Freshman year is all about experiencing new things, getting to know campus, shaping friendships and putting down roots for the next four years, but what if it only lasted for 10 weeks?
When I arrived at the University of California San Diego I was a first year all over again. Ushered into a day-long orientation where I met people from all across the globe, it all felt eerily familiar to last September.
Being on exchange in second year, as I have been told, is a little weird. You build a foundation at your home university just to abandon it after a year. However, my first year at UBC was a little different. Having lived in Vancouver for many years prior to going to UBC, the city is my home. I never experienced any culture shock — I know the place like the back of my hand. I wanted to go on exchange to get to know somewhere completely different and here I am.
There are no words to describe the atmosphere of La Jolla, San Diego. It seems every coffee shop is playing The O.C. soundtrack — it’s just so cool, relaxing and unbelievably pretty. The university sits atop a hill and the bus goes up a winding road with a shocking turquoise view framed by the golden waves of La Jolla Shores. The locals rarely glance out the window.
This is a remarkably unique experience. I’m only here for one quarter, which is only ten weeks. In that timeframe you don’t need to put down any roots and therefore don’t experience any of the typical concerns of first years. You don’t have to make lifelong friends. Building strong friendships for such little time is purely optional and surprisingly that’s what makes them more authentic. As a second year, you don’t have to worry whether you can handle a college-level course load, you know you can.
The alleviation of the intensity of first year has made these first few weeks far more enjoyable. There’s no pressure about everything going perfectly well, because it doesn’t really matter. After all, it’s only ten weeks. You can get out of your head and enjoy the best parts of going to a new university — exploring unknown places, meeting new people, being enthralled by interesting classes.
In a way, going on exchange for one quarter is the best way to get the most authentic version of first year. It’s truly invigorating living a new university experience of surfing, bonfires, avoiding sororities handing out flyers, late-night studying, concerts, pointless barbeques and football games. But more than anything it’s the experience of starting fresh, even if it’s only for a little while.