Freshmen attend a student panel of four sopho­mores dis­cussing high­lights from their freshman year. Nathan Grime | Col­legian

As freshmen arrive for their first semester of college, they are met with countless oppor­tu­nities to absorb infor­mation and advice from faculty, staff, pro­fessors, and upper­classmen.

Last week, they had the oppor­tunity to hear from some under­classmen.

Sopho­mores Emily Skwarek, Dietrich Bals­baugh, Karissa McCarthy, and Nathan Williams took turns speaking for 10 minutes each to a crowd of more than 40 new stu­dents.

Each pan­elist shared with the audience growing expe­ri­ences they had in their first semester last year, offered tips on how to maintain a healthy balance between aca­d­emics and social and spir­itual well-being, and sug­gested vis­iting their pro­fessors in office hours.

“Although we all go to Hillsdale to learn, we can’t ignore the expe­ri­ences,” Swarek said. “This includes forming lasting rela­tion­ships. Many people have told us, ‘You will make friends with people that will be lifelong friends,’ and I really think that’s true. I’ve def­i­nitely made friends that I’ll have forever.”

Skwarek, who works as a student affairs mentor in career ser­vices, noted that refining a resumé and preparing for life after school is also some­thing to take advantage of at Hillsdale. She also told the audience that stressing over a major or future career is an unnec­essary worry as a freshman.

“You can do any­thing with your major,” Skwarek said. “The more unique you are and more expe­ri­ences you have, the more employers will want you.”

Bals­baugh told the group that at a loud and busy campus, it’s important to find quiet time.

“It’s part of cul­ti­vating an interior life,” Bals­baugh said. “I find it helpful to develop not only a spir­itual life, but also an intel­lectual one.”

Bals­baugh went on to say that in the classroom it’s a good thing to be vocal but inquis­itive.

“Be con­fident in your learning,” Bals­baugh said. “Ask bold ques­tions, but be aware of yourself so you don’t put yourself on display. Ask as many ques­tions as you can. Ques­tions are not a sign of igno­rance. They’re a sign of passion.”

Freshman Hannah Thullen said she was encouraged to hear the pos­itive expe­ri­ences the pan­elists have had with their pro­fessors at Hillsdale.

“From where I’m from, there seemed to be a distant rela­tionship [between pro­fessors and stu­dents],” she said. “I liked how they talked about the pro­fessors here and how much they seem to care about you.”

McCarthy asked how one can glorify God through aca­d­emics, She shared her own struggles with trying to do so before she came to the real­ization that “you don’t need to prove yourself.”

“Achievement is not God’s plan and purpose for us. Achievement is very prideful,” McCarthy said. “The goal of being at Hillsdale is to learn. The best way we can honor God is through learning.”

McCarthy said trusting in God has helped her to embrace the process of learning instead of aiming for results.

“This place teaches you how to love some­thing because it should be loved,” she said. “Don’t let the achieve­ments consume your life. Let the journey and let God consume your life.”

Freshman Julia Powell found the reminder to focus on learning instead of grades to be ben­e­ficial.

“I love learning, that’s one reason I’m here,” she said. “But some­times, you can get so caught up in every­thing and com­peting with other people that you forget about that better goal, so having that reminder is always a good thing.”

Williams con­cluded the panel by talking about the impor­tance of seeking “mem­bership in com­munity.”

An imped­iment to this ideal, he explained, is defining oneself by the groups of people one asso­ciates with.

“You can’t reverse-engineer friendship,” he said. “When friend­ships form through mutual respect and love, it’s one of the most beau­tiful things.”

Another pitfall to building friend­ships Williams men­tioned was pride.

“You are yourself. You bring some­thing unique and some­thing special,” he said. “But it’s not for yourself. It’s for others, and to love others, and to invest in them.”

Freshman Jenny Buccola said Williams’ chal­lenge to try new things was a helpful reminder.

“I thought how it was cool for Nathan to say to go outside of your comfort zone,” she said. “I like that piece of advice to do stuff that makes you uncom­fortable because you’ll make friends.”

The freshmen in atten­dance said it was worth­while to hear from stu­dents who were in their position only a year ago.

Gabriel Kramer appre­ciated another oppor­tunity to hear and learn from people with expe­rience.

“I think it’s really important to learn from people who have expe­rience because that’s the way our entire culture is set up,” he said. “You come here to learn from people who have studied these things their whole lives, and it’s important to get advice from people who were just recently in your position.”

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Nathan is a junior at Hillsdale College studying Rhetoric and Public Address and Journalism. He is Sports Editor and beat reporter for the Football, Women's Basketball, and Baseball teams for the Hillsdale Collegian. When he's not watching or writing about sports, Nathan enjoys playing organ and singing. Originally from St. Louis Missouri, Nathan now lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana. You can follow Nathan on twitter @nategrime or Hillsdale Collegian Sports at @HDaleSports.