First-year students at the University of Kansas often feel the tinge of anxiety that comes from being the new kid on the block. However, after a few weeks, many have already found a sense of community and belonging.
This semester’s freshmen will affect the campus in profound ways, said Paige Freeman. Freeman is in her first year as an associate director of orientation programs in the University's Office of First-Year Experience.
“We have a group of Jayhawks that are going to impact this campus in a way that I think is needed, and with every class brings new ideas, new development of student leaders and new scholars,” Freeman said.
The incoming students have a lot to say about their thoughts, fears and experiences going into the next big stage of their lives.
Lizzy Arnold, a freshman from De Soto studying visual communication design, said she was met with an open and inviting world of wide-eyed students just like her when she came to the University.
“The environment here is super welcoming and encouraging for individuality and for people to be themselves,” Arnold said. “I feel at home.”
Arnold lives on Daisy Hill. Like others, she said before starting college that she was nervous about living on her own and being accountable for herself.
“It’s an exciting step but also one that has some underlying anxiety that you may not take care of yourself as much as you want to,” Arnold said. “ There’s nobody there to hold your hand anymore.”
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Ryan Atchison, a sophomore from Olathe, said he found himself in a comparable yet different situation.
Atchison is a transfer student who lives in a scholarship hall. Like many freshmen, his first few days were a bewildering blur of faces and buildings — a stark contrast to the smaller campus of Johnson County Community College. He said his biggest fear was getting lost in the crowd.
“Just knowing people on a personal level has been the biggest challenge for me so far.” Atchison said. “It’s been up and down. I’m still trying to figure out where I fit best and keep my head on straight and figure out who I want to be.”
Atchison said his status as a sophomore transfer student gives him insight into the lives of his freshmen colleagues.
“I think knowing that I’ve had at least one year of college experience, I can give a little bit of advice," he said. “It’s going to be rough the first few weeks to get used to campus, but if you keep grinding and pushing, good things will happen.”
Through the last few weeks, a sense of community has begun to blossom as students reach out to one another to lend a helping hand.
“Even in just living in the dorms, I feel that there’s a small community of first-year students forming and just helping each other out,” Arnold said. “It’s kind of nice that everyone is kind and accepting to everyone who might need a question answered or even someone to just grab a meal with. I’ve seen a lot of people helping others because we are all in the same boat.”