First year at Mac: second semester brings new challenges

First year at Mac: second semester brings new challenges

Katie Woodhouse

Between plummeting temperatures and new friends, schedules and professors, the transition from fall to spring semester often brings unexpected change for Macalester students—changes that are felt acutely by the first year class. After spending four months acclimating to their first college classes and routines, these students have to start over with significantly less structured support.

For the first time since arriving at Macalester, the Class of 2022’s schedules no longer include a First Year Course (FYC). Clare Mazack ’22 estimates that she met about half of her closest friends through her FYC.

“Having an FYC was just a really natural way to get to know people. I feel like if we didn’t live together, I probably still would have made friends with some of them, but it would have been harder,” Mazack said. “Now that it’s ended, it’s definitely different, but, in a way, I don’t even really feel like the class has stopped because I still spend so much time with all of those people. We’re still hanging out and doing homework together, even if it’s for different classes.”

Mazack’s experience isn’t shared by all of her peers. “I’m drifting away from some people I had [met] in my FYC. Even though we live together, we don’t have the common bond of that class to keep us held together,” Osamede Egharevba ’22 said. She recalled connecting with members of her FYC last semester over shared homework assignments, but not having much else in common with them. “I feel like when you don’t really have a strong bond with someone, and the only thing that’s holding you together is an FYC, it’s not something that’s going to last beyond that class,” she said.

Despite feeling some distance from her FYC, transitioning into spring semester has allowed Egharevba to deepen other friendships and become more involved in her extracurricular activities: Chromactics and MCSG.

“In the beginning of the last semester, I didn’t really feel comfortable in either of [the activities] because you’re forced into this group of people you don’t really know. But now that it’s second semester, I feel like we all have gotten closer to one another,” she said.

Other first years have taken the spring semester as an opportunity to find new ways to get involved on campus. Nikolai Bjork ’22 decided to quit jazz band and join Macalester’s jazz combos program at the beginning of spring semester. “I’ve realized that the second semester is a good time to reevaluate my commitments,” Bjork said. “I’ve switched up a lot of my extracurriculars, which has been a lot of fun.”

Otherwise, Bjork’s transition into second semester has been relatively easy. “Coming back to school felt like coming home,” he said. “I didn’t feel nervous or anything; it felt really natural to be back. It felt strange going to my parents’ house for break, but not weird at all to come back to Mac.”

Mazack and Egharevba both admit there are elements of fall semester they miss. “There’s something really cool about starting your first semester of college–all the buildings were new, the people were new; it’s just so exciting and fun,” Mazack said. “Now that novelty is sort of wearing off.”

Egharevba observed that many professors and mentors are less inclined to check in with the first year students now than they were at the beginning of the year. “When you’re first coming into college fall semester, it feels like people are more aware. People ask more about how you’re doing when you’re just coming,” she said.

“But now, there’s this idea that you’re supposed to get the hang of things on your own,” Egharevba continued. “I feel like people expect you to have things put together when you don’t necessarily have it all figured out yet.”

Despite these changes, Mazack is enjoying this semester more than the last. “I think [that] for a lot of fall semester, a lot of energy was expended worrying about who you spend your time with—just trying to meet people and make friends and figure out what’s going on,” she said.

“But now it’s established. It’s less about starting those friendships and more about deepening them and feeling secure about them. It’s fun having friends who you know are gonna be your friends for a long time, and it’s fun feeling like you recognize people and know your way around. I’m more established with the school and the people I’m spending time with,” Mazack said. “It feels really good.”