By Richard Coca
As the sun sets on my freshman year, I can’t help but look back as well as look forward to what’s to come. Coming into my freshman year, I truly tried to possess an open mindset, and as this year begins to wrap up, I feel like that mentality has integrated itself into my personality.
The individual I was a year ago is starkly different from the student who got lost at New Student Orientation (NSO) in September — and it’s only the beginning. Freshman year was the year of getting lost, and quite frankly, I’d argue that getting lost and taking losses left and right is so much better than being guided down an already predetermined path. For me, that meant finding a new prospective major — I’m looking at you Human Biology — and it meant adopting a new life philosophy.
Freshman year is also supposed to be the year of exploration. It was this year that led me to pursue many extracurriculars that I would normally not have tried. I met so many great people this way. (I mean, my high school didn’t even have a newspaper.) I did things the old Richard couldn’t even do. I mean, I joined the band without knowing how to read music or playing an instrument before.
I also learned to live more in the present. I learned to be spontaneous to the point where people knew that if they invited me out to eat ice cream, I would do so in a heartbeat. I learned to be vulnerable, to take myself less seriously.
I learned that I can do some pretty cool things when I set my mind on something. I learned that being an unofficial tour guide gives me life and continuously inspires me to look at Stanford from a different perspective.
I learned that singing Beyonce walking down Palm Drive at 11 p.m. is good for the soul. I learned that fountain hopping every day guarantees a smile at least once. I learned that complimenting someone really makes you feel good. I learned to become more of a hugger. I learned all of this outside of the classroom, and if I’m being honest, I also learned a lot inside.
Academically, yes, I struggled. But then again, I also learned how I best study. I learned what I love to study, and I also learned what I love to listen to. I now know how to best engage in a lecture. I now know how to do my readings and watch Netflix. I learned how to balance most of the things I have on my plate. I learned a lot.
I don’t want this growth to end freshman year. I want next year to continue to be a year of exploration, because I don’t want to get off this hedonic treadmill. I don’t want to know the sophomore slump. I want to continue down this path — getting lost every now and then — until I graduate.
Hopefully, I’ll continue to do all of this and more. Hopefully, you’ll stick around, too, dear reader, and join me on this journey.
Contact Richard Coca at richcoca ‘at’ stanford.edu.