Students share experiences, advice for first year in college

<p>Tristan Mekarzel, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, feels comfortable at Rutgers now, although he initially felt overwhelmed by the size of the University.</p>

Tristan Mekarzel, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, feels comfortable at Rutgers now, although he initially felt overwhelmed by the size of the University.


Ayush Joshi lives on Busch campus, but his favorite pastime is to walk between all five campuses. 

He regularly treks from Scott Hall to Passion Puddle, where he will relax for 30 minutes before moving on. Others frequently ask him why doesn’t just take the bus. He tells them that it would ruin the point of the trip. 

“Everything is a surprise at the moment,” said Joshi, an international student from Madhya Pradesh, India. “I travel a lot because I want to explore.”

Joshi is a member of the Class of 2018 — the class that is approaching the end of its first semester at Rutgers. Discussions with several first-year students revealed a range of experiences and causes for happiness and anxiety. 

Hailing from a small village, Joshi struggled to gain acceptance into Rutgers. After a sponsor promised to fund his college education, he spent a year in Mumbai taking computer science courses to get ahead and take the necessary entrance exams.

“I did not have a good score on my [first] SAT,” he said. “My sponsor said I would not get in, that I was too rebellious. But I tried one more time, and I got a good enough score.”

He said the most exciting part about the atmosphere at Rutgers was the diversity, especially meeting people from different cultures and countries. 

That love of diversity is reflected in his class schedule — Joshi, a computer science major, took physics and creative writing classes in addition to his major classes. He found a love for writing, and now journals and writes poetry on his own. 

Outside of class, he also became involved with the Rotaract Club, an offshoot of Rotary International. The club traveled to the United Nations headquarters in November for Rotary Day, to advocate for community service and causes like poverty. 

“It was amazing to see that people are suffering and that we can help them by raising funds and giving them what they need,” he said. 

Brendan Cullinane, another first-year student in the School of Arts and Sciences, had a similarly intense experience with getting involved. He joined the Rutgers Glee Club, an all-male chorus that has existed at Rutgers for the last 142 years. 

After trying out during his second week, he heard nothing from the organization for a few days, only to receive a call asking him to stay in his room for the night. 

“It’s called ‘dormstorming’ — 30 people ran into my room and started singing, just to welcome me into the Glee Club,” he said. 

Cullinane said the workload he anticipated for this semester was better than he expected, albeit difficult at times. He was also surprised by how welcoming and open the professors were to talking with students. 

Next semester, he plans to take 18 credits, including organic chemistry, which some have told him is the toughest course at Rutgers. 

“I want to get the most out of my college experience, education-wise,” he said. 

Victoria Yoffe, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, said she found college courses more challenging than their high school counterparts due to their conceptual focus.

Originally a biology major, the pre-med student is considering switching to psychology, her favorite course so far. 

She spends her free time going to events hosted by organizations such as the Rutgers University Programming Association and the Chabad House. 

“I find out [about events] through my friends and through social media, so I’m never [just] sitting at home,” she said.

“Rutgers is so much bigger, so it’s easier to meet different types of people,” said Tristan Mekarzel, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student. He came to the University from a high school with a graduating class of 100 students. 

The sheer size of Rutgers’ campuses initially made basic activities like getting around campus difficult for Mekarzel. He called Busch campus an “ever-changing labyrinth” and was frustrated with the bus system, since he cannot download the Rutgers App or NextBus on his Windows phone. 

In the beginning, he admittedly felt isolated at Rutgers, finding comfort in his high school friends. Today, he feels much more comfortable with his college experience and has since moved on from his past.

He enjoys his residence hall, the Lynton Towers on Livingston campus, because of the welcoming social environment. His floor is made up of first-year and international students, a “good group” of students that he eats with and spends time with often. 

When asked what advice he would give to his pre-Rutgers self, he said he would rather not try to instill wisdom. 

“No matter how much you tell people something, they’re still going to make mistakes,” he said. “That’s why I don’t regret any of my decisions [this semester].”

Joshi advised incoming first-year students to trust themselves — if they believe, they have a power that works for them to get what they want.

He believes his experiences are proof of that. In high school, he met a teacher he made an instant connection with, a woman he calls his “soul sister.” After going six years without seeing her, the pair reconnected last week. 

He has other soul brothers and sisters around the United States, he said. 

“My friend said he was jealous of me because he felt suffocated having to stay at Rutgers, since he doesn’t have family around,” he said. “When I have people around me, I don’t miss my family at home.”


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