My name is Hayley Hinkle and I am a 2012 graduate from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). I am currently in my Master’s Program for Health Information Systems at the University of Pittsburgh, graduating in 2015. During my last semester at IUP, I scored an internship at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), where I was hired full time once I received my degree. I have been with UPMC for 2 years now. I am married and living in my hometown. My hobbies include volunteering, performing with a Bulgarian Dance Ensemble, and traveling & visiting family in other cities. I am very excited to have been given the opportunity to be a contributor to this website and give advice that I’ve learned throughout my college career.
I was a few weeks away from my freshman year of college, and so nervous to leave my family and hometown. I was comfortable there, and I’ve never been away from home longer than 2 weeks. I hadn’t even left yet, and I was already missing my family. The only thing I was looking forward to was having my best friend as my roommate and my then boyfriend in the next building over. However, I would soon find out everything was about to change.
Before I said goodbye to my family, my mom said the smartest thing I’ve ever heard. “No one knows you. You can be whoever you want.” After thinking about it, she was totally right. Every college freshman is the same. They are looking to meet new people, join new organizations, and figure out who they are away from their comfort zone. That is the advice that I pass down to every college freshman who is about to start their journey, but that is exactly how I didn’t start my journey.
I was a jock in high school and loved it, so I wanted to continue to play sports in college. Unfortunately, my height kept me away from playing my two favorite sports – basketball & volleyball. But I didn’t let that bother me. I found a club sport, Ultimate Frisbee which I also played at home. It didn’t matter what town I was from, what my stats were in high school, and certainly didn’t matter that I was ‘vertically challenged’. I made friends quickly on the team and started hanging out with the team on a regular basis outside of practice. I barely saw my roommate as she made new friends with students in her nursing classes, but I did have the boyfriend join the team.
I couldn’t get away from him to meet other boys. Not that I was boy crazy, I just wanted to have a good mix of new friends. But I got myself into a routine like I did in high school. Friday nights were spent with the team and Saturday nights were spent with the boyfriend. When I went home for Christmas, I had met up with my high school friends and didn’t have much to report on. I was still playing sports, I was still doing well in school, and I was still dating the same guy. I needed a change.
When we got back to school from Christmas break, I did what I had to do. I broke off my relationship and I left the team. I enjoyed hanging out with the team and still saw them every once in a while, but I needed a change. I joined a professional organization called Pre-Service Teachers of Mathematics (PTM). I mean, I did go to college to get an education, so that’s what I focused on: PTM and my studies. I ended up being happy with where I was in school by the end of my freshman year, but I still didn’t have a core group of friends like my roommate did.
I spent the summer figuring out what I could do at school once I get back in the Fall. I asked myself what was another thing I liked to do other than math and sports. In high school we needed to have 30 hours of community service to graduate. I exceeded that by 300 hours. So, I started to research volunteer groups. That’s when I found Gamma Sigma Sigma (GSS), a service sorority. I went to Rush and fell in love with the girls, the values of the sorority, and the volunteer work they did. This sorority gave me the opportunity to start over again. I went back to the Frisbee team, continued with PTM, and met even more people on campus. I never imaged I would say that I am a sorority girl, but GSS was the best decision I ever made.
So my advice to incoming freshman is this: step out of your comfort zone and try something new. You have the chance to be whoever you want to be. No one will judge you because no one knows your past. Keep your head up, don’t look back, and you will survive your freshman year and ultimately your 4 years at college.