J.J. Jenkins is a journalism freshman and Mustang Daily freshman columnist.

I have learned a lot in my time as Mustang Daily freshman columnist. Mostly that the lives of freshman are often not nearly interesting enough to generate perfect ideas for 800-word articles.

Mainly, I have learned that the “freshman experience” does not come down to how hard I partied or how many girls I hooked up with, but rather, how much time I spent with people who truly supported me. Cliché, I know.

If there is one piece of advice I have for anyone coming into college, it is to find friends who will provide you with experiences you will tell your children about when they head off to college.

I am grateful for this column, no matter how frustrating it is to have ideas elude my thoughts, because it allowed me to forever etch my freshman experience in the public record.

As longtime readers will know (aka my three closest friends and my mom), I have used this print space to comment on my friends and my escapades, making fun of everyone in the process. But I could not have done it without their support … and tendency to do ridiculous things at the right moment.

That is why our friendship gelled and why the friendships made this year will go far beyond freshman year.

In exchange for reading my columns, I attended events set up by my friends.

Would I normally go to the “E-rave” for engineers? No. I do not want a detailed explanation of why the flashing lights cause seizures when I am there to party it up.

But, because it was important to our friend who spent precious time setting it up to feel appreciated, we went, and I learned a lot about the uses of calculus in dancing.

We spent time enjoying a multitude of events and mixers that we would normally skip, so our friendship became closer and our bonds deeper, because we meant more to each other than just a group to go to dinner with. We were a family.

A family so big and so complex that not even mass texts could organize the group quickly and efficiently, so we had to create a Facebook group where anyone of us could broadcast information to the group at a moment’s notice.

And because they were and are my family, I spent the vast majority of my columns writing about “us” rather than partying and having the typical “freshman experience” because that “experience” is hardly unique.

That being said, I am not one who believes in living life with no regrets because I do regret parts of this year. Mainly, I did not get to meet even more people.

I realized during a Week Of Welcome (WOW) event that, as much as I love my Cal Poly family, there are still many great people on this campus who I would gladly welcome into my group of friends.

That is the true freshman experience, in my opinion — constantly meeting new people who bring laughter and joy into a college environment.

So let us make a point to keep our freshman mindset even as we progress through college. It would be a bummer to only meet those people you ran into your first weeks on campus throughout your four (or five) years in San Luis Obispo.

Make a point to do something out of your comfort zone. For me, it is going to a toga party or an LMFAO concert. You find your best friends in the time you are most dependent on them.

Make a point to spend time with each of your friends individually. As important as having a big group of friends can be, the time you spend talking one-on-one builds lasting relationships. Those are the conversations that you can return to when a friend is in need or you want to call them out of the blue in 20 years to ask about their life.

Make a point to pay it forward. Remember your first weeks on campus and all the things you were ignorant of? If you have the chance to talk to a WOWie or just an incoming freshman who you happen to befriend, give them a tip. Even if it’s to go Sandwich Factory at the bottom of the hour to avoid the rush, it will make them feel like they have a leg up on the masses.

Make a point to be grateful. Cal Poly is one of the best kept secrets in the college world, and that makes it a great place even when things do not go our way (ahem, major change process). So remember, as tough as our schedule is, we could be in Wisconsin in parkas lugging our books to class.

Finally make a point to, once in a while, say, “To hell with this. I’m going in my own direction.” It is the only way to carve your own path.

Thanks for the good times freshman year. J.J. out.

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