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Navigating the Summer Transition from First-Year to Sophomore

Lexi shares what she is doing to make her summer transition as easy as possible.

Lexi shares what she is doing to make her summer transition as easy as possible.

Before winter break last year, I was super nervous about coming home. What if my dog doesn’t remember me? What if my hometown has changed? What if I forget everything I’ve learned at Carleton?

There were so many what-if’s that my brain came up with, some rational, and others not. Some what-if’s were more distressing than others (my dog not remembering me had its hold on me). But, all these what-if’s had to do with transitions and change.

Lexi and her dog, Athena, pose
I’ve had Athena Marie since I was 5 years old. She loves watermelon and classical music.

As a Southern Californian, I’ve always heard about seasons. But I didn’t understand them until I came to Minnesota. In particular, I did not understand autumn. I had never seen such vibrant orange and yellow trees in my life. I’d never seen a tree drop its leaves as if it had a mind of its own!

I’ve never been so acutely aware of the passage of time as I have here. One moment, I was a starry-eyed first-year student under the fall leaves. Now I am nearly a starry-eyed sophomore under the spring leaves. There’s something about the way that winter creeps up upon Minnesota that makes time feel real. 

That being said, I sometimes have a difficult time dealing with transitions and change. There are a lot of resources about first coming to college and leaving college, but not enough resources about the changes in between. Here are a few things that I am finding to be soothing during my transition from first-year to sophomore.

Talking to people.

There’s nothing worse than dealing with big feelings alone. Anxiety about change is a huge feeling. It basically requires you to talk about it to feel at least a little bit better.

I have found great comfort in voicing my anxieties to my close friends, professors, and my family. When I talk about what I am afraid of, I feel a little bit less afraid because now the fear has a name, and potentially, a reason. Oftentimes, somebody older than you can offer advice that makes the world a little less scary.

There is also professional help to be found on campus through SHAC. A therapist may help you to sort out any big feelings if they’re beginning to overwhelm you.

What I’ve found most comforting about talking to others about how I feel is that a lot of people feel the same way. Humans are adverse to change, so it makes sense that we’d feel similarly. Knowing that you’re not alone makes a huge difference. I am not alone in the fact that I fear my dog will have forgotten me.

Two students smile
You may know Emma Kutcher ’26 as another admissions blogger, but I know her as a very close friend. We often accidentally wear matching clothing.

Practicing self-care.

Transitions can be physically and emotionally taxing. Physically, packing is a strenuous activity that will work muscles you didn’t know you had. Emotionally, because well, big feelings come up when things are changing. Through all this, your body and mind need to be cared for.

I’m not only talking about face masks and ice cream, but also sleeping and eating regularly. Since our emotional states are so impacted by our physical state, making sure you’re feeling physically okay is a key to feeling mentally okay, too. It will be easier to navigate your feelings when you’re not also extremely hungry and thirsty.

Self-care also means doing things you find enjoyable. For me, that’s running in the Arb and petting the dog outside who lives on Nevada Street. For others, that’s a huge variety of things, including Board Game Club, aikido, and west coast swing dancing. Having a non-schoolwork passion is especially important during transitions because it is dependable.

Making a plan.

This does not sound like it’s in the spirit of embracing change, but hear me out. If fear of change stems from uncertainty, what counteracts more than certainty about anything?

Having a very rough outline of what your summer will look like can do a lot to settle your fears. For me, that means I’ll be working at a general merchandise retailer near my house and practicing Russian.  You can mark your summer vacation on your calendar with delight. Maybe you want to play video games until your eyes and head hurt! Who knows? And it doesn’t matter all that much, just that you have some amount of certainty about it.

The point of making a plan is not to know exactly what your summer will be like, but to have a few things that are under your control. Planning a beach day with your high school friends is very easy, and you can have a nice time under the sun, catching up on life. The social aspect of it will also help to raise your spirits if the transition is getting you down.

Student poses with a coffee on the Seal Beach pier
My family and I have made plans to go to Javatinis in Seal Beach, California, immediately after my plane lands. If that isn’t planning for summer, I don’t know what is!

My Thoughts

While I still ask myself “What if my dog doesn’t remember me?” much too often, I have been comforted by the advice above given to me by friends, family, and staff at Carleton. As the days warm up, I’m looking forward to what next fall has to offer.

Catch you next year, Admissions Blog Readers. I hope you have a great summer, and I look forward to meeting some of you next year.



Lexi (she/her) traded her flip-flops for snow boots when she moved from sunny Orange, California to Carleton College. She is a first-year student who is interested in majoring in Sociology and Anthropology and minoring in Russian. When she is not working in the Rec Center or color-coding her daily agenda, you can find her baking absurd amounts of banana bread with her friends.