Freshman year by definition is different, unusual and out of the comfort zone for most. A new start is always scary, even for the strong-hearted. Freshman year is the most daunting time for a young adult and for many, questions and uncertainties are part of the experience. Honors College Assistant Dean Ross Bryan remembers his time as a freshman in college and the questions he had when starting his college career. Looking back on his lessons and experiences, Bryan shares to incoming freshmen as he answers the most frequently asked questions.
Q: Will I get along with my roommates?
- Braden Hall, a freshman studying psychology
“One thing I know is no matter how you figure out who you are living with or going to live with, there’s no magic formula. I know there is no rhyme or reason to it,” Bryan said. “Whether you have been best friends with this person since kindergarten or you did potluck and chose them randomly with a whole other context or a whole other state, the chances of you getting along are about even.”
Bryan recalls his graduate school days as he worked in housing and continued working as a community director in a housing operation after his graduate assistantship for a couple of years. When he came to The University of Alabama in 2005, he came as the assistant director of housing and residential communities. His expertise and experience with housing issues and roommates are outstanding as he worked with housing, student affairs and student life for years.
“I do think there are things you can do to get along with your roommates. I think discourse, open dialogue, and honest dialogue are incredibly important and that is tough because I don’t think we are socialized to do that. We, as a people, are not socialized to have open and honest discourse and dialogue with people you are living with or near. That’s one of the most important types of friendships, or getting along with somebody or having a relationship, and you absolutely have a relationship with your roommate, no matter what. Will you get along with your roommate? It is 50/50,” Bryan continued.
Getting along with your roommates is an important part of the college experience, especially freshman year. Bryan believes that freshmen are at the university to become public intellectuals, develop some life skills and pursue becoming a social change agent.
Q: How will I make friends?
- Braden Hall
“A huge part of your freshman year is becoming involved and engaged. We now know that if you’re an involved and engaged student, your general disposition goes up, your grades go up, your satisfaction goes up, and so it is incredibly important to us and we are looking for new ways to do it,” Bryan said.
The Honors College has the Honors Year One program to help freshmen develop friendships and relationships to last throughout college. The Honors Year One program includes UH 100, Honors Action, and so on, but with the pandemic, university officials understand that making friendships can be difficult to navigate.
“[The Honors College] and the larger university and student life and housing residential communities are in conversations to figure out how we are going to do [Honors Year One]. People will be involved and engaged, it just might look different than what you usually think of and it might take a little bit of more time,” Bryan said.
Q: How is the food?
- Braden Hall
“It is really interesting because no college student, or rarely do I come across a student, that is like, ‘The food is awesome here.’ But if you eat the same thing, like I am a creature of habit, same thing, same place, always. And I think if you did that all the time, you did that every day, you might get tired of it,” Bryan said.
He recalls being a freshman and only being able to eat the same things every day due to not having the vast number of vicinities as we do today. Bob the omelet guy was Bryan’s favorite part of the dining hall as Bob’s personality was the highlight of his day.
“I recommend that you give yourself options and go to a different environment, and you have that option here. When I went to college, you just had one dining hall. You have so much choice now, give yourself options, and give yourself choice, reach out and travel out to different places. You have a ton of opportunities,” Bryan said.
Q: How do I find a good balance between school and fun?
- Fatema Dhondia, a sophomore studying mechanical engineering and German
“I probably struggled with that one the most when I was in undergrad. I always say there are two things that will make you successful in college, One: Having the ability to delay immediate gratification. Having the ability to delay immediate gratification is very, very important. The second one is taking personal responsibility for your actions and your inactions,” Bryan said.
Bryan teaches his freshmen students in the UH 100 course to try and meet people in a “functional and healthy way.” He believes engaging in public discourse can help you become involved and respect others. When meeting with other students and begin talking, bouncing ideas off of one another becomes feasible and a way to connect and grow.
“What I think we run into at the Honors College a bunch of times is people are on the other side like they don’t know how to have fun, or they won’t allow themselves to have fun,” Bryan said. “That makes for a miserable citizen and I think that has a lasting effect on adulthood. It’s not necessarily a healthy thing. You have to have a balance.”
Q: How many clubs should I join?
- Fatema Dhondia
“I don’t think that there is a magic number, but I do know this: your engagement and the opportunities you are taking advantage of should mature and grow with you during your time at the University,” Bryan said.
Bryan warns students to not become overly involved and tire themselves out. He believes if you ask yourself “Why did you come to college?” then you will find the right balance between involvement, class and social life.
Q: How do I stay organized?
- Fatema Dhondia
“The frustrating thing about COVID right now is for some people, and for most of us actually, we’re trying to control what we can’t control. That is a tough one. I find myself saying I am going to control X because I can’t control other things in life that are going on right now and it feels chaotic. For a bunch of different reasons, but particularly now having some set times that you are going to do something is a start. It is important to do work, but it is also important to give yourself time to just sit and think and be,” Bryan said.
Any attempt to work on a schedule is important, Bryan believes that whatever works best for you is what your goal should be.
Q: How will I find my group here?
- Gina Lusvardi, a freshman studying chemical engineering
Starting within the residence halls, classes and just being on campus, finding friends will become easier and more natural over time.
“I don’t think that is different from the regular freshmen experience, it is just going to take a little longer. It is going to take a little more of you showing initiative and asking and pushing some of those things to have those relationships,” Bryan said. “Usually, those things fall into your lap at college, you’re not stuck for something to do generally speaking, but now you have to find more things and be intentional about it. You’re going to start finding those things and take advantage of those opportunities while they are there because they are going to be less of them traditionally in the freshmen year.”
Q: How will I deal with being away from my family?
- Gina Lusvardi
“That one is going to be there no matter what, it might be exasperated because of COVID. You are in a new context and a new environment, recognize that. You got to put yourself out there, you got to be uncomfortable,” Bryan said. “I think homesickness usually sticks around until about the first of October, and then it fades away. I think it has the potential to stick around a little bit longer because the level of engagement and how you engage is a little different. I would just be aware of that.”
When Bryan spoke at Bama Bound orientation, he gave a big talk to parents reminding them that their kids would eventually be okay and less homesick around the end of the first month of school.
Q: Are the classes harder than high school?
- Gina Lusvardi
“Yes because I firmly believe this, you’re asked to think and be and interact and engage differently with the curriculum,” Bryan said.
Reflecting on his experience throughout his student advising career, he believes high school is a stepping stone to college, a place to begin to digest knowledge and break down principles.
“And so when people ask me about the honors college, and if the honors college is harder? For some, it is because regardless of your ACT/SAT/GPA, thinking for yourself is hard. I think that is what college requires is to begin thinking for yourself,” Bryan said.
“Get some sleep, don’t smoke cigarettes, and be kind to your fellow citizens,” Bryan said.