Art by Christine Nelson
The beginning of the sophomore year finds Pepperdine students preparing to spread out over four continents and seven cities. Instagram has been inundated this last week with pictures of all the beautiful and exotic places where everyone will be living in just a few days. For me, that place is Malibu. To any sane person, that’s as good as it gets. I walk out of my dorm and I see the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. I can study on the beach and eat the best breakfast burritos in the world any time I want. Yet even last year as a freshman, it seemed to me that the sophomores and the administration had to put out a tremendous amount of effort to make sure that the second year of college was enjoyable for those who stayed in Malibu.
The notorious second-year itch at Pepperdine seems to affect everyone. Even the upperclassmen who truly enjoyed their sophomore year in Malibu feel the need to over-emphasize that it “wasn’t bad at all.” The truth is nothing can fully prepare anyone for year two. It is a completely different experience. Every building and every staircase holds memories that were shared by close friends who now live in China or England or Argentina.
According to the American College Health Association, 30 percent of college students feel depressed. The feeling of loneliness that is felt by so many Pepperdine students is magnified by the harsh reality of living among the new faces of freshmen and returning juniors. This is a real problem. It’s a new campus full of old memories. We were here last year; we know the acronyms for all the buildings, but that is pretty much the only thing that has stayed the same. There is pressure to make sure that this year will be as good a year as Heidelberg, Florence or any other place would have been.
While insanely difficult at first, this new situation is not necessarily bad. Year two is a chance to redefine yourself on campus and to get further involved in what you love. A fourth of the student body has left, and a fourth has returned. Not many universities this size offer the new experiences every year that arise from the constant change of student body demographics. Still, it is difficult to forge new friendships and start over, especially in a familiar place. I still have wonderful friends on campus, but the strangers that I used to pass frequently are not familiar anymore. It’s an odd sensation. But it is also terribly exciting to have the opportunities to meet new people again and branch out from my social circles.
Sophomores do not need to feel the added pressure of enjoying every minute of their experiences in Malibu or feel that otherwise it will be a failure. It’s OK to feel conflicted about the year to come. I think we all just have to find a balance between missing last year and enjoying this one. As sophomores, we need to be able to talk to each other about the feelings that come with being a year-two Malibu student, good and bad. This may be our greatest year at Pepperdine or maybe not. Either way, all we can do is make the most of it, and when we can see the beach from our rooms, I think that we can make it through.
Follow Tara on Twitter: @jenks_tar