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Surviving the First Semester

November 2, 2018 by Elena Brokaw

Two decades ago I experienced my first semester in college. Two months ago I experienced my first semester again only this time it was as a graduate student. The experiences were surprisingly similar. Both times I was worried about finding a parking space, managing the impending workload, being able to interact with other students in my classes, getting all my books from the bookstore store, figuring out the best way to get across campus in 15 minutes, and of course, finding a decent place for tacos. Regardless of the reasons why you’re at UNLV or what your life outside of classes is like, if this is your first semester, you are joining a grand tradition of feeling lost and anxious. And those feelings are perfectly normal.

Here’s a few tips to make it through:

  1. Find your person. By this I don’t mean a BFF who will be your ride-or-die partner in crime. I mean someone who you can count on for notes if you ever happen to miss class, need a partner for group work, or just need someone to vent to about the course. You should have someone like this in every class. Look for the person who brings their book. The person who takes notes. The person who doesn’t use their laptop for social media. They might be sitting up front or off to the side. I promise there is at least one that’s right for you in every class you take. Be warned though, they are probably looking for someone who takes notes, brings their book and isn’t on Instagram during class lectures. So, make a good impression, and don’t be afraid to reach out and exchange contact information—maybe even with more than one person; it never hurts to have a back-up.
  2. Park is a four letter word. Parking at every university is notorious. It’s just a part of going to a university that caters to a variety of students. There are roughly 28,000 students at UNLV. If the university provided a parking spot for every student, the parking lot area would be the equivalent of 82 football fields—this doesn’t even include parking for faculty, staff or administration. Luckily everyone isn’t on campus at the same time, but don’t forget there are pockets high traffic times. Learn these times and plan accordingly by arriving at an off time. Getting to campus 30 minutes earlier than usual can keep you from being part of a 10 car caravan battling it out for one spot. You can even use those extra 30 minutes to refresh your memory about last night’s reading.
  3. Plan to succeed. Whether it’s analog or digital, having a set system to keep track of assignments, projects, and tests will help you stay on track and keep anxiety away. Canvas has a calendar online that will show you all your class assignments in one spot. You can even create your own calendar with a notebook and a pencil. How you create it doesn’t matter, but using it as a tool for productivity does. If you plan out your assignments, you may even find that you have time for other things beside classes and studying—like Midnight Milkshakes at the Student Union or joining an intramural dodgeball team. This leads me to my final tip…
  4. Enjoy the tacos. Whether you’re 18, 81, or somewhere in between, make room for joy. Because when it’s all said and done how you feel is entirely up to you. And if you find a decent taco place, let me know. Maybe you can be my person—I take excellent notes.