“Out with the old and in with the new.” this phrase takes on a new meaning for University of Miami students beginning their first and last semesters. First-years begin college, challenged to build a brand-new life to last the next four years. Meanwhile, seniors look back on the life they created for themselves, a bittersweet moment because they have to leave it behind so soon. If you’re worried what the future might hold, here’s some ways to make the most of your time here at the U.
Even though freshmen and senior years are entirely different chapters of your life, they share one thing in common: both have pressing questions about the uncertainty to come.
Whether you’re experiencing your first or your last semester, we can help you either begin or end the college chapter of your life on a high note.
In August 2023, Julia Kovalsick, a first-year majoring in undeclared business, moved into a single at Mahoney Residence Hall. Kovalsick is among many first-year students adjusting to college-life in a vibrant residential community. Since move-in week, Kovalsick has been slowly but surely acclimating to UM, going out of her way to meet people on her dorm floor because she lives in a single.
“I have become close with the people on my floor,” said Kovalsick. “I keep meeting new people that are on different floors, so I get to mix and mingle.”
Katelyn Mitterway, another first-year majoring in undeclared business, also lives in Mahoney. Mitterway, who lives in a double with a roommate she met on the “UM Class of ’27” Facebook group, has had some issues adjusting to sharing a space with virtual strangers but has found a way to make the most out of the cramped space.
“It is a little bit rough sharing such a small place between four of us,” said Mitterway. “We make it work, though. I wouldn’t change my dorm room and suite for the world; maybe get more storage.”
Nevertheless, both Kovalsick and Mitterway said they enjoy the options of the Stanford and Mahoney dining halls. While Mitterway said her favorite Mahoney dining hall dish is the barbecue tofu, Kovalsick raved about the grilled cheeses and ice cream machine.
On the weekends, with plenty of free time to enjoy Miami, first-year students can explore all that Miami’s fine dining scene has to offer. Oliver Dreyfuss, a first-year accounting and finance major, has become an avid fan of the Sushi Sake located near campus.
“The best restaurant I have been to is Sushi Sake,” said Dreyfuss. “I ordered a crunchy roll and miso soup, which did not disappoint.”
Dreyfuss also mentioned that his sister, who is a current junior at UM, advised he should visit Lulu’s and Greenstreet Cafe in Coconut Grove with friends. Mitterway echoed similar sentiments and admitted she hopes to get out there and try new restaurants in the area before her first semester ends.
“I have spoken to many students before coming here and have heard great things about Paperfish, Lulu, Greenstreet Café, Madruga Bakery, and Raw Juice,” said Mitterway. “Miami locals know the true must-go-to spots,” she said.
Per recommendations from people on her dorm floor, Mitterway said she and her friends plan on getting sushi from Paperfish.
The most crucial factor in deciding a dining destination is word-of-mouth recommendation, which goes way further than any Yelp review for these first years. Kovalsick agrees and takes note of the restaurants recommended to her by classmates and friends.
“Word-of-mouth recommendation is very important to me as Miami is a big place to explore,” said Kovalsick, who hopes to find places to eat she would not have discovered otherwise. “I want to go to places that people I share interests with enjoy.”
While Mitterway, Dreyfuss, and Kovalsick are navigating their first year — from finding friends to dorm life, many others are counting down the days until they walk out of the Watsco Center with their degree in hand.
“It’s very bittersweet to think about how my time of lasts is approaching: my last class at Dooly, my last time fighting for a spot in the Red lot, my last Market Wednesday, and my last time meeting my friends at the Rat,” said Laura Caram, a senior double majoring in international studies and English.
Among those students in their final semester of college is Leticia Milesi-Halle, a senior majoring in electronic media and creative advertising who also serves as the social media creative director for UM’s student consultancy firm, Orange Umbrella. She said she recommends first-years join clubs that specialize in their interests.
I cherish the sorority I was in,” said Milesi–Halle, “But I’ve learned many significant lessons and met some of my lifelong best friends from the extracurriculars I’ve done.”
“Get involved and speak up,” said Caram, urging first-years to get involved in extracurricular activities to make friends and find their passions. “Whether that be in Greek life, a club or even in class, become a part of something you love to meet like-minded people.”
Caram says her biggest challenge at UM has been managing a sleep schedule and social life while maintaining a GPA and performing well at her job.
“It becomes extremely stressful trying to stay on top of everything. Remind yourself that you are only a student in your late teens or early 20s and not a superhero. This is the prime time in your life to face and manage these challenges,” said Caram.
Another senior, Roxy Shafiezadeh, a double major in accounting and business technology, acquired her second major her senior year and is currently enrolled in nine classes.
“I picked my major on a whim and honestly stuck with it because I got into an accelerated master’s program,” said Shafiezadeh, who proves that it is never too late to change majors.
“Majoring in something you’re passionate about is extremely important, and I am a firm believer in following your passions,” said Caram, currently applying to graduate programs in the United Kingdom. Initially majoring in political science during her first year at UM, Caram said she realized her true passion lay in international affairs and diplomacy.
Between graduate school applications, Caram says she spends as much time with her friends as possible before she graduates, whether making charcuterie boards and watching “The Bachelor” or having a night on the town in Brickell.
“It is so important for me to hang out with the people who have made these past three years so special because the truth is that I don’t know when we’ll all be in the same place again,” said Caram.
“My Saturdays vary by the week, but one thing that always remains the same is spending time with my friends,” said Milesi-Halle. Whether hanging out with them at their apartment, going to the beach with them, getting brunch or going to a lounge at night, Milesi-Halle said she reserves the weekends for her best friends.
“Don’t stress yourself out thinking that you have to have your life together by the end of the first semester,” said Caram to current first-years. “It takes time to find yourself, and that is more than okay.”
The promise of a fresh start poses a plethora of exciting opportunities and daunting challenges for seniors and first-years alike. While seniors pay homage to the lessons they learned at the U, they can also impart the wisdom of first-year students who now wear their shoes from the past eight semesters.
- Snap a photo with Sebastian the Ibis
- Finish a pitcher of beer at The Rathskeller
- Walk through one of the fountains on campus
- Climb one of the trees near Lake Osceola
- Attend a free movie screening at the Cosford Cinema
- Take a fitness class at the Herbert Wellness Center
- Ride a boat through the Miami River
- Spend a weekend down in the Florida Keys
- Stand on top of a table at Sandbar
- Submit a photo to @redcupmiami for Finally Friday
words_caleigh russo. photo_ethan dosa. design_melanie bergunker.
This article was published in Distraction’s Fall 2023 print issue.
Follow our Social Media: