They were strangers before they arrived at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo last fall. But in January, Hannah Croft of Santa Rosa, seventh from right, and her new friends joined together to celebrate a friend's birthday at Pismo Beach. Photo by Alex Ly

Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series about college life by Hannah Croft, who graduated last year from Santa Rosa High School and is a freshman at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo.


I’m more than halfway done with my first year of college. That is a shocking statement. What’s more shocking is how vividly I remember my first weeks here, like they weren’t months ago, but rather, just a few days ago.
Time flies when you’re having fun and learning a ton and meeting new people every day and going on adventures and doing everything a college kid is supposed to. With time moving so quickly, I realize it’s near impossible to do everything I wanted to this year.
But there are a few things I feel like I missed out on, and a few things I wish I knew sooner. There are a few things you should probably know, to make your freshman year as amazing as mine, with a few extra touches:
1. I wish I had known how to be creative with campus dining.
There are so many ways to get creative when your overcooked pasta is getting boring. Had I known that you could get a side of plain pasta to put in your salad, or that campus oatmeal tastes great with the berries I bought at farmer’s market last night, I would have been a lot happier fall quarter. Don’t hesitate to stock up on such things as bananas and oranges. You never know when inspiration will strike, and you can make an excellent fruit salad.
2. I wish I had started using JJ’s kitchen sooner.
I just realized that a lot of this revolves around food. But for me, good food and a place to cook it are the only things lacking in university housing. Once or twice I’ve used my dear friend JJ’s kitchen to bake cookies (usually it’s when I lose a bet, or owe him something), and I don’t know why I haven’t taken advantage of the fact that one of my closest friends has a kitchen with a stove, an oven and everything you need to make family dinner. It’s doable, it’s easy and it’s fun when all your friends come together to cook (and then do the dishes afterward). Cooking has always been cathartic for me, and it’s a rare treat to get everyone together for a home cooked meal without having to pile in the car for a road trip to your parents’ house.
3. I wish I had known how fast things change.
When you live together, your relationships are different. My friends are wonderful. I wouldn’t trade them for the world. But it’s insane how quickly friendships generate, deteriorate and then magically reappear after some time apart. Someone could be your best friend for a week, and then you could not get lunch together for two weeks after that. It’s strange, but especially with the fast-paced quarter system, understandable. As cheesy as it sounds, you have to know that your real friends aren’t going to bail after a week, and things will just pick up where they left off after a lapse of dinner without them. Just keep in mind the people you really value and make sure they know how important they are to you. Show them you want them to stick around in your life for the next four years, and they will.
4. I wish I had known that RA’s mean it when they say “If we have to tell you again, we’re going to document you.”
Those resident advisers mean business. If they’re telling you you’re being too loud, they definitely mean it. And then you get a nice little confidential letter detailing how loud you were that night and you have to write a paper and it’s all really not fun. I am not a fan of documentation. I’m also not really keen on the idea that laughing in my room at 2 a.m. is reason for being documented, because I could be out doing way worse. But that’s a story for a different day.
5. I wish I had found my perfect study places.
Now, I know where to study. I know that when I’m stressed I need to get away from my lovely red-brick home. But I reached that conclusion with trial and error. A lot of error. I can’t study on campus, which is why I’m writing this from my favorite coffee shop. I get work done here, I’m happy and comfortable here. Find a place where you’re just as focused on work as if your parents were looking over your shoulder. On the same note, turn off your wireless internet, so that you can’t be tempted to Facebook stalk instead of do your statistics homework. You get work done, and you feel accomplished.
6. I wish I had brought friends home.
I brought a friend home for Thanksgiving this year, and it was really fun. We pulled out my trundle bed and every night was a sleepover where we gossiped about boys and skyped with our friends who also were on the college student sleep schedule (more like the no-sleep schedule). But I wish that my trips home included company. I find it kind of funny that my on-campus family doesn’t know my biological family, and I’d like to change that. If you’re lucky enough to be able to come home on a three-day weekend, bring a friend. You may think it’s a tall order for your parents to cook dinner for yet another hungry college student, but they want to meet your friends, too.
Also, don’t hesitate to go home. Admitting you’re homesick isn’t a sign of weakness. I text my brother every day to tell him that I miss him. That’s OK. You’re allowed to be homesick and you’re allowed to come home when you need to. (I recommend the surprise your family method. It’s really fun and it will make their day.)
I’ve had an amazing freshman year. My biggest desire, however, is to ensure everyone else has a year as incredible as mine has been. So as I approach spring quarter, which I am determined to make the best quarter yet, I’m hoping to cross some of these adventures off my freshman year bucket list, and I hope all of you will, too.