I like to think of the fall semester as the obligatory semester of transition, of breaking out of a routine set by three months living under the grueling summer heat and setting yourself up for the school year. In other words, it's a semester of first and new experiences. Whether it’s new classes, new professors, new roommates, or maybe even your first job or first internship, the fall semester is a major period for fresh beginnings.
As a transfer student at Saint Mary’s, there were a lot of firsts for me during the fall semester. I went from two semesters of zoom classes to finally living on campus and attending classes with actual people I only previously knew as boxes on a screen.
Surprisingly, I was fairly well prepared for living independently and setting my own routine. However, what I was not prepared for was figuring out how to juggle a social life with academics. A late bloomer, introverted, and naturally anxious, I’ve always struggled with socializing effectively. Not to mention that when it comes to schoolwork I tend to get tunnel vision. Never one to wait till the last minute to do anything, my homework often took precedence over going to campus events and hanging out with other people.
My schedule didn’t help either, with a senior capstone on top of three other classes that demanded a lot of reading that I wasn’t willing to skim or skip, I felt major pressure to do everything to the fullest extent. Looking back, as someone about to graduate it wasn’t ideal, with the whole semester feeling like one major adjustment period. A good chunk of my semester was spent writing, reading, and researching in the library like a hermit, October through November, telling myself that I just needed to get through one more week and the stress would wear off.
That’s not to say there weren’t any good times sprinkled into the emotionally messy cake that was the fall semester. Between the transfer student A’s game, and the Intercultural Center’s dance Bring Back the 90’s, there were a couple amazing moments. These minor events improved my mental health and were my first insights into the importance of socializing and getting out beyond my dorm and library.
Thankfully, things improved greatly with the coming of the spring semester, with a lighter load and different mindset I felt more open to the experiences Saint Mary’s had to offer, including actually having a social life. Even if it was just a quick late night dinner, drinks at Roundup, or a jog around Moraga, it was a world of a difference compared to last semester. Compared to the fall the events the spring semester offered seem to explode in amount and variety, piquing my interest and attention. The student-run events were spectacular, from the APASA Night Market to the Cultural Nights. But the one event that stands out the most to me still was the Angel Island excursion offered by CAB. Though the original event promised a hike and got sidetracked by the weather, I still got to ride a ferry for the first time and explored a bustling San Francisco farmer’s market with a friend, heading back to campus with a free book and free lunch.
This all led to a major improvement in my mental health, getting more involved with clubs made me realize just how greatly they can improve your social life, and how academics shouldn’t be overly prioritized, since socializing is equally as important for developing into a well rounded adult.
Overall, my time at Saint Mary’s may have been brief, and the lessons I learned may have come a little too late, but I’m thankful for the good memories I was able to make in the short time I was here.
Ryan Ford '23,