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Advice to My Freshman Self

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

When they began their studies at St. John's University, much of what these young men and women knew about college life came from parents, friends, siblings, guidance counselors, even movies. Their next four years turned into intensely personal journeys of self-discovery. As they prepare to receive their bachelor's degrees in May, the four seniors below share the kind of advice they would offer if they could travel back and speak with the freshmen they were.

Julia Bennefield '18CPS
Hospitality Management
Sacramento, CA

One thing I would urge my freshman self to start doing, right away, is to visit the University Career Services office on campus. I did not realize the full extent of the resources offered by Career Services until one of the deans in the College of Professional Studies and a few of my classmates began telling me about it. I was a little nervous about going at first: I had minimal work experience and did not feel qualified for anything more than an entry-level job.

My Career Advisor changed that. I learned how to build my résumé, highlight my past job experiences, and show how my skills relate to what I apply for. They have other services, too, like mock interviews, dining etiquette courses, and Career Fairs, where I found great internship and job opportunities in my sophomore year. It’s never too early to pay them a visit.

Lillian Black '18Ed
Elementary Education
Minisink, NY

I would tell my freshman self that you have to push yourself. Don’t wait to discover what truly interests you. Try things, and give them your all. One thing I have always cared about is Relay for Life, which raises money to fight cancer. My high school was one of hundreds all over the country that participate in the event every year, and I was really passionate about it.

So on my first visit to St. John’s, I asked the tour guide if they have it at the Queens campus. She said yes, absolutely, yes, and that she loves it. I knew right then, this was the place for me. I went to their table at the activities fair, and I’ve been involved ever since—as Chair of Team Development for two years; as Co-Chair in my junior year; and now, as Chair of the entire event. I’ve been able to contribute to other activities, too. I served in Florida at Give Kids the World Village, a nonprofit resort for children with serious illnesses and their families; I was a member of the Mixed Chorus; and I’m also part of the St. John’s Chapter of Project Sunshine, which offers free educational, recreational, and social activities for children with medical problems. So, my advice? Never be afraid to take chances.

Lance l. Eustaquio '18C
Computer Science
Manila, Phillippines

Speak up—if I could, that is what I would tell my freshman self. When I started out at St. John’s, I was very hesitant to raise my hand, to answer or even ask questions in class. It was a tendency that went all the way back to high school. I was afraid of saying something wrong, of being judged by others.

My courses at St. John’s showed me there was never anything to fear. My major is Computer Science, but I took two speech classes, which pushed me to be more vocal in front of others. Then I took an English class that also required us to participate in front of others. I discovered something amazing—most of my classmates, even the seemingly confident ones, felt some apprehension, too. Realizing that changed things for me. I had more courage to share what I know in my computer classes. I started going to University Career Services, and I eventually found an on-campus job in the Office of Information Technology. Learning to speak up changed my life, and I wish I had started doing it sooner.

William Pugh '18C
Biology
Atlanta, GA

I would advise my freshman self to definitely be excited about getting involved in campus activities, but to move carefully at first. One of the great things about St. John’s is that there’s so much to do—it’s tempting to want to try everything. But our main goal as students is to focus on our education. Once you feel you have a firm grasp on the main priority—your courses—the sky is truly the limit in regard to immersing yourself outside the classroom.

That said, it is still important to find your niche early. I chose service. St. John’s gives incoming freshmen a chance to participate even before they begin classes. When I received an e-mail about a service trip to Give Kids the World Village in Florida, I jumped at it. That experience was literally the stepping stone to every leadership position I have had on campus, including President of the University chapter of Pi Kappa Phi; a student worker for St. John’s Serves; and eventually, Vice President of Student Government, Inc. That’s why I would still advise my freshman self to start with service.