Reflection: First year draws to a close

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Diaz (left) transferred out after her first semester, but remains very close friends with
fellow first-year Raina Nelson.

Last semester was my first here at New College of Florida (NCF). As a way to engage with my fellow newcomers, I ran a “first-year column” in which a handful of first-years and I discussed everything from partying to romance to midterm week.

In under a month, the ‘first-year’ label will be behind these students as they complete their second semester here in Sarasota. I caught up with five of my interviewees from back in 2012 to reflect on their first year at NCF, how they have changed, and what they expect to come in the future.

The changes since we last spoke were quite surprising. Over half moved out of their assigned rooms, not counting another who transferred. They have gotten involved in everything from NCF’s new theatre company to a brand new radio show to organizations like French Club.

Most unexpected, however, was the remarkably varied experiences each student has had from one another in the past eight months.

Beginning with where I had last left these five first-years, each was very quick to firmly establish that the person I interviewed back in September is not the person they are today.

When asked to describe herself during her first few weeks at NCF, Kay Saffe responded “wild and out of control.” She elaborated, adding “I felt such a great such a great sense of liberation that I didn’t know what to do with it.”

Saffe’s wife-eyed, uncontainable excitement was shared by many other newcomers back in fall 2012, and they similarly looked back on it with relative disdain.

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Since Orientation Week, Ingram has changed his major and areas of interest, hoping to pursue theater and gender studies.

“I’ve gained control over myself,” Carolina Shin said in describing how she has changed from last semester. Shin quietly admitted to me in early September that she had “lost control” a of herself at various walls.

“I’ve gotten so much better.” Cole Ingram admitted he “learned [his] limits fast,” and Andrew Quintana said he had an “idealized view of what college would be like.” In other words, everybody feels to a certain extent that they have evolved beyond the who they were coming into NCF.

These four students all stayed and are at various levels of comfort, but Marisol Diaz transferred out in the middle of Independent Study Project (ISP) month. “I felt trapped,” she explained. “Once the initial allure and excitement to be away from home wore off, things became a bit dimmer.”

Diaz cited homesickness, financial issues and a difficulty to “budget time for coursework and personal time,” due to her “newfound freedom.”Diaz is not the only one to have thought about transferring. Shin, during the same month, was on the verge of doing the same. “I just felt confined,” she said. “We don’t have that many options, social-wise.” Shin looked up transfer dates and information for schools like the University of Florida, but by the time she had begun thinking about transferring, deadlines were too near to seriously consider the option.

While Shin has since come to the conclusion that she will “likely stay,” Ingram is expecting to explore other opportunities for academic reasons. “I think I’m going to transfer out after my second year,” he noted. “I am hoping to get a BFA somewhere, and New College doesn’t offer that.”

Ingram, initially inclined to the natural sciences, has since deterred to psychology and gender studies, with a special interest in involving himself in the newly-established Windmill Theatre Company. When asked what he would like to accomplish while here, he responded “help out and become really involved in the Windmill Theatre Company.”

Saffe similarly left behind her initial intention to study biopsychology and natural sciences because it “wasn’t something [she] loved.” Instead, she is now pursuing a psychology and music Area of Concentration (AOC).

“I realized I needed a creative outlet,” she said. “I want to incorporate the medium of radio into my vocation in the future.” Saffe, in one of many impressive accomplishments achieved by first-years, co-founded New Radio New College, an NCF-produced radio show, with fellow newcomers Zane Plattor and Morgen Coe.

“I also work at the Four Winds […] and I’m always at the sail club,” Saffe added. “I’m more than willing to take people out surfing, paddle-boarding or sailing.”

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Saffe, who also co-founded New Radio New College, spends most of her days at NCF at the Four Winds Cafe and the Sail Club.

While Saffe has become a true member of the NCF community, involving herself in a diversity of activities and outreach efforts, Quintana has taken a different route as he has gotten more settled in. He has been “getting out of the New College bubble and experiencing Sarasota – what Sarasota has to offer.”

Shin has struggled with involvement on campus, citing the small numbers of students that have attended club gatherings. A member of French Club, she said that there are usually four people at the meeting, six at most. “This school is so small,” she said.

When asked what they want to accomplish at NCF, the goals of these students tended to be broad and personal, more about bettering themselves as people than having a piece of paper dictate their achievements.

“I want to create a positive wave of change on campus,” Saffe responded. “Just spread what I’m passionate about.”

Shin is hoping to “be more organized and grounded” by the time she leaves – she cited instances of feeling overwhelmed multiple times in our interview – while Quintana similarly hopes to be more “well-rounded” by the time he finishes up.

“I think this is a really good place for me to do that,” he said. “But things don’t just get handed to you.”

Even though she transferred out, Diaz looked back on her time at NCF fondly, especially her peers. “I can’t help but think that the people that I met at NCF will soon be those ‘movers’ and ‘shakers’ of this country,” she proclaimed. “I made friendships that will last a lifetime.”

For those that are here now, though, I sensed many felt that NCF had become their home, a nice note to end the conversation on.

“I think everything still hasn’t been processed for me, personally,” Shin admitted. “But my life is here now.”

From these interviews, it appears that these first-years have matured. They have found their place at NCF, even if they are still trying to affirm it. They have involved themselves on and off campus as their community has become less of a school and more of a home.

They are excited about the future, not so much because of what they will accomplish professionally, but because of the potential to better themselves and those around them.

They are settling, working on cementing their place in the world. For now, it appears, NCF – for the number of drawbacks these students may have listed – is it.

“This is my home,” Saffe concluded. “I know I’ll always have a home to come back to.”

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Quintana (left) has found great enjoyment in experiencing what Sarasota has to offer, from theater to dining to spring training baseball.

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