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Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024
The Observer

Dear freshman self

Dear freshman self,

Junior self here. It’s the end of another semester, and I thought I would write you during the quiet-of-the-storm period right before finals (don’t worry about how I’m writing this letter to you. It’s a wrinkle in time, timey whimey kind of thing. I don’t clearly understand it, and you will definitely not. I was never good at physics).

I figured I would write you to let you know how you’ve been and to give you some words of advice. No, no. Resist your urge to rip this letter to pieces after reading that last sentence. Apart from your shock that your future self is writing to you, you are probably wondering why your junior self is writing to you. Turn off Supernatural for a second and listen.

As you are starting your freshman journey, I know you simultaneously worry about having too many interests and not having a single burning passion to pursue with all your heart. To that, I’m going to tell you something you’ve heard a million times by now, and something that you can’t stand. But it’s true: Don’t worry about it, you’ll figure it out. Take it from a reliable source this time. But I refuse to tell you what happens. You need uncertainty and the journey; this is part of how you will “figure” it out.

Fresh out of high school economics, you will think that production-possibility frontiers and declining marginal utility are the best things you’ve ever heard. I’m not going to say whether or not you stick with economics (spoiler alert: you don’t), but stay in those classes because you’ll meet some of your best friends in them. You will go on to experiment with multiple majors, even adding a film major at one point. You’ve always been interested in screenwriting, and you’ll see this as your opportunity to write the next Inception. I can picture you laughing when I tell you that this major will last all of one week. But your interest in films and other worlds will never die.

You’ll feel a small bit of regret that you decided not to pursue biology, but government and political science have always been your first love and the pillow talk with them never gets old. You will travel to D.C., and despite the bittersweet nature of politics in our country right now, you will feel right at home when you are surrounded by politics and people who love to debate.

It is probably against some unspoken rule to tell you what classes you’ll take, but I can’t help myself. Freshman literature seminar with Louis MacKenzie (do not forget the capital ‘K’), Writing and Rhetoric with Erin McLaughlin, Biology with Anjuli Datta, political theory with Ernesto Verdeja. These are just some of the classes that will literally change the way you see the world.

I imagine everyone is telling you right now that college is not like anything you have ever experienced and will change you fundamentally. I know that you have always been excited about college, but you have not yet fully prepared yourself to leave the wild, passionate state of New Mexico. I also know that you like to try to figure things out by yourself, that you are excited and hesitant about college because you want to make sure that it is your own unique experience.

To that, I want to remind you it’s OK to lean on others when the lighthouse goes dark, and there will be times when it feels like the light is flickering. That’s OK. Embrace these moments because feeling water in your lungs is the only way you can discover what keeps you afloat.

You will find that what “they” said was right all along. College will be the best experience of your life so far, but it won’t necessarily be for the reasons that you thought it would be. College is made through the little moments — moments like running through down-pouring rain with your friends to catch a SUB movie; getting the buffalo chicken wrap with close friends at Reckers (rest in peace) in the week before finals; waiting for eight hours to stand at the very front of some of your favorite music artists’ concerts; the great battles waged on the night of the first snowfall; the conversations that you have had with cleaning ladies, janitors and dinner staff.

You have always had an appreciation for these tiny, photograph-montage moments. But, through the course of college, you will realize even more deeply that the best times of life are composed of a collage of these monumental, passingly “insignificant” moments.

You will write and write and write. Words will pick up the waxy pieces from your sun-scorched wings and take you from dark places and dark times. I know that you are enamored with figuring out and dreaming of the way that the world works, and writing is the ship you will sail to explore these worlds.

Oh, and one more thing. Listen to your parents and let them get you a winter coat and boots. You’ll need them.


Gabriel Niforatos is a junior majoring in political science with a minor in the Hesburgh Program in Public Service. He is passionate about giving a voice to the disenfranchised and writing is the muse he is persistently chasing. He can be found at or @g_niforatos on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.