University alumni offer advice to incoming students returning to campus

University alumni speak on how students may deal with challenges of navigating college.


From left to right: Shelby Klein, Natalia Boltinskaia, and Jordan Zielinski. Graphic by Marcy Wilder with illustrations by Michelle Rodriguez-Gonzalez.

Darlene Antoine, Features Editor

The concept of the college experience is a long-held tale permeated with ideas of long-lasting memories, friendships, and academic achievements.

Whether it was pulling an all-nighter in a dorm room or studying alongside a cup of overpriced Starbucks coffee, the promise of new experiences and opportunities emerged with each day. However, the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have transformed the concept of the common college experience from in-person meetings to virtual lectures and lessons.

To commemorate the upcoming arrival of the new students, members of the campus community had a few words of advice as students navigate their academic and personal journeys once arriving on campus at FAU for the first time.

Natalia Boltinskaia, a senior majoring in hospitality and tourism, explained that the passage of time moves quickly when you first enter college and before realizing it, college has come and gone in a blink of an eye.

“As a freshman, I wish I knew how fast time actually flies. I remember my first day at FAU as if it was yesterday, and I wish I could repeat it all over again and appreciate the time I spent at FAU even more. I wish I knew how important it was to communicate with FAU staff, professors and make a lot of friends and connections to succeed in your life,” said Boltinskaia.

Jordan Zielinski, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in finance, shared a similar sentiment as he explained that it is important to make as many connections as possible with those inside and outside of the classroom.

“I wish I knew as a freshman the importance of reaching out to your professors so they know you on a first-name basis and that you shouldn’t hesitate to reach out for help as most are more than willing to help with not only classwork but advice for future classes or your career,” Zielinski said. “Meeting fellow classmates is also extremely important. It allows for a quicker way to get help in a class and could lead to great connections for your future career and lifelong friendships.”

When asked about incoming students who are transitioning from remote to in-person schooling, former student Shelby Klein, who graduated with a bachelor’s in communication studies, suggested that freshmen should consider their schedules.

“My advice for incoming freshmen transitioning from remote to in-person learning is to have a mix of in-person classes and distance-learning classes in their schedules. This would help them ease into the transition,” Klein said.

Boltinskaia gave a different take, as she proposed that incoming freshmen should try to be flexible with the change and prioritize time management.

“I know a transition from remote to back in person can be very difficult, and my advice is to accept it and find a way to deal with it. For example, time management is one of the important skills that you can use to succeed in your life. Use a planner, write down what you have to do and include how much time it will consume,” Boltinskaia said.

Both Blotinskaia and Klein expressed that their worst experiences centered around the challenges of stress and classes. They urged incoming freshmen to try their best to navigate their priorities between academics and personal experiences.

Zielinski, however, had a different perspective on the worst part of his college experience.

“The worst thing about college was the Atlantic Dining Hall. While I met a ton of amazing people in the Atlantic Dining Hall and have some great memories from it, the food really made me miss a home-cooked meal,” Zielinski said.

Despite the trials and tribulations of college, Boltinskaia expressed that her very first arrival at FAU was the most memorable experience. She advised that any incoming freshman should do their best to not only cherish what is to come, but also be courageous on their new journey.

“All my best memories started from the first day I arrived at FAU. The first year at college for me is the most memorable one, to live in a freshman dorm, to meet new people every day, and to find out something new about myself. The first year is the best because everything is so new,” Boltinskaia said. “My advice to the incoming freshman class is to enjoy and appreciate the time in college as much as possible. Be brave and not afraid of new beginnings because it is not where you start, it is where you finish.”

Darlene Antoine is the Features Editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email her at [email protected].

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