My Freshman Year


Most students enroll in college for a specific reason. They might need to earn a degree in order to be accepted for a job, or they might just want to get away from home and experience college life. The author of My Freshman Year enrolled in college for a very different reason. Rebekah Nathan (pseudonym), an anthropology professor at Northern Arizona University, became a freshman for one year to study college student culture. While being immersed in dorm life, courses, and social activities, she carefully and honestly recorded her experiences and findings, and this became her research. She studied both formal and informal student culture. An example of informal culture was studying the art and messages on resident’s dorm room doors. For formal culture, she looked to bulletin boards the resident advisors had on display in the dorms. Research was conducted by using formal interviews, focus groups, and mini-studies. She also documents and compares similar college research done in the past.

This inside look at student life will be an eye-opener to some and not surprising to others. But it is a current look – one that can be learned from and could give rise to some needed change in colleges. At times, the author had difficulty deciding what information to include in this book. She devotes a chapter at the end of the book to ethics and how she came to include what she did in this book.

This professor learned the life of a student is difficult, even overwhelming at times. She felt disoriented when she was trying to find her way around her own campus. Familiar offices and buildings on campus were now hard to find. Some student lingo was unfamiliar to her, and the speed at which the students talked in groups amazed her. Mostly, she learned compassion for her students. However, the normalization of cheating concerned her – and find out what the data showed about student’s studying time and socializing time, or what she learned when she studied student’s dining habits. The author also shares some revealing stories from international students. A number of international students had a difficult time deciphering student friendliness. And they gave their opinions on many different aspects of college life- from family and friends, to how classes are taught and work is graded. It was interesting to get their perspective, especially when they contrasted the American college and culture to their own countries’.

Certainly, the author should be commended for her work as an anthropologist, but also as a professor who cares about her students. To win a free copy of this book, be the tenth person to email me ([email protected]) the name of your first school.