6 returning students share tips for new Tritons

by | Aug 23, 2015

UMSL students (from left) Nour Salmeen, Andrea Bryant, Cameron Roark, Charlotte Kawa, Austin Culbertson and Trang Do offered a few words of wisdom for those new to campus this fall.
Triton advice

UMSL students (from left) Nour Salmeen, Andrea Bryant, Cameron Roark, Charlotte Kawa, Austin Culbertson and Trang Do offered a few words of wisdom for those new to campus this fall. (Photo by Evie Hemphill)

They may or may not be older or wiser than their incoming counterparts, but they’ve been around the University of Missouri–St. Louis campus for a while longer, and they’ve learned some useful things.

“They” are a handful of UMSL students who recently took time out of their summer schedules to ponder the following question from UMSL Daily: If a new UMSL student asked you for advice on surviving (and thriving!) at college this fall, what would you say?

Their answers provided tips, tricks and key ways to make the most of one’s college experience as an incoming UMSL student. (Click on the embedded videos or each student’s name, below, to hear additional tips in videos created by Jennifer Hatton.)

#1 Study and de-stress.

When asked for a few words of wisdom, “puppy videos” was one of the first phrases to come out of Charlotte Kawa’s mouth.

“Find something that lets you get out some steam,” said the senior computer science major. “I’ve struggled with that … You’re going to have to study, and it’s important to have that focus, but have fun, too.”

In addition to taking a moment here and there for baby-animal cuteness on the Internet, Kawa makes extracurricular activities she enjoys a priority. These include rock climbing, an interest that is now greatly enhanced by the new UMSL Recreation and Wellness Center where she is working as a climbing wall supervisor.

Most of all, though, Kawa’s advice to new UMSL students is to study.

“Make sure you set aside time for homework,” she said. “Come midterms and finals, you’ll be thanking me.”

#2 Get involved and study abroad.

Now a graduate student in the College of Business Administration, Nour Salmeen also attended UMSL as an undergrad. Originally from Kuwait, she moved to the U.S. at the age of 18. At UMSL, she made a point to get involved on campus early.

“Join a student organization,” she suggested, “or if you aren’t finding what you’re looking for, even create a new one.”

Another word of advice? Pursue study-abroad opportunities.

“Save up and pick a new country,” said Salmeen, who has spent time in Dubai and in China as a UMSL student. She recommends exploring on-campus opportunities too, such as internships and assistantships that build skills while paying bills.

And “don’t stress,” she added. “Just chillax.”

#3 Meet new people.

Cameron Roark, president of the Student Government Association, said new UMSL students should make a point to stop by the Fall Expo, set for Aug. 26 during the first week of classes. It’s a great chance to get a sense of the many options for getting engaged around campus – and to meet people.

“You have to put yourself out there,” he said. “The people I met the first few weeks of freshman year are some of my best friends now.”

Also, classes and coursework are important, but if you just come to campus for that, “you’re not going to get the whole experience you could get.” Finally, Roark said, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

#4 Venture outside comfort zones.

Senior chemistry major Trang Do, who is from Vietnam, echoes Roark on that last point, looking back on her first semester at UMSL.

“Talk to people,” she said. “You might think with some people, ‘Oh, I don’t know them – it would be strange,’ but maybe they can help you … Don’t stay in your box.”

Now an orientation leader who helps welcome new UMSL students to campus, Do remembers being hesitant and shy at first herself.

That changed, she said, especially after getting a part-time job at the Nosh inside the Millennium Student Center and beginning to meet more people. She also got involved with the Chemistry Club and is president-elect of the Vietnamese Student Association.

Academically, Do adds, it pays to “go to class and sit in the front row. Go to office hours. When you go in there, they are really nice and ready to answer questions.”

#5 Try things out (and sleep).

From Andrea Bryant’s perspective, three words are especially key: try things out.

“I think as a freshman what was important for me was trying new things,” said the senior business major. “I think that kind of helped me figure out what I wanted to do the rest of the [college] years.”

Bryant speaks from experience. She originally majored in nursing, opting to switch to business at the end of her sophomore year at UMSL.

“There are a lot of college students who end up changing,” she said. “I think that has made me less afraid to try new things and make decisions.”

Bryant’s other two pointers?

“Learn how to manage your time early, and get sleep.”

#6 Embrace new freedoms with care.

Communication major Austin Culbertson suggested “freedom” as something to watch out for as a new college student – that it’s important to keep oneself accountable.

“It’s making the good decisions,” Culbertson said.

Now a senior, Culbertson lives on campus and frequently rides his bike to navigate campus, which he remembers seemed pretty sizeable when he was a new face on campus.

“Don’t be overwhelmed the first time,” he said. “Campus is pretty big, but people are here to help.”

Finally, echoing Bryant, he emphasized trying new things – “whether it’s new friends or a new major.”

The UMSL Experience

Evie Hemphill

Evie Hemphill