At first, I was scared to go to college because it meant stepping out of my comfort zone and entering a completely new environment. The thought of leaving behind familiar faces and routines and starting fresh in an unfamiliar place was intimidating. I worried about the academic challenges and whether I would be able to keep up with the coursework. It was also intimidating to think about making new friends and figuring out where I fit in a wider group. I was wary of making this transition because of the uncertainties that come with such a large change.
In all honesty, Iowa Edge was something I signed up for last minute. They mentioned they would provide free meals, and if you got in, you would be promised an early move-in date. What I didn’t know was that it was a multi-part program, and the thought of four days of activities for one semester credit hour was quite overwhelming.
Despite initial thoughts, Iowa Edge turned out to be one of the best ways for me to begin my freshman year. I developed friendships that I want to continue throughout my time in college and discovered a lot about what makes the University of Iowa a great place to be.
What is Iowa Edge? What was it like?
The University of Iowa is a big school filled with a lot of opportunities. However, that idea can be a little overwhelming for some people. The University of Iowa’s Iowa Edge program offers a four-day workshop where students of color, LGBTQ+ students, and first-generation college students have the opportunity to know one another and support one another as they adjust to college life. The purpose of this program is to help you transition to campus life, find where you fit in, and build connections with faculty to help you with your career goals.
I moved in on August 13 and after saying goodbye to my family, I checked in at the IMU to meet my Iowa Edge group. I was at first nervous, but as I got to know my group members a little better, my anxiety gradually subsided.
The next four days were filled with a ton of activity. We participated in an outdoor challenge course, toured buildings on campus, heard from faculty members about their experiences, and had meals together as a group. The excitement of my peer leader (shoutout to Kennedy!), I believe this was a major factor in why I found this experience to be so memorable. They were the most approachable person I’ve ever met, making sure that each member of their group felt involved in events, constantly providing us with sound advice, and attempting to address all of the questions we had. The friendships I formed with the people in my group were another factor that made this experience so memorable. After the first day meeting, it felt like I had already made close friends with these amazing people. We were able to encourage one another during the course of the program and they all had interesting stories to share.
The final day’s activity was the one that stood out to me the most. It was called, was “If I Had to Choose.” We were put in a room with signs that read: race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, social status, etc. These signs were placed around the room by the peer leaders. They posed questions to us and instructed us to stand under the words that related to the subject the most. Students would then describe their reasoning for choosing the term and share a related experience. This activity was a great way to end the program because it allowed us to be vulnerable and the peer leaders did a good job of creating a safe space for expressing our feelings. After listening to others and sharing my own experiences, I felt more connected to my group and felt better about my college experience.
Overall, I found this program to be incredibly beneficial because it let me get a head start on my future as a college student. I feel more at ease knowing where to find resources on campus and that I have a strong network of people to lean on for support. My initial reluctance to spend four days with strangers vanished as I realized how much work had gone into making this program a place where everyone felt included. My experience with Iowa Edge was very meaningful and I would highly recommend this program to incoming first-year students.