Miami Musings: Mishaps, Pitfalls, and Triumphs: My Freshman Year

When I initially made my college decision, I felt a wave of relief. I was done with the college application process. From then on, I could look forward to the years ahead at my chosen college, the University of Miami. As my first semester neared, my anticipation turned to anxiety. I worried about just how much I’d have to adjust to my four-year new home.

Having completed my first semester at Herbert Business School, I can reflect on the journey. While I experienced my share of doubts and mishaps, the experience proved quite valuable in the end.

My friends and family did not understand why I chose Miami, having turned down “higher- ranked” schools. They constantly reminded me that Miami is a “party school” and pressured me to feel that I would not be satisfied there. I considered myself a high-achieving student, so I feared my academic needs would not be fully met. However, I had heard from a current UMiami student that the school’s course rigor was fairly high. These conflicting views gave me second thoughts about my college choice.


Fortunately, I could not be happier today to say that my semester proved all those pre-conceived notions wrong. I participated in engaging class discussions in my Herbert Business School courses, especially in Management 100. We considered how legal and ethical standards intersect when businesses make decisions in the global environment. Should an American company do business in Saudi Arabia if women cannot hold leadership positions there? If child labor is common in Nigeria, does that make it okay for American companies there to participate? Our class’s “discussions” would quickly turn into clashes between conflicting views. Debating these topics made me realize the complexity of our course material and appreciate it even more. Additionally, I had always found history incredibly boring in high school, but my History 101 class challenged my biases. Exploring how Anglo-Indian contact was a negotiated set of experiences intrigued me.

Mikaela Sanders

Though I thrived academically, surviving the semester was in no way easy. I contracted bronchitis. For an entire month, I coughed and vomited endlessly. Staying afloat felt impossible. My lowest point: sitting awake in my floor study room all night long for three nights straight to avoid waking up my roommate. She hated me that month. I somehow mustered the strength to stifle my cough and take three assessments in one day, back-to-back-to-back. This was probably the most torturous time of my life, but it taught me resilience. I only missed one class. I attended all my club meetings, dashing out of the room to let out extreme coughing fits when necessary. Three medicines a day and an inhaler later, I finally recovered. That awful month taught me to persevere like never before.

As if the bronchitis was not bad enough, I had to nurse a chemical burn from an unfortunate gameday mishap involving a leaky fire extinguisher. Five trips to the Health Center in a month made concentrating on schoolwork incredibly difficult. The bronchitis and burn overlapped, so learning effective time management became essential to my sanity.


Leaving old friends behind and finding new ones was another tough part of the transition to college. Before orientation, I constantly worried about making new friends, knowing I was essentially starting over. I consider myself an introvert; even though I love meeting new people, I have a hard time forming new relationships from scratch. My high school class had 200 people; everyone knew everyone. I had close friends in every class, so making and maintaining friendships was easy.

When the semester started, I found myself making friends everywhere I went—that girl I took my Cane ID photo with, the girl I stood in line behind at the club fair, and the guy who attended my rival high school. My friend count grew in number each day, but my relationships all remained surface level. I longed for someone to confide in about homesickness, classes, boys, and just general stress. I feared I would never find a group of friends who complemented me. I even considered transferring to remedy my situation.

FaceTiming and messaging old classmates at other colleges showed that many of us were having the same experience. This pushed me to persevere through my negative thoughts and focus more on connecting with my classmates. It took a good bit of the semester, but I eventually found what I was seeking. As a part of the business school’s Foote Fellow Honors Program, I had three classes that were just for honors program students. Seeing the same people in my classes every day gave me a reassuring sense of stability and allowed me to form close relationships with classmates.


My closest friend was both in my scholarship program and my honors classes. We bonded over our shared interest in marketing and entrepreneurship, shopping for cute clothes on a budget, and hating the food in the dining hall (sorry Hecht-Stanford, but Mahoney-Pearson is better). My friends have all been there for me through all the chaos I endured this semester. I will never forget our one five-hour long econ study group session that ended up being 10 percent actual studying and 90 percent just joking around. Another time, we spent the day on a classmate’s yacht, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. When we enjoyed a cute brunch together in Coconut Grove on our last day, I felt sad to leave. These friends made my semester so fun and memorable that I came home feeling overwhelmingly happy to have met them at Miami.

My initial fears about how the first semester would pan out were valid, especially considering how difficult moving away can be. However, I found so much value in it that it made enduring and overcoming those obstacles worth it. College rankings and rumors surrounding a school are superficial in nature. They neglect to paint an accurate picture of student life and well-being at the college and how much one would fit in there. I have certainly experienced some lows, but I have never felt more happy, motivated, and hopeful than I have this semester.

Looking towards the 2020 spring semester, I felt it important to form resolutions on how I plan to approach the semester ahead. I resolve to begin the year with a positive attitude; maintain relationships with both my friends and family scattered around the country and the new friends I have made at Miami; and continue to challenge myself in my classes. Keeping these in mind, I cannot wait for the new semester to begin and to be reunited with my Cane family.

My name is Mikaela Sanders and I am a freshman studying at the University of Miami’s Business School. I am majoring in Marketing but am also interested in double minoring in Advertising and Chinese. When I am not studying, I enjoy spending time with my friends and family, bingeing The Office on Netflix, and working on my YouTube channel.

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