FIG Blog: Looking back and going forward
Part one of a unique Freshman Innovation Group blog series.
The College of Liberal Arts welcomes and celebrates first-generation students—the pioneers who are the first in their family to earn an undergraduate degree at a university. That’s why we created a blog series for our Freshman Innovation Group (FIG), a college-specific program that provides incoming first-generation freshmen a learning community, to share their college experience.
These posts were written by first-gen students this semester before COVID-19 hit Texas A&M. However, we still believe their insight is valuable and their stories deserve to be shared. Because of that, we will share and look back at blog posts written from the Spring 2020 semester, in order to head into upcoming semesters with hope and anticipation for all Aggie students.
About the Blogger
HOWDY! My name is Rachel Sweeney, I am a freshman Economics major from Wichita Falls, Texas, but most importantly I am the loudest and the proudest member of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Class of 2023 AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! I am 19 years old, and outside of class you will probably find me swimming in the Rec Natatorium or somewhere on campus engaging in all of A&M’s traditions, which originally drew me to Texas A&M, or out with new friends, who shined a new light on a university I thought couldn’t get any better.
Life Before College
Although I love all Texas has to offer, the ideals, the sunsets, the music, the two-steppin’, the pride, the food (C&J’s barbeque anyone?), and the people who call this state home, I’m not really from Texas. I was born in Fort Walton Beach, Florida (near Destin), but I have lived all over the world due to my father’s 26 years of service in the United States Air Force, and we finally settled in Texas in the summer of 2017. We have been proud of living here ever since!
Starting from a young age, my parents wanted me to be involved in some extracurricular activity. After failed attempts at t-ball, soccer, ballet, and even bowling, one summer my parents threw me into the pool for some swim lessons, and thus my love for the sport was born. 12 years later, I am still competing, currently swimming for the Texas A&M Club Swim Team, where I have met lifelong friends and have already made countless memories.
Once settled in high school here in Texas I knew I had an important decision to make about where I wanted to attend college. Texas A&M was not on my radar until I visited my number one college and was devastated that is wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be. After much prodding from my mother, I finally agreed to tour Texas A&M. Immediately stepping on to campus I saw the Aggie Spirit reach out to me through the traditions, kindness, and core values, and I have fiercely bled maroon ever since.
Breaking the Cycle
All my life I have been a creature of habit. Before coming to college, my routine was the same. I would get up in the morning, get ready for high school, go to school for 7 ½ hours, go to swim practice, come home, have dinner, work on homework, and then spend time with my family in the evenings. Nothing really ever changed, and I thought I was happy, then I came to college, and everything changed. Future me thought I’d be miserable, but now, I couldn’t be happier.
The very organization of college classes was the first thing to break my high school cycle. Having classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays that were different from my classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays threw me for a loop. There were many times last semester that I would be walking completely in the wrong direction because I forgot what day it was and was walking to a different day’s classes. This semester is even crazier, where I start and end the week on the same schedule, but everything else in between is different. Let’s just say I learned quickly to keep in mind what day of the week it is.
The biggest change I’ve experienced coming to college was learning to make plans on the fly. In college, things happen fast and unexpected, and I learned that you need to be able to adjust or you’ll miss out on all the things that make college the best days of your life. In high school, and admittedly in the beginning of last semester, I would turn down study dates, nights out with friends, ice skating trips, for what? To watch reruns of Law and Order: SVU?
A lack of interaction leads to loneliness, an epidemic for new college students, especially first-generation college students. My biggest excuse? “Well, I have an 8 AM tomorrow morning,” which, looking back now, was no excuse to cancel plans at 6pm the night before. I was all caught up on homework, I had no upcoming tests, what was stopping me? My routine.
I worked at this all throughout last semester. I stopped saying no to activities I was interested in. One of my greatest social accomplishments last semester was around Thanksgiving, and I was attending a “friendsgiving” with my club swim team, and afterwards going out to Harry’s for some Texas two-stepping. We were out until 2am, and I had an 8am math class. I made to the math class. I got an A in the class. And I had such a fun night, it was all worth it. Now, there is a delicate balance, but sometimes, you can be off-balance for not going out enough.
With this, I learned there are aspects of my day that I keep the same in order to keep a sense of normalcy. One, I always carve out time for myself, where I can relax and do the things I want to do, which usually involve watching FRIENDS and scrolling social media. I usually carve this time out in the mornings before class, allowing myself to fully wake up so I can focus on class. I also have a cutoff time for school work. Once 5pm hits, I stop working on school work for the day, have dinner, relax, and then go to swim practice later that evening. Constantly engaging in exercise is proven to relieve stress and gives you something to look forward to each day.
In conclusion, go with the flow. Stay on top of your school work, that is why you’re here, but don’t be afraid to make some unexpected, out-of-routine plans once in a while. Often, the best moments in life come from the unexpected.