Senior English major Emily Mendez gives new students tips, advice, and personal insight into their first year at Fordham.

1. Your Newfound Freedom

The moment you get to college is the moment you really gain your independence. Of course your family will always be there for you, and your professors will have your best interests in mind. But you now have more autonomy than ever. It might take a while, but learn to use that freedom wisely.

2. Choosing a Major

If you don’t love it, don’t major in it. If you love the idea of examining themes in French literature, analyze that. And if you’re interested in how to manage liquid financial assets, study that. Or, better yet, do both. Fordham gives you the time to figure out what you want to do, and the opportunity to be successful doing it.

3. A Dip in the Deep End

My favorite class? English Theory. It’s a requirement for the English major, but I personally think it should be a requirement for everyone. It takes everything you think you know about English as a language and breaks it down scientifically, politically, and culturally. That’s what a good college class does: It takes something you already know and love, and then shows you that you’ve really been swimming in shallow water all along. There’s a whole ocean just waiting for you.

4. Clubs and Extracurriculars

When you’re deciding on what clubs and activities to pursue outside of school, don’t pick them—let them pick you. You’re not doing things for a college acceptance letter or a well-rounded resume anymore. These activities are a reflection of who you are, and if you want to teach traditional Latin American ballroom dance to middle school students, don’t be afraid to take that initiative and do it.

5. Striking a Balance

While there are thousands of potential internships in New York City and in Fordham’s network, not every learning opportunity comes with a title. Even if your job is nine to five on Mondays and Thursdays, learning happens all seven days of the week. Take that assistantship at the law firm. Be that partner at the fashion house. But don’t forget to just relax sometimes and people watch at the park. If Fordham is your school, let New York be your professor every now and then.

6. Find Your Passion and a Career Will Follow

I came to college thinking I would be a pre-med biology major. Now with a rediscovered love of English (my new major), I’m looking into teaching, education reform, law, public policy, or a combination of all four. As long as you have a passion for it, you’ll find something that allows you to channel that passion into positive change.

7. New York Is Your Campus

There are about 13 miles between the Lincoln Center and Rose Hill campuses, and about 196 countries in the world. If you travel those few short miles, you’ll see that they somehow manage to accommodate nearly all of the world’s cultures. But don’t forget to branch out even farther—start following the music scene in Brooklyn, spend some time discovering the diversity of food flavors in Queens, or check out what the Coney Island Mermaid Parade is all about. Fordham is your school, New York is your campus, and this is your world. Don’t forget to explore it.

8. Expanding Your Palate

If you enter college a picky eater, trust me, you’re not leaving as one. Whether it’s mofongo y lechón, bánh mì, soupe à l’oignon, or bibimbap, there are honestly infinite options—although I can’t guarantee you’ll leave knowing how to properly pronounce all of them.

9. Learning as a Community

In art, diptychs are two pieces, literally hinged together like a book, that are meant to be admired in tandem. In literature, diptychs are poems meant to be read together, each lending to the meaning and significance of the other. In the college classroom, diptychs are everywhere: You’ll form them with professors and fellow students. Watching your personal understanding of the world grow is great, but watching everyone hinge on each other and work together as a community of learners is amazing.

10. The Value of Growth

There’s no way to put this lightly: You’re going to change. A lot. But you should. Change is just growth, and if my high-school self could have looked into the future and seen her college self, she would have been pretty shocked, but even more proud. And after going to a school like Fordham, I trust that you’ll be proud of yourself too.

—Emily Mendez