How to feel empowered in your first year

As a first-year student at Gettysburg College, the possibilities for getting involved and making an impact are endless.

Julia Sharapi ’22, an environmental studies major and resident assistant, among many other things, took advantage of numerous opportunities presented to her on and off campus.

Plan your first year

Read her advice on making the most out of your first year in college and setting your roots for a successful future.

Why is it important to capitalize on opportunities in your first year?

“I think it is important to make the most out of your first year at Gettysburg because it can help lay a strong foundation for your following college years, provide you with a creative outlet, and begin to guide you toward what you may want to pursue after graduation. Additionally, one of the toughest parts of being a first-year is the feeling of social isolation or being unsure how to make new friends. Becoming involved in clubs and activities in which you are interested gives you direct access to others.”

How has your Gettysburg experience thus far inspired you to achieve great things in the future?

“Coming out of high school, I felt this intense pressure to know exactly what I wanted to do with my life and how I was going to get there, and that if I didn’t already know that, I was clearly doing something wrong. After meeting and talking to so many new people at Gettysburg, I realized that no one really has everything figured out, and that’s OK. The biggest lesson my Gettysburg experience has taught me so far is the fact that right now there are so many opportunities available to me. I feel empowered to confidently explore all of them.”

Why did you want to participate in the Cross-Disciplinary Science Institute (X-SIG) Summer Research Program this summer?

“I wanted more hands-on research experience. I believe the program will help me grow as a student in not only technical knowledge, but also help develop my teamwork, communication, and leadership skills. I knew [Chemistry] Prof. Sengupta before applying because he was my general chemistry professor, and I had discussed possible research opportunities with him early in the fall. While I did talk to several professors about their summer research projects, this particular chemistry lab, [which focused on water dynamics in biological systems,] captured my attention because I understood it the least. Because of this, I knew immediately that it was the research that would best stimulate me intellectually and the one I would grow from the most.”

Julia Sharapi in the Cross Disciplinary Science Institute

How did you balance activities both in and out of the classroom as a first-year student?

“Balancing academic and personal life is precarious, especially your first year, when there is an overwhelming newness and excitement to everything inside and outside of the classroom. It’s a sharp learning curve only really helped by experience, as everyone’s struggles and focuses are different. Three main things that helped me were making schedules and sticking to them, both with studying and with social activities, making sure I got enough sleep every night, and building in time for myself.”

What was your biggest takeaway from your First-Year Seminar?

“I took FYS 192-4: Beauty, Bodies, and Blessings—now named, ‘Written on the Flesh: Religion & the Body’—which was taught by [Kristin] Largen. The class was about the intersection of Buddhism and Christianity and beauty standards, particularly for women’s bodies, from both a historical and modern perspective. I learned a lot in this class, not only about the way society perceives bodies, but how I personally approach them and the internalized prejudices and judgements I harbor that I wasn’t even aware of. The biggest take away was the fact that above everything else, everyone’s bodies, regardless of color, shape, size, and other aspects, is worthy of respect.”

Why did you want to become a Resident Assistant (RA)?

“I wanted to become an RA because of the leadership and personal growth opportunities it offers, both for myself and for the students I hope to mentor. I love meeting and connecting with new people, as it helps me expand my own world view. Starting college can be a difficult adjustment for many, and being an RA allows me to directly help first-year students have the easiest possible transition. I look forward to guiding first-years through the expectations of being a college student, fostering connections within and outside of our Residence Hall, and offering advice and tips about helpful resources at Gettysburg College, among other things.”

In her first year, Sharapi was a member of the Honor Commission, Dance Ensemble, and DiscipleMakers Christian Fellowship, while also working in the Office of Student Scholarly Engagement. Additionally, she attended the 83rd Annual Intercollegiate Student Chemists Convention, participated in several iLove discussions at the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, and was selected for the 2019 X-SIG program by Chemistry Prof. Suvrajit Sengupta. This fall, she will be a Resident Assistant (RA) to help incoming students navigate their first years at Gettysburg, providing helpful advice and resources.

By Megan Miller
Photos by Miranda Harple
Posted: 08/12/19