In May, freshmen were sitting in their graduation caps and gowns with high school diplomas in hand ready for a life of new beginnings. As the gap between summer and school closed and orientation began, freshmen learned the little Iowa State traditions, such as avoiding the Zodiac.
The weekend before classes started, freshmen and transfer students gathered at Destination Iowa State and began their adventure for the next four years.
During the three-day program, new students are placed into groups based on their living arrangements and class. The program is filled with activities, such as the Hilton Coliseum kick-off, scavenger hunts and hypnotist demonstrations.
The doors were crowded with new students waiting for the hypnotist show to begin on Aug. 24; among the sea of people were five first-year students anxious for the new school year ahead.
Of those students were Jacob Raby, John Goode and Clayton Davis, who are all engineering majors, Sophia Anderson, who is majoring in agricultural systems technology, and Justin Brtek, an actuarial science major. While the group varies credits-wise, they are all first-year students at Iowa State. They came to Iowa State for similar reasons, such as the engineering and agriculture programs the university offers.
“[Iowa State] is always known for their engineering and their science programs because we all grew up in Des Moines and kinda showing that it’s up the road and it has really good engineering [programs],” Davis said. “[Engineering] is just something I’ve always gravitated to and so just knowing that’s where I wanted to further my education, it’s just the right place for me.”
The group said they were nervous about things ranging from finding their way to classes to the difficulty of their calculus three class. Davis said he was nervous about getting to class on time for the first week of school.
“I’m really dreading my English class because I have to go from the west side of campus to the east side of campus in 10 minutes,” Davis said. “[I’m] really excited for my chemistry class. We walked around today — it was a really old building - and just looking at it and knowing that I’m going there gives me the nice college feel.”
Despite the concerns, the group also said they are excited to try out new classes, such as a geology or design, which they did not take before.
“I have an 8 a.m. trigonometry class; I’m not very good with math so we’ll see how that goes,” Anderson said. “But I am taking a couple of tech and design classes that I’m pretty excited for; I’ve never taken anything like that before."
The group said their goal is to make new friends along the way.
“I’m really trying to keep my door open in my dorm — trying to meet new people,” Raby said. “Sometimes you really have to think to put forward that effort around and that’s probably what I’m most looking forward to during that first week of classes, meeting the people around [the dorm] to the best of my ability.”
After the first week of school, the group made new friends and found experiences they found out-of-the ordinary. The group bonded and anxieties melt away as the students spend “every day at least” together.
The group said they hang out in Anderson’s room together with an additional friend and build more connections throughout the week. Raby and Goode are roommates and said they figured out how to create a homemade air conditioning unit.
“We kinda made our own AC, so in our room we take a chair and put an ottoman on top of the chair and the box fan on top of the ottoman and open the window and blow in cool air,” Goode said.
Davis said he met a junior who asked him to play frisbee.
“I kept my door open one time and there was this junior and he was going around asking people ‘do you want to play frisbee,” Davis said. “And I was like ‘I don’t know’ and he was like ‘well I’m from Ankeny so we’re kind of the same people.’”
Raby, who said before he was nervous and excited about meeting new friends, said he would recommend new students to go out and meet people.
“I feel like it’s the perfect time to go and meet people as much as you can,” Raby said.
Raby said he would recommend students to use the first week to build connections.
“Nobody knows what’s really going on,” Raby said. “If you have time – go meet people; building those connections is more valuable than anything else you could do, spending that time [with people].”
The group said they were originally anxious about the professors' attitudes toward the students, but through the first week, their impressions were proven wrong.
“Most of us had the impression that a lot of the professors were all not going to be sympathetic at all towards your experience,” Raby said. “I just think it’s not true, from what I’ve seen, all of them just try to teach you. I feel like even in high school where the classes are smaller, I feel like I’ve had better teaching in the bigger rooms so far already than I did in high school.”
Goode said he was surprised when the professors understood their situation.
“These people went through the exact same thing that we went through and so they kinda know what their experiences were as a student and it’s kinda nice to know that they know we’re people too and they’re people and they understand,” Goode said.
As their first week of school wrapped up, the realization of being in college settled in.
“One thing that stood out was one time I was walking down the sidewalk and I was like ‘I’m in college,’ I was just surprised with myself and everyone else was on their phone, not caring – just walking down the sidewalk,” Davis said. “I know in high school I was ‘oh I’m going to Iowa State’ but it’s happening, the realization that you’re here.”