The semester ends ... with the crashing of cymbals! -
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The semester ends … with the crashing of cymbals!

By: Julianne Tran

It’s December 18, 2019, and, like the crashing of cymbals at the end of an exciting concerto, finals season greeted me with a wicked virus that left me feverish, bed-ridden and practically useless for an entire week.

If timing has any value, my body needs to learn about it very soon. A few weeks before this awful sickness befell me, I was actually thinking about how, overall, most of the first semester had gone pretty smoothly. Well, in retrospect at least. In the moment, sometimes, it did feel like there was a trumpet blasting in one ear and a mournful violin solo playing in the other.

The uplifting sides of first semester

As melodramatic as that sounds (forgive the pun), first semester was an absolute whirlwind of joy, excitement and personal growth. The past four months gave to me so many lively memories, including making pasta in my room with my roommate, movie nights with friends, celebratory Indian food dinners after doing well on a biology exam and driving through the city and finding the best ice cream spot.

Interior of a coffee shop
It’s always a good thing to find a new study spot

It was also been a time of trying new things, talking with new people and rediscovering old comforts. Some of the smallest occasions were reasons to celebrate — cake, cookies and party hats galore. I found myself dancing around the Lottie laundry room, trying the most delicious foods from around the world in many of TU’s multicultural events and running to Hurricane Thursday events so I could get that swipe in and avoid waiting in lines. I found such a warm, supportive place among my friends, the community at TU Newman and in my classes. For all those reasons, I am extremely grateful.

But what’s life without some chaos, stress and sickness?

Sprinkled in with all the laughter and ice cream was a little bit of chaos, stress and sickness. This semester confronted me with many questions of purpose: what I am going to do with everything I’m learning? Where is the balance between love of learning and practicality? What do I care about most? What impact do I want to make in the future? And, with these questions, came, to put it nicely, a little bit of mental chaos.

white board with study notes
My study group’s review notes for Introduction to Ancient Thought (Honors 1003-03)

I spent much of the latter half of first semester grappling with these questions. These experiences led me to contemplate how I want to move forward in the next semesters and even beyond that. I spent many office hours with my professors struggling with those same questions as I tried to form my pathway onwards. I also spent many hours sharing my uncertainties with my roommate and going over all the possible futures. I sometimes felt as if I were running out of time, like my 30-year-old future-self was prodding me forward, yelling at me to pick up the pace!



On the cusp of …

Of course, there are no perfectly clear pathways in life – mine or anyone else’s. Sometimes, the best I can do is acknowledge my discomfort and fear, and then get on with things.

View of crepe myrtles on the bank of the Arkansas River
A beautiful view during Freshman Orientation — it seems so long ago!

Now, with classes and finals at an end, I am starting to see that I am doing okay. My progress, so far, has been substantial and I have been making proper strides. I also sometimes feel as if I am on the cusp of the rest of my life (however overdramatic, “inexperienced teen” that may sound!). That’s an exciting place to be. And, thankfully, I am surrounded by people who cheer me on and support me in these times of chaos and stress.

Second semester can – and probably will – throw whatever obstacles it can at me (but please not too many…). I believe I am now better equipped to face them, or at least seek help when needed. What’s a little joy without a little struggle?

I hope second semester will be filled with many of these same small delights and uplifting memories. And maybe fewer untimely viruses, please.


Julianne Tran is from Mustang, Oklahoma. She is majoring in exercise and sports science on the pre-med track, with a minor in Spanish. Julianne loves dancing and trying to make entire meals in her dorm room microwave. “I hope to finish my time at TU as a kinder, smarter and better-equipped person!”

First-year exercise and sports science student Julianne Tran