The ups and downs of the “best and worst years of your life”



Lindsey with some friends exploring areas around Eau Claire.

Story by Lauren Kritter, Staff Writer

The years you spend in college can be some of the best and worst years of your life. With the many changes that come with transitioning from high school to college and the overabundance of new people who bring diverse perspectives and insight to your life, it’s easy to get lost in all the chaos that college brings.

UW-Eau Claire student, Lani Osicka has been in and out of college for the past six years and feels that that’s how her start of college seemed to be.

“My personal story shows much change from freshman year to where I am now,” she said. “I was a mess when I as a freshman. I was very naïve and all over the place emotionally.”

Osicka came into college thinking that it was going to be high school round two.  She came in with the mindset that college was going to be easy and she wasn’t going to have to try very hard in order to succeed. She quickly realized how wrong she was.

“I became very emotionally turbulent; I was all over the place and I didn’t know what I wanted,” she said.

From relationships to professional goals, it’s hard to know what you want in every category of your life as a freshman.  Osicka didn’t know who she was yet which made it hard to grow as a person at this point in her life. Through her years in college, she started to find out more about herself by involving herself within the community and trying different things to find where she fit.

People, music, art and nature have always been things that have inspired her. She involved herself in activities around the community that related to these things to help inspire her to become the person she wanted to be.

“It wasn’t a smooth progressive change. I had to try many different things to find out who I was supposed to be,” she said.

Being that she has been in college for a while now, she knows that as you grow older, you experience more and learn from those experiences. The people you meet along the way help shape your life by the insight that they bring.

UW Eau Claire freshman, Grace Lindsey agrees with Osicka on this. Although Lindsey’s time in college has been significantly shorter than Osicka’s, she learned that the people you meet and spend your time with are the ones that are going to have the most influence on your life.

“In the beginning I was miserable,” Lindsey said. “It wasn’t until second semester that I really got involved and met some of my best friends.”

Lindsey feels the friendships that she made this year in college are a lot different than her friendships from high school. Her college friends challenge her to be the best version of herself, similar to how her family challenges her. They all have brought insight into her life and have taught her what it’s like to be treated with respect.

“Friendships are no longer just about association,” Lindsey said. “They are a lot deeper and that is very important to me.”

Lindsey has learned through her experience so far to take her life into her own hands and not wait for opportunities to be handed to her.

“You can’t just wait for people to come to you. You have to be in control of your life in order to get what you want out of your college experience.” Lindsey said.

Lindsey took control of her life in many ways throughout her first year of college. She learned a lot about herself when she moved four hours away from her home of New Berlin, WI and started to make a life for herself here in Eau Claire. Through her many ups and downs she feels she is a different person than when she started school a short nine months ago.

“I had to grow up in different ways that I never thought I would have,” she said. “I had to take care of myself mentally, physically, and financially and I’m definitely not that same girl who left high school a year ago.”

Advice to future college freshmen

“It amazes me how many people here live for the weekend just so that they can go out and drink,” Osicka said.

Even with the age difference, Osicka and Lindsey both know that there is so much more to college than just drinking and partying.  Your time in college is short and there is so much learning and growing to be done in that time that drinking every weekend just seems like a waste, Osicka said. Osicka learned to surround herself with different people at different times to try a bunch of new things.

“I finally know I don’t have to be like anyone else and I don’t have to explain to others who I am. I just have to live for me and be true to myself. I don’t think I would have understood that as a freshman,” she said.

Just like Lindsey and Osicka, many people struggle at times through their first year of college. Lindsey believes that this is a phase that everyone goes through at some point in different ways.

“People are always going through things,” Osicka said. “If they are willing to share their stories, it’s easier to understand why the world and people are the way they are.”