Hillsdale 101: A Freshman’s Thoughts on Her First Week

Written by Evalyn Homoelle

The moment had finally come. After months of dreaming, list-making, dorm shopping, and soaking up time with my friends and family, I was standing at convocation, listening as Dr. Arnn, faculty members, and rising seniors gave my freshman class advice and encouragement for the journey we had just begun. I remember feeling overwhelmed by emotions. Yes, the convocation ceremony had confirmed that Hillsdale was where I was meant to be, but I had so many doubts and fears about what my path at Hillsdale would look like. One of the hardest moments of my life was saying goodbye to my parents and siblings, but the spirit of Hillsdale quickly relieved my heartache as I hugged and cried with several of my new friends at the beginning of our orientation schedule. The gravity and joy of the moment was striking: here I was, surrounded by hundreds of souls who desired to seek truth and wisdom together, and to willingly challenge themselves academically, spiritually, and emotionally.

Although I was deeply saddened to leave everything familiar behind, I quickly embraced the joy of being a Hillsdale student. Over the next few days, my classmates and I would attend lectures from renowned professors, pledge ourselves to self-government by signing the Honor Code, dance at Welcome Party, and settle into our own unique rhythms and communities.

When classes began on Wednesday morning, a sense of camaraderie fell over the student population as upperclassmen sympathized with our first-day jitters and gave us tips for success:

“Get your sleep!”

“Have fun, but be sure to read everything your professors assign.”

“Don’t despair if you get a bad grade. You and your GPA will survive.”

I quickly realized that Hillsdale’s reputation had proven true: my professors swiftly assigned pages upon pages of reading, and I came to understand the magnitude of what I had undertaken. Even though I doubted how I came to be a part of this campus of highly intellectual students, I knew this was a safe, caring community in which to learn and grow.

Hillsdale’s goals of inspiring students in their pursuit of virtue, wisdom, and a well-rounded education will grow me in ways larger than the academics of the classroom alone. When I think of my camera roll full of the smiling faces of my new friends, the beautiful architecture on campus, and favorite quotes from my Western Heritage Reader, I realize that the most impactful, memorable moments occur during the normal, day-to-day interactions for most college students. In the days since my first week at Hillsdale, I’ve been filled with an overwhelming sense of joy to be in a place where I can be truly known, challenged, and improved.

College means partnership, as Dr. Arnn likes to say, and that means admitting when you’re wrong, letting down your guard when you’re anxious or upset, and allowing others into your life in a vulnerable way. Even though I am just a week into my journey at Hillsdale, I’m already so thankful for the memories I’m making, the exciting opportunities ahead, and the wisdom of those who have gone before me. This is going to be a difficult, formative journey, but I have embraced the process which will bring me wisdom, lasting friendships, and a greater sense of the beauty and goodness of life. The beginning of this journey has been difficult and disorienting, but, as Plato said, it’s the beginning of a work that is most important. This exciting time is a foreshadowing of how transformative and fulfilling an education at Hillsdale can be.

For further reading:

Freshman Pledge

I Wish I Would Have Known

Freshmen, Don’t Make the Same Mistakes That We Made

Dear Freshman Me

Student Evalyn Homoelle Evalyn Homoelle, ’24, hails from the great state of Ohio and plans to pursue pre-allied health or political science and journalism. She is involved in Mock Trial and choir, and obsesses over dark chocolate, Jane Austen novels, classical music, and her golden retriever puppy.

Published in November 2020