As I arise this morning in my sub-freezing residence hall and begin the process of waking up, which includes at least six presses of the "snooze" button, I cannot help but feel empowered by a newfound confidence.

"It is my second semester as a college freshman, and I have it all figured out," I think to myself right as my face hits the tile after gracefully missing a step of my lofted bed. Maybe not.

Though I definitely do not have this whole "college thing," figured out just yet, I have gained more knowledge about independence, time-management, friendships and life in general than in my four years of high school combined.

In the beginning, I walked blindly through campus with a look of utter confusion that just screamed out "freshman." That, and the fact that I was carrying around a campus map may have blown my cover.

As time progressed I began to figure how I could sleep between classes and still make it to the next one on time. When the workload increased, however, I learned to replace sleep with coffee. It has been working quite well with very little side effects – except maybe a few slight twitches. By the time finals rolled around, I invested in a portable IV that pumps espresso into my blood stream. It's what the cool kids do.

Speaking of peer pressure, I recall my first college party like it was yesterday – maybe because it was. The first thing I learned at a college party, contrary to popular belief, was that Asher Roth is not constantly being played in the background.

Some clichés, however, do hold true. The bedrooms are never unoccupied and girls peeing together is an unspoken law. A keg stand is not a stand in which the keg is placed on. Not every drink one is offered should be accepted. And finally, he who brings an extra tap will be crowned a hero and crowd surfed to the keg if the previous tap breaks.

The next college survival lesson I mastered last semester was eating. Sometimes it seems like there is not enough time to have a sit-down lunch at PCB and buying snacks can get pricey. I have taught myself to occasionally live off the free food on Pedestrian. Is my backpack filled with event flyers? Do I get 17 emails a day from evangelists, environmentalists and the various clubs? Yes, but in return I have Ramen noodles, cupcakes, hot chocolate, cookies and coffee for free.

After spending the entire finals week lost in Hodges, I have also obtained a cognitive map of the library that I will be sure to call upon in semesters to come. It was in this expansive building that I also garnered information about friendship that one cannot learn from collegiate textbooks alone.

Although our schedules grow increasingly hectic through the semester, I can always count on some, if not all, of my friends to be on the third floor in the "secret" location we've declared our own.

I remember starting college with the uneasy thought that my group of high school friends would grow apart, but it seems we've grown closer. We've made new friends that could never replace the old, but also only expanded upon our already pre-existent, close-knit group.

From parties to friendship, the most important lesson I have learned is this: there are experiences that a college classroom can never offer you. While grades are important, it's personal experience that will truly impress future employers.

As the cliché goes, college is the best time of our lives, and it is also one of the most fleeting. Therefore, I leave the reader with this simplistic advice from the infamous Ferris Bueller: "Life moves pretty fast, if you don't stop to look around once in awhile, you could miss it."

Kaila Curry is a freshman in English. She can be reached at kcurry6@utk.edu.