Perhaps the greatest part of sophomore year so far is seeing how much I have changed since the beginning of freshman year. Freshmen, for the most part, are still easy to pick out on West. They tend to travel in large groups, wandering around with a strange mix of false confidence and awkwardness that makes it clear that they have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. It feels like just yesterday when I was one of them, following around my new friends from my pre-orientation group, going to the First Night Carnival and trying to figure out where on earth LSRC was.

Before O-week, countless upperclassmen told me how much fun O-week was, with all the planned activities and opportunities to bond with your class. Only later did I realize what a cruel joke that was, and that O-week is possibly one of the most intensely uncomfortable times in a Duke student’s life. Freshmen have to deal with homesickness, worries about finding friends and making the transition to college, all while putting on a happy face and making small talk with their peers for days in a row. There are only so many times in one’s life when you’re put with over a thousand strangers, left alone with barely any adult supervision and told to immediately make friendships to last a lifetime.

What I remember most clearly from O-week and the first weeks of college was how out of my element I felt. I had never been in a completely new place with no one I knew before. All of the upperclassmen I talked to seemed impossibly cool, with their majors all figured out and involved in a million different equally impressive activities. I had no idea what I wanted to major in or even what I could major in, and I didn’t know how to go about joining any of the clubs I heard about. I was getting by at Duke, but I didn’t understand what all the hype was about college just yet. I wasn’t sure if I could ever be one of those upperclassmen who I looked up to so much during my first days at Duke.

A year later, everything has changed. I’ve spent the last part of O-week juggling meeting up with all my friends who I missed dearly over the too-long summer with freaking out over the opening of West Union and catching up on homework I’m already behind on. The past year has been a transformative one, as I’ve gone to Oxford for a summer program, gotten an editor position at The Chronicle and fallen in love with Duke and the opportunities it has given me. Being at Duke marks some of the happiest times in my life so far, and I wouldn’t want to go to college anywhere else.

As I sit writing my very first editor’s note in the newly open West Union, occasionally looking up to wave to a friend from my sorority or my study abroad program, I can’t help but think about how different I felt a year ago. Last summer, I couldn’t even dream of interviewing the producer of Frozen, frequenting the Durham Farmer’s Market or traveling to a new country by myself. I knew that most people changed a lot during their freshman year of college, and I was worried about what these changes would entail. Freshman year presented an opportunity for so much personal growth, as I feel that I’ve gained confidence, new interests and friendships to last a lifetime. I eagerly await the next three years of finding myself at Duke and in Durham and all the memories to be made along the way.

So upperclassmen: be nice to the freshmen. They are just as lost and confused as you were when you first got to Duke. They could use advice from students who were in their shoes just a few months or years earlier. Freshmen: if O-week didn’t go to way you thought it would or if you still don’t feel comfortable at Duke, give it time. Duke has so much to discover, and it takes a full four years to do so. Don’t be afraid to try extracurriculars you wouldn’t have done in high school or to make friends with people who seem to be different from you.

O-week is definitely the beginning of every Duke student’s college experience, but it doesn’t have to signify how the next four years will go. You certainly won’t have everything figured out on freshman move-in day, and you probably won’t have everything figured out by graduation. Like O-week, Duke can be scary and overwhelming at times, but it can also offer you some of the greatest and most memorable times in your life. If you let it.