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Sep 30, 2014

Freshman Year Reflection: Memorial is NOT on the Quad

Photo of Gabe LeeAfter visiting JMU for a leadership conference in high school, Gabe Lee knew JMU was the place for him. Now looking back on his freshman year he can really see how much he has learned and grown as a person.

He admits that the summer before he arrived on campus was stressful, especially when it came to housing.

“I think because you have to just get on a computer and pick your fate for the next year based on places you have never been to, it’s stressful,” he said. “I thought I really wanted to live on the Quad so when I got assigned to Skyline I was really upset.”

He later learned that all the things he thought he would hate about Skyline actually turned into the things he loves about it.

“You really just start to love and become proud of where you live no matter where you end up,” he said.

Like many other incoming students, Gabe was looking most forward to a new start at JMU.

“I was just so ready for college, so ready to start over and meet new people,” he said. “My graduating class was only 55 people. Now I have lecture halls that have more kids in them than my high school did.”

While the distant thought of leaving for school looms in the minds of most students once they are accepted to college, those faint worries become very real in August.

“The week before I left for JMU it really set in that I was leaving. My mom was a mess so I think that translated over to me. Since she was freaking out I thought maybe I should be freaking out too.”

Even though freaking out may be your first reaction when you think about boxing up your life to move, your first big task as an incoming freshman is inevitably packing.

“I didn’t know what to pack, so of course I over packed. Then once you get in your room you have no space for all of it, so you have to make some weird set up to make it all fit,” laughing as he reminisced. “Moving out is going to be the worst because I just have way too much stuff.”

Instead of finding a roommate from home or looking for one on social media, Gabe opted to be placed with a random roommate, a decision that looking back now taught him a lot about communication.

"It sounds so cliché, but you need to communicate with your roommate," he said. “One day my roommate said something and I just lost it. I went off on him and he was so confused. He had no idea he was even bothering me.”

A lack of communication in any roommate situation will likely lead to issues, as he learned.

“You have to remember that the little things that bother you aren’t the same things that may bother your roommate. So you have to communicate with them about the little things when they happen so that they don’t become bigger things later.” 

Despite their minor problems in the beginning, Gabe is happy with his decision to choose a random roommate and work through the things that come with living with someone you don’t know that well. 

Learning to communicate with his roommate wasn’t the only communication he had to get down.

“At first I had trouble with the JMU slang. Once you’re here for a while you understand it but at first you don’t know what a punch is or how the buses work. But a good thing to remember is you’re all in the same boat. No one comes to college knowing everything about the campus and how things work,” he said. 

When asked what the one thing he wished he had known coming to JMU he responded: 

“I really wish that someone had told me that Memorial isn’t actually located on campus. I just assumed it was on the Quad and the day of my class I freaked because I couldn’t just walk there like I had assumed,” he said.

One other thing that proved to be tougher than he had originally thought was managing his schedule, more specifically his sleep schedule.

“I had this idea in my head that I would get up at 6, go for a jog, eat breakfast in the dining hall, then get ready for class and still be early for my 8 AM. In reality, I got up at 7:50 put on whatever clothes I could find and ran to class,” he said. “Your mom’s not here telling you to go to bed by 12 because you have an 8 AM the next day.” 

The freedom to make your own choices, not only when it comes to sleep, can really make or break your experience in college.

“I think people come to college thinking they have to party and drink, but there are so many other things at JMU you miss out on when you spend your time focused on that,” he said. “I would challenge current freshmen to actually look at the informational emails they get from JMU. Participate and try out for as many things as you can because you will probably never have as many resources and activities as you have here at JMU. Get involved while you can.”

Gabe is now an RA and gets to share his experiences and advice with freshmen, including this last lesson:

“You have to put yourself out there, everything isn’t just going to come to you in college. If you don’t get out there you will just sit alone in your room and that’s not how you build a community at JMU.”

By Megan Martin (’11)

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