My new academic chapter, away at college

Caitlin Burke, class of 2016, works at her desk inside her dorm room at Salisbury University in Maryland.

Caitlin Burke, class of 2016, works at her desk inside her dorm room at Salisbury University in Maryland.

Contributed photo

Contributed photo

Caitlin Burke, class of 2016, works at her desk inside her dorm room at Salisbury University in Maryland.

Caitlin Burke, Guest Writer

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Editor’s note: The author is a 2016 DHS graduate and former news editor of the Hatters’ Herald. We asked her if she would share her college experience so far at Salisbury University in Maryland. Although the assignment added yet another task to her full plate, Caitlin gladly agreed. Here is what she has to say:

It feels like just yesterday when I was walking across the DHS football field to receive my diploma.

Like every graduating senior I was excited, eager, and even a little nervous though I wouldn’t admit it.

The summer consisted of buying dorm supplies, saying goodbye to friends and family and packing up the past 18 years of my life thus far.

Now, sitting in my tiny dorm room in Maryland, I often reflect on all the amazing possibilities and experiences Danbury gave me.

The DHS campus taught me how to be an individual and embrace my roots. One of the things I miss most in my college community is the immense diversity of DHS.

On top of the rigorous academics DHS provides, it also provides a sense of community and equality among all races, colors and creeds.

Although you may not realize it while you’re a DHS student, you are immersed in cultural diversity that is not experienced on many other high school campuses.

Your time at DHS prepares you for life beyond Danbury. Because of DHS, you will be smarter and more aware of what really goes on in the world. You should be proud of that.

As for academics, DHS prepares its students well. I don’t attend an Ivy League or a particularly well-known university, but all college curriculums are challenging.

As a communications major, I have a 16-credit course load, got my first byline in the Salisbury Flyer and am working on my first broadcast news story for the Salisbury University television station.

The DHS curriculum, including the honors and AP classes, prepared me for my workload.

College is really about teaching yourself. The professors are there to provide the framework for the material, but it’s up to you to understand it.

Most of my classes are 30 to 40 students as Salisbury is a medium-sized university,  but I have friends at other schools who have 100 people or much more in their lectures.

Through my classes I am learning that it is important to take copious notes. Students are expected to read the textbook outside of class and understand the material.

All of the work outside of class was not something I was prepared for, and it really hit me the first couple weeks of the semester.

Although there is a lot of reading and studying, you have to remember that you’re only in classes about three to four hours out of your entire day. There is so much downtime in college that getting work completed shouldn’t be a major issue.

I recommend studying a week or two before an announced test as it is beneficial for a good grade. In high school, I didn’t have to study a ton to get a good grade, but in college studying is crucial and the only way one will pass.

Time management is a huge step in succeeding in college as well. Although at the beginning of the semester, it may seem like you have so much free time, in just days that changes.

Balancing time for course work and immersing yourself in new activities is crucial. It is so important to get involved with your school at the beginning of your first semester.

I struggled so much at the beginning and was homesick, but joining club field hockey as well as the newspaper and the television station helped me to begin enjoying this experience.

Join anything and everything at first and you will find that something is out there for you with people that have the same interests.

With that said, it’s important to keep up on your studies. Like high school, if you take on many activities it can be hard to keep up with work.

Ultimately, you are in college to earn a degree so it isn’t the biggest deal if you miss a meeting or practice every once in a while to study for a test or finish a project. No one is holding your hand anymore; your future is up to you at this point.

While this all may seem overwhelming, college is an amazing experience. I still struggle with being five-plus hours away from home and miss my family and friends a ton.

It is important to understand that this feeling is normal and others around you are going through the same thing. I let these feelings consume me the first few weeks but by joining clubs and meeting new friends, I have now adjusted fairly well.

College is a place to grow and experience new things. It is terribly scary and exhilarating being on my own and in control of my own life.

It has been a life-changing two months, and five months ago I would never have believed the new things and experiences I have been involved in here.

My first semester of college has taught me to take everything a day at a time. It’s OK to not feel OK at all times and that’s ultimately how adult life functions.

Enjoy your years at DHS, especially your senior year. The real world is waiting, just around the corner.

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1 Comment

One Response to “My new academic chapter, away at college”

  1. Geraldine Burke on November 1st, 2016 10:48 pm

    Great article Cait. I think you finally have figured out what college in your first year is all about. So proud of you. can’t wait to see over the holidays.


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My new academic chapter, away at college