The University Network

What I Wish I Knew My Freshman Year — Interview With Veronica Gonzalez, Executive Director, University of Houston Student Ambassadors

TUN sits down with Veronica Gonzalez, a business management major at the University of Houston and the executive director of the University of Houston Student Ambassadors, to discuss the things you should know as a freshman in college. 

TUN: Veronica, thanks so much for joining us.

GONZALEZ: Thank you for having me. 

Starting off with academics, what are some of the study techniques or maybe some of the on-campus resources available to you that you wish you knew about your freshman year?

When I first started my freshman year, I think I was really trying to get into the habit of studying beforehand whenever it came to assignments. 

Your first days of classes, you’re going to get all of your syllabi. They will have all of your schedules for your upcoming assignments. Scheduling your time so you study leading up to your assignments and not wait until the day before your actual exams or any assignments that are due is important. 

I also think professors are a great resource. Professors have their own office hours. During these office hours, you really get the chance to go one-on-one and review some things that you may have gotten stuck with as well as study tips. If you want to review an exam, they’re always super welcoming to do that as well. 

Creating relationships with your professors is kind of intimidating, especially if these are the first classes that you’re taking. But, it definitely goes a long way, you know, really just to get that information back to you. 

For on-campus resources, one of the big ones that I took time to research was our Launch Tutoring Services. Launch is really good with having these one-on-one interactions with students who are looking for very specific help in their specific courses. You just make an appointment online and then you go and get all your questions answered by someone who’s gotten a really high grade in the class.

Again, even if it’s not reviewing a certain objective, they can always help you with how to take notes and really do well on your exams.

Launch Tutoring Services, is that specific to University of Houston students?

Yeah.

Do you know if there are similar resources for students at other campuses in terms of where to get tutoring?

Definitely. I think most, if not all, campuses will have their own tutoring services. Launch is a very general one. You go, and you can ask questions about everything, but I know that specific majors will have their own tutoring services. 

Great. Now moving on to social life. Is there anything you wish you knew your freshman year that you know now, in terms of meeting friends or balancing your social life with school work and extracurriculars?

I think one of the big things is really just putting yourself out there, trying not to be as shy. 

I would consider myself a relatively introverted person. I’m not too big on going out and making friends. But, I think that it’s a really great thing to just not be so scared and be welcoming and friendly. Even if you’re not the one initiating the conversations all the time, you’re still able to make so many great friends. 

In terms of extracurriculars, joining a club or an organization goes a long way. You get to meet people that have the same things in common with you.

I think the big thing is, going to campus events and putting yourself out there. The people who are going to those same events as you are probably in the same mood to make friends. You always get a really welcoming feeling and you get to meet different people because of it. 

So, you spoke about extracurriculars for a second there. Where can students get involved in those sorts of clubs? Is there something you know about now that, maybe you didn’t know about your freshman year, could be a good resource for a student who wants to get involved?

At the University of Houston, specifically, we have a platform that’s called “Get Involved.” It’s really just a place for you to kind of see all of the organizations that we have on campus. We have about 600. So, it’s definitely overwhelming. But, it gives you a filter so that you can choose what you’re interested in. 

And, of course, different campuses will have their separate platforms. But, you’ll have your own way of seeing what’s out there and what’s offered on your campus. 

We also have an event that’s called the “Cat’s Back,” which is usually a two-day event. You go and you see all of the organizations all in one place. You get to meet different people — usually the officers of the organization — ask questions, get flyers and things of that sort. 

Next, I want to talk about mental and physical health. I know it can be pretty easy to ignore your health when you’re a freshman. Are there any on-campus resources to help you manage mental and physical health that might be at other schools as well?

Whenever it comes to mental health, something that I really try to get into the routine of is, making a weekly planner so that you can kind of see what you’re going to be doing for the week. One of the really important things for me is learning how to say “no.” 

Sometimes, you’re super overwhelmed and you kind of just let things pile on. It’s okay to take a step back and see what you have to do. You can let your friends know, “No. I can’t hang out this week. I have a lot of studying to do.” 

I think, throughout my years, I really had to learn how to do that.

For physical health and how to get involved with on-campus resources, we have a campus recreation center, which is basically the gym on campus. It has its own fitness classes. You can take a break throughout the week and go to work out. You can get involved with any kind of courses or the fitness classes.

Another on-campus resource that we have is our counseling and psychological services, also known as CAPS. That is basically an on-campus resource for you to go and talk to certified therapists. You can talk with someone and try to get through any kind of hardships that come. 

We definitely try to make an emphasis for freshmen to get super involved. We definitely have a lot of workshops on how to transition into college life. Obviously, the transition between high school to college is not super easy. Especially if you’re coming from a relatively small high school, going into such a large university can be overwhelming. 

So, even if it’s not necessarily talking to a therapist one-on-one, we have workshops where you can go and meet new people and just talk or listen to what other people are going through as well. 

Is there anything that comes to mind that we didn’t speak about that you wish you knew your freshman year?

I don’t really think so. Again, I think the really big one is just to put yourself out there. Don’t be scared to make new friends. Don’t be shy. 

It’s going to be really great things coming to you. I think college is probably the best years of your life. They’ve definitely been my best years. 

Don’t be scared. Everything’s going to be alright at the end. 

Thanks again for taking the time to speak with us.

No problem! Thanks for having me. 

This interview has been edited for clarity. Watch the full video here.