The most important things I learned my first year of college

by Jarin Kobashigawa ’20, MBA’21,

  • Student floating candle on water

When I stepped onto campus four years ago, I had no idea how much college would change my life. 

As the first of my siblings to attend one and having moved far from my home in Hawaii, I wasn’t sure what to expect outside of the obvious. But after I attended our student orientation program, Opening Days, I felt like I belonged here. 

I still had my fair share of challenges — like strenuous homework assignments and feeling homesick — but I also met some of the best friends I have today, adapted to a whole new level of independence and drastically changed my lifestyle. Here’s what helped me navigate my first year and beyond. 

You can start over

College is an opportunity to become someone you weren’t in high school. 

Be whoever you want — you don’t have a reputation yet. If you want to go vegetarian or adopt a new style, now is the time.

Eliminate the bad habits that prevent you from becoming the best version of yourself, too. If you prioritize now, you establish a foundation that will serve you the rest of your college career. 

Home-food-sickness is a thing

Who knew I would miss the food from home as much as I missed the people? 

Having minimal cooking skills to prepare comfort foods will tide you over until the next trip home. Although local renditions of loco moco — rice, hamburger, fried egg and gravy — are fine, I’d be lying if I said it tasted just like my grandmother’s.

Homesickness can hit you in a lot of different ways, but people often feel it most acutely their first semester. Carve out time in your soon-to-be-busy schedule to call or hold video chats with friends and family. (I called on Sunday nights as I did laundry.) Talking to friends can sometimes offer the best venting session because they have no ties to your school.

Get involved on campus now

Amplify your college experience tenfold by joining clubs and attending Willamette Events Board (WEB)-hosted activities — it was the most valuable thing I did. 

When you put yourself out there, you learn more about the campus community and you might discover a new passion or talent. I joined The Collegian (our school newspaper), did intramural sports (and won!) and helped run Willamette’s Lūʻau, where I met incredible peers along the way. 

Find your community here

What surprised me most about Willamette was the sense of community here. Students tend to check on each other and help each other out. 

We all push ourselves to become better leaders and citizens, and one of the reasons I’ve  been able to mature and grow is because of my supportive peers. 

Explore Oregon

Oregon is famous for its green forests, pretty hikes and relaxing coast, but you don’t have to love the outdoors to appreciate its beauty. 

Get involved with the Outdoor Program — they provide transportation and guidance for everything from climbing to snowboarding. Comparing Hawaii to Oregon is like comparing apples to oranges, but I can’t deny that some of its views make me forget about home sometimes. 

Professors want you to succeed at everything 

Unlike my high school teachers, Willamette professors are accessible for one-on-one meetings and willing to talk to you about your academic and personal life. 

The professors here want you to succeed — not just in their class, but throughout your academic career and after you graduate. Be open with your professors and academic advisors because they have tons of wisdom and experience they can share. 

Slow down

Remember high school? Yeah, that was four years ago. You’ve got about four more at Willamette and it’s not going to go by any slower. 

Take time to appreciate where you are and what you have. This journey will be over before you know it. 

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