached to the people in your hall you think you just made lifelong friends with.
5. Join Something
I’ve come to the conclusion that there are more clubs than there are students here. Seriously, if you like something, or have even thought about liking something, there is probably a club for it. I strongly recommend clubs like Adventure Club and Excursion Club because they tear down the barrier to entry for outdoor sports. You name it, those two will give you an opportunity to do it. On this note, Greek life at UCSB for the most part reflects the beautiful thing that is UCSB life. It’s laid back, friendly, on the beach, active; all that good stuff. However, it’s not for everyone and joining a fraternity or sorority is SO FAR from necessary to have a good time here. If no house is a good fit, stop stressin’; the vast majority of students aren’t a part of Greek Life. Check out everything you think you might be even a little interested in and see what works; UCSB has it all.
Campus organizations come in many other wonderful forms as well. We have a very lively Associated Students here that is probably nothing like what you’re used to in high school. There are several avenues for student journalism, such as this paper you’re reading right now, as well as another paper called The Bottom Line and KCSB, our campus radio station. There are literally hundreds of cultural, political, academic/honorary, environmental organizations here, to name a few. The challenge: find out which, if any, are right for you.
6. Learn to Party
It’s very easy to mess this one up, yet just as easy to do it right. Go figure. Something that stuck with me from when I went through orientation before my freshman year was this saying: “Don’t be that guy/girl.” Don’t be that guy with his pants off on the roof swearing he can fly naked. Don’t be that girl throwing bottles across the party because her best friend she met last week suddenly went to a party next door. Partying should not be your priority or your most frequent hobby. Partying freshman year takes some getting used to anyways. It’s tough and undeniably a bit awkward to immediately start hitting up house parties as a first year. You probably won’t have a very sick time on some stranger’s deck, and you probably won’t find much to drink there until you start stealing Bailey’s liqueur from their mini freezer for you and your friends, but again, DON’T BE THAT GUY. Kick it in the dorms, see what your RA is cool with, if you’re willing to take the risk and don’t freak out if the party life the first week or so isn’t everything the movies said it would be. As you meet people on campus and in I.V., you’ll realize you’re a member of one of the most chill, fun and friendly beach communities on the planet.
While I’d love to be able to say everyone in our community is a potential trustworthy friend, it just isn’t the case. Be careful about who you party with, and be careful about what you drink and put inside your body when you go out. On this same thread, going to and from places in I.V. is when I want you to recall the buddy system from elementary school. Not everyone is a friend, and people do get assaulted. I’m not saying I.V. is completely unsafe and you should stay away (far from it), I just want to be clear that bad things can and do happen here, and you can take steps towards being a safer party person.
7. School Matters
Gone are the days (if they ever existed) that it was really cool to pretend like class doesn’t matter. That attitude really does not make sense in college. We all want to be here so we can learn and work toward our respective careers. If this doesn’t sound like what you’re into, don’t come.
8. Keep It Local
It is absolutely not the right move to invite all of your friends here for Halloween or Deltopia weekends. Cops from other areas swarm this place like seagulls on Freebirds nachos that get left outside. The dorms get crazy strict as well, and by your sophomore or junior year you will be resenting these occasions because you can have just as much fun any other weekend. If you want to show friends the paradise you now call home, try pretty much any other weekend besides those two and the one before finals.
9. Open Your Mind
You are going to be presented with ideas and facts that will blow your mind in college. You will be forced to consider perspectives you never knew existed, and it’s beautiful. Be ready to learn, be open to new ideas and be okay with change. Your revisionist high school history courses may likely be torn to shreds for the sake of real information, or you may learn the way you’ve been writing your whole life is completely wrong and that is all okay. You will come out of your first year much better off if you are open to learning about and understanding other cultures, ideas and people.
10. Talk it Out
This comes almost directly from last year’s Incomer’s Guide to UCSB because it’s really important. College life is not without challenges, and help exists on campus in many forms.
Counseling and Psychological Services (C.A.P.S.) is located in the middle of campus and offers free services for students needing help with problems they may be facing.
The Student Resource Building is located near Pardall tunnel across from Lot 22, and is the home of several student groups, study areas and tutors for students.
The MultiCultural Center: In addition to hosting a wide variety of shows and events, the MCC creates a safe space for students of color, LGBTQIA students and international students. The MCC is located adjacent to the UCen.
Jackson Kerr is the opinion co-editor.