By Natalie Haber
My freshman year of college was not what I thought it would be. After graduating high school, I was ready to move onto to a different chapter of life. I craved something new; I felt life had become the same old routine. Wake up, go to class, attend sports practice, come home, eat dinner, do homework, watch newest episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
I attended a very large state school located in the great state of Montana. I had applied to small private liberal arts colleges similar to Chapman University, but after being recruited by the school’s rodeo team, I decided to give it a go. I had been to Montana many times, and was constantly in awe of its beauty.
It was hard to leave home. All my friends were staying in California, including a boyfriend who I cared very much for at the time. I entered school not knowing a single person there out of 12,000 students.
It all started going downhill when I was diagnosed with walking pneumonia October of the first year. I had no idea that this was the reason I felt so tired and down all the time. It wasn’t until my parents came to visit for Parents Day that they realized something was wrong. As my mother had said, “You look like death”.
I knew something was wrong with the system of the school during a class titled Montana Wildlife. The professor, who was a specialist in African rhinos, was rarely in class and when he was, would only talk about rhinos, not the wildlife of Montana. In one class session, we were watching a documentary on an African tribe hunting antelope. The student seated next to me, with a baffled look on his face, turned to me and said, “Yo! I didn’t know there were parts of Montana that looked like this with tribes in it!”
It was at that moment I realized I needed to get out of here. No one at the school really wanted to be there, and the professors were frustrated with how things worked. I began to hate it in Montana. I hated waking up in the morning; it was hard to get out of bed and find the motivation to do anything. I was in a complete slump. Luckily I had my two horses with me, and spent any free time I had with them. Pumba and Chester kept me going that winter.
I applied to transfer during the winter months of my freshman year, and Chapman was one of the schools. Knowing that there was an option to escape, the spring semester went by a little easier than the fall semester. There were still quite a few bumps in the road however.
During the interterm session of the school year, I went to the emergency room twice within six days. The first was when I was having a really difficult time breathing, and the doctors believed I had a blood clot. None of my friends were taking interterm classes, and my parents were over 1,200 miles away. I was completely alone, totally freaked out. I called my boyfriend at the time to let him know what I was going through, and he simply said, “I have to go to a fraternity drinking event, I’ll call you later.” I was pissed to say the least, and as you can imagine, that relationship ended quite a while ago. It turned out I just had undiagnosed asthma, but it was the first time in my life where I had to deal with something like this all by myself.
Six days later I was back again after being in a pretty bad horse riding accident. My horse Chester had bucked me off and I had landed on a metal fence. I was rushed in an ambulance, as they thought I had potentially broken my hip. Once again, I was alone in the emergency room in cold, bitter Montana. I ended up only breaking a finger, tearing a ligament in my ankle, and getting a concussion. Although I spent a lot of the winter months laid up inside, it was still a much better outcome than a broken hip.
This year I am a senior at Chapman. I haven’t been back to Montana since I left in May of 2012. I remember driving out of the state, being so ecstatic that I would be attending Chapman that next fall.
I have really enjoyed being at Chapman University. The academics are amazing, and I have made some really great friendships here. For a while I was annoyed at myself for the decision to attend school in Montana my freshman year, I felt that I had missed out on a lot of things.
However, three years later looking back at it, I am so grateful I had that experience. They always say you don’t know what you have until it is gone. In this case, I wasn’t able to really appreciate things until I had learned what else is out there. I am glad freshman year of college went the way it did. I feel like I really grew up that year, and learned how to take life matters into my own hands.
Freshman year of college is never easy. Some friends at Chapman hated their freshman year experience here, but began to love it after the first year. It is never an easy thing leaving home and all of a sudden having to grow up.
This next summer after graduating Chapman I plan on visiting Montana again and seeing old college friends. I have learned that it is sometimes the hardest times in life that you later look back on with fond memories.