The Freshman Experience at the U


Chris Samuels

Madison Korous, left, a freshman in architecture, pets Mr. Happy as part of a visit by Therapy Animals of Utah at the social work building, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015.


The University of Utah welcomes another incoming freshmen class in August 2020. Students will come from across Utah and the country to attend and have unique experiences at the university. No experience is universal, but many students have learned how to navigate their personal situation to make the most out of this formative year. While many dorms on campus are set for freshmen, US News reports that only 14% of U students live on campus. The U is traditionally a commuter school, and many freshmen will find themselves traveling in the fall.

Bri Fuller, a freshman majoring in English, commuted to campus 45 minutes to an hour every day via UTA Trax for her freshman year. 

It may have not been the most conventional experience, but Fuller said that commuting allowed her to learn better time management skills and made her a better student overall. 

The most challenging part was dealing with TRAX-related issues and learning to work around transportation times to make it to all her classes, Fuller said. Delays, derailings and missed trains are all a part of things that can go wrong while taking public transportation. 

In order to stay up to date with things, Fuller suggests following UTA on Twitter and checking the schedules ahead of time to not only know what time the trains will show up to the station but also what time they will arrive on campus. She also recommended knowing which stations are closest to your classes on campus. 

“I would also suggest coordinating with friends who have similar schedules because it makes the commute more fun,” she said.

While the majority of U students come from the Utah valley, out-of-state students have to adapt to the Utah lifestyle and culture. 

Kristina Guzman, a freshman majoring in marketing, moved all the way from New York City. Guzman said she expected lots of drugs, alcohol and parties from portrayals of college on TV but instead got awesome roommates who hosted Just Dance parties and waffle movie nights. “I got a greater sense of community from my hallway and such a greater sense of independence from being on my own,” she said.

Despite thinking she was independent before college, Guzman said being alone without the safety net of her mom around was a different level. 

“Not being able to hug her whenever I wanted was a challenge, so I really had to learn to forge friendships where I felt comfortable enough to talk about challenges or deal with hardships on my own,” she said. 

Guzman said she learned a lot about herself in her first year of college, including how to operate as a single unit, plan out meals and keep herself and her space organized. “I found that I’m more rational and calm about living by myself than I thought which was a nice discovery,” she said. 

In the craziness of classes and obligations, Guzman said that one thing that was good for her was taking time each day to organize her room. “I felt like that was something that I could really look forward to and I actually had control over something even though I’d been dumped in a new place,” she said. 

Guzman advises other students to always say yes, within reason, to try doing things and stepping out of your comfort zone and to not be afraid to start doing new things right away. “Go somewhere and explore the campus. Start getting familiar with your surroundings because you’re going to be there for a while,” she said.

“Moving out of state is hard but it’s so worth it to be truly independent and learn what it’s like to live by yourself which you will most likely be doing after college so it’s a good transition,” Guzman said. 

Another out-of-state student is Sanja Bunjevic, a freshman from California, majoring in nursing. While California is closer to Utah than New York, it is still a transition that takes some getting used to. “It was a lot of adjusting coming from California because I had never been to Utah prior. I guess it was kind of new just living on your own without your parents, doing everything yourself. I liked it; it gave me a lot of independence,” Bunjevic said.

Like many incoming freshmen, Bunjevic was concerned about not making friends or liking her classes. However, she was able to make friends in a variety of ways. My freshman year was actually not really what I expected. I literally came in so scared of not making friends or not liking my classes, but as the year went on, I joined a sorority and I met my closest friends. I met friends in my nursing classes,” Bunjevic said.

Along with joining a sorority, Bunjevic recommends living on campus as a way to meet new people. “The social aspect for me was great because I was able to make friends, go to football games, the stadium is right down the street. I loved living on campus; I got the real college experience,” Bunjevic said.

Bunjevic’s biggest piece of advice to incoming freshmen would be to take every opportunity that comes along. “I was fortunate enough to take every opportunity given to me, and it really helped me branch out and meet more friends, so I think everyone should take any opportunity given to them,” Bunjevic said.


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