Leaving the Nest: Navigating Your First Semester as a T-bird

By Amanda Cardini, Editor-in-Chief

On your first day at Thunderbird, things can feel a little overwhelming; it takes time to get back into the school routine, perhaps after a years-long break, adjust to new classes on a variety of subjects, and get the lay of the land. The first few weeks are often so jam-packed with assignments, club meetings and events, that the feeling of what did I get myself into can start to sink inNavigating the many opportunities and responsibilities around you can be hard, but once you get the hang of things, you’ll be spreading your wings in no time.

Courtesy of Susan Alexander Yates

Tip #1: Don’t over-commit

When clubs showcase their accomplishments at Club Day, it can be tempting to sign up for just about everything. But signing up for too many clubs can severely diminish your personal time. It’s best to be realistic with yourself about how much you can take on, and to remember the importance of having free time. You can always join different clubs next semester, or next year, if you want the opportunity to be involved. For your first semester, try not to go overboard before you get into the swing of things.

Tip #2: If you fall behind, know when to cut your losses

With the amount of readings, group assignments, and tests in classes, falling behind can happen quickly and easily; it can take a full week to catch up from missing one day’s worth of work. And because time didn’t stand still while you missed your assignments, the incoming tasks just continue to pile up. Sometimes this means that catching up isn’t feasible or worth the energy. In these situations, it’s important to evaluate whether the missed work is truly critical. I’m in no way suggesting that students not do their work – simply that when you fall behind you need to assess it as opportunity cost. For example, is it really worth spending so many hours on work that your professor has already moved past if you’re going to miss sleep the night before an exam in another class? At some point you have to recognize the missed information as non-recoverable, and instead of working double, just do your best not to let it happen in the future.

Thunderbird of old. Courtesy of ASU Libraries

Tip #3: Learn Thunderbird’s history

As you know, Thunderbird has a rich history (did you know that the Dalai Lama once visited?) and is in a period of transition. It can be scary for many students, alumni and faculty, who have a deep connection to the school and fear its traditions getting lost in transition. The only way the Thunderbird legacy will be preserved is through the current students. Luckily, the Thunderbird history is well-documented, in Das Tor, several books, and in the memories of alumni and faculty. Be curious, ask questions, and seek information about Thunderbird’s long, fluid past. You might be surprised at how little some things have changed, and how much others have.

Tip #4: Respect the past

If you’re a first year, especially if you never set foot on the old campus, you unfortunately have no idea what Thunderbird was like before relocating downtown. I’m not here to tell you that it was better as the word “better” is inherently subjective. But I am here to tell you that it was very different, and that many of your fellow students were attached to it. We’re doing our best to replicate the aspects of the old campus that were exceptional, and ask that you respect the fact that we alone know what it was like. Don’t try to fight us on our perceptions of what make Thunderbird, Thunderbird. It’s regrettable that you didn’t get to experience things like the pub, or extended parties at the fish, but we want to recreate these things for you as best we can downtown. Please don’t try to tell us how to do that.

Courtesy of Imgflip

Tip #5: Remember to eat the bacon

A previous Thunderbird staff member used to give a speech during Foundations about the importance of “eating the bacon.” It was an analogy in reference to a TV show in which contestants were racing to finish as many pancakes as they could. The person that won had periodically stopped eating the pancakes to eat bacon in between. The other contestants thought he was crazy, but when he won, he explained that having too much of a good thing will cause you to hit a wall and not be able to continue. The bacon provided the break that allowed him to persist through and win the pancake-eating challenge. At Thunderbird, the bacon is your fun time. If you focus too much on school, you’ll burn out and pushing on will be much harder. Don’t forget to spend time with your fellow T-birds outside of school-related activities, get to know each other, and let loose.

Your time at Thunderbird can be some of the best days of your life – you have so much to look forward to! As the semester goes on you’ll adjust, and learn the best ways to make the most of it. So sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. Fly high, T-birds! 

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