Stomping the Yard

Freshman Memoirs: From Chicago to Cornfields

Our college blogger Dr. Shante Bishop shares key strategies to help college students overcome procrastination.
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This summer, I’m featuring “The Freshman Memoirs” from current college students who want to share with incoming freshmen the experiences and advice they’ve learned in their college careers.

In this week’s edition, rising sophomore Yaw Kesse talks about how he learned to smoothly maneuver through his freshman year at University of Illinois-Springfield.


This past year, I had a number of experiences–some great, and some I never want to mention again.

My first wake-up call came when I attended a university basketball game with some of my White classmates.  As I sat holding my cell phone in my hand and watching the game in the stands, out of nowhere I was approached and quickly accused of stealing my own phone by a university police officer and an athletic staff member.

I was asked to prove and verify my ownership twice, empty all my pockets and my coat and show identification.  I almost lost my temper because I felt violated.   I tried to sit through the rest of the game despite the tons of questions and stares coming from other students.  But there was some much commotion, I decided to leave the game.

I learned that I was far away from home on the South Side of Chicago.  And, I also learned how others perceived me in this new setting as a Black male student was something I totally wasn’t suspecting. But putting things in perspective and being able to learn from new experiences, environments, and all people are key tips I would include in a crash course on surviving your freshman year.  Here are a couple of other tips:

Be open to new cultures. In high school, I never had the opportunity to experience different cultures because the majority of the student body was African-Americans with little to no diversity. But in college, I was able to connect with people of many different demographics. College is the perfect place to explore and learn about other people and their cultures. You never know what you will learn. Be open to everything!

A small university means more attention. I never imagined attending a college that would have a classroom with fewer than 50 attendees, but that’s what you deal with at a small university. There was a low student-to-teacher ratio, which gave my professors the opportunity to know me more personally and allowed me the opportunity to get more quality one-on-one time for understanding material that was unclear. Although it was a different experience from high school, it was extremely beneficial.

Manage your time wisely. Time is of the essence! I took on 12 credit hours the first semester of my freshman year and 17 credit hours second semester while working 40 hours a week off campus. The workload was completely overwhelming. It was difficult to manage my time with such an intense workload and a demanding work schedule. Everyday I made time to study, work, and free time. Although I had several things to do, I managed my time wisely in order to complete all of my tasks.

With these tips, freshman year should be a enjoyable and a great learning experience! My freshman year of college was filled with tons of learning experiences, and I gained a great sense of self-awareness and I look forward to see what the next few years have to bring!

About Kelly Fair

Kelly Fair

Kelly Fair is the founder of the highly successful Polished Pebbles Girls Mentoring Program that has served more than 600 girls 7-17 years old to be effective communicators, and career and community conscious leaders! This work has been supported by a network of 300+ volunteers from the Chicagoland community and area businesses such as Bloomingdale’s, Microsoft, ThoughtWorks and many more. You can follow Kelly on her blog and on Twitter at @KFairtheMentor.