From left to right: Ghadir Habeeb, Fatima Al Khafaji and Lashonda Masden. Diamond Moore not pictured.
From left to right: Ghadir Habeeb, Fatima Al Khafaji and Lashonda Masden. Diamond Moore not pictured.

Every fall, thousands of new students step onto the University of Louisville’s campus for the first time.

Whether an incoming freshman or a returning, transfer or online student, seeking advice and support is key for success. Luckily, new students don’t have to look far for guidance.

Sophomores Fatima Al Khafaji (political science), Ghadir Habeeb (psychology, pre-dental), LaShonda Masden (business) and Diamond Moore (nursing) shared their best tips for getting started at UofL and taking advantage of the first week on campus. Read on for student-centered advice on time management, the best study food and learning how to grow into college life. Also, be sure to check out the full Welcome Week 2023 schedule of events.

UofL News: Why did you choose the University of Louisville, and how has your experience been so far?

Al-Khafaji: Home is where the heart is. I wanted to stay close to my family and people I know and love within the Louisville community. On top of that, UofL has proved itself many times to be an outstanding institution, so I didn’t feel the need to go far to seek a good education and opportunities. It’s a win-win. My experience has been pleasing and any anxiety I had about starting college vanished in no time. 

Moore: When doing a college visit, Louisville just felt like home to me. The university was so welcoming. My experience here has been nothing but amazing. The bonds I have made have been lifelong friendships that I am forever grateful for.

UofL News: What are your memories from Welcome Week? Would you do anything differently?

Habeeb: I remember having fun going to every single organization’s table during Welcome Week and creating a list of the clubs and activities I wanted to take part in. Everyone was so approachable and inviting. One thing I would have done differently is to attend the social events! There were some very interesting ones that I was honestly just too timid to go alone to, but I feel like I would have made friends along the way if I went because everyone is so friendly and open to meeting new people during Welcome Week!

UofL News: What is the most difficult thing about starting college and how did you address it?

Habeeb: Starting college can be both exciting and challenging! The most difficult thing is adapting to all the changes. Rigorous courses that were nothing like high school classes, new people to meet and a large campus all at once were very intimidating and overwhelming at first for a freshman. The way I dealt with these challenges was by learning to be adaptable, embracing every new experience and keeping an open mind when approaching difficult courses.

I remember specifically struggling with time management. To tackle this, I kept all of my club meetings and course requirements in a calendar and created daily to-do lists. I saw drastic changes immediately!

Masden: The most difficult thing for me was being able to manage time! That was honestly my big concern, and my advice to students is if everything is going to fall in place the first month might be rocky, but take advantage of using a planner and asking for advice.

UofL News: What is the most fun thing about starting college?

Habeeb: The most fun thing about starting college as a freshman is meeting new people through clubs and volunteer work. I found it very enjoyable meeting new people whose interests aligned with mine. Getting lost while looking for your classes during the first week is fun as well … you get a free tour of the campus!

Al-Khafaji: Most fun thing about starting college is that you have the ability to reinvent yourself and start fresh. You can develop new habits, change your style, have a new mindset, try different approaches, meet all kinds of new people, etc. College is quite flexible, and you have the complete freedom of choice, so be smart with it and take good advantage of the freedom given because you can truly make something out of it. College presents you with the opportunity to become a better version of yourself on a silver platter.

UofL News: How would you describe the campus culture and social life at the University of Louisville?

Al-Khafaji: I would say the culture at UofL is exactly how you would want your college campus culture to be. There is a sense of community all around campus and each organization you find there is dedicated and committed to enhancing the culture. With everyone within the Cardinal community working towards the betterment of and making our environment more inclusive, students will always have the opportunity to develop a social life at UofL. Once you start to connect with people you meet here and there, it will continue, and you will notice that you’ve started to feel a stronger sense of belonging.

Moore: The University of Louisville is so diverse. I did not know how diverse it was until I got there. There are so many clubs and communities for each culture and it’s super unique.

UofL News: Are there any clubs, organizations or extracurricular activities that you would recommend joining?

Moore: If you are an African American and a nursing student I 100% recommend the Black Student Nursing Association (BSNA). This group is so encouraging and pushes us to stick together to get through nursing school. I also recommend the Black Student Union (BSU) and the Student Activities Board (SAB)! SAB hosts some of the best events on campus!

Al-Khafaji: Personally, I enjoy any organization or activity I can sign up for that has to do with planning and organizing fun events that students can come together and enjoy, which is why I signed up for a Welcome Week captain position. Those kinds of activities make me feel like an active member of the community. The SAB is known for event planning and is open to anyone. From what I’ve heard from others, Living Learning Communities (LLC) are a great way to find a group of people in your dorm building with similar interests as yours. Also, the Greek Life seems like a lively, tight-knit community.

UofL News: What is the best way you stay organized for campus?

Al-Khafaji: I’m a big fan of to-do lists. Whenever my schedule gets crowded and responsibilities start to pile up, creating a to-do list helps me visualize what I have to do, and I can get started on tackling each item with a clear mind. Coming in as a freshman, you will hear a lot about having a planner, which might work for some, but for me I just couldn’t bring myself to keep up with one, and it’s OK because there are many other ways to stay organized. Whether you use a planner or some sort of application, make sure you have a way to help you stay put together during chaotic times. I use the Notes app on my phone all the time and it’s perfect. Organization doesn’t have to be anything expensive, fancy or complicated. Speaking of technology, taking notes electronically helped me study and stay organized for classes better than handwritten notes ever could. Google Docs was my friend all throughout my freshman year and it never disappointed.

Moore: A PLANNER! I 100% say get a planner. You’re going to want to go to a ton of events, but you still have to get your work done so I say plan it out!

UofL News: Where are the best study spots on campus? Off campus?

Habeeb: One of my favorite study spots on campus is anywhere outside for group study sessions and the third-floor tables on the left side near the windows at Ekstrom Library for solo study sessions. For off-campus study spots, I like trying out new cafes in the Highlands area!

UofL News: What are the most useful campus resources you have found as a student at UofL?

Moore: The Cultural Center! Everyone in there is so friendly and welcoming! They have literally all the answers to anything you might need! 

UofL News: How do you manage your schedule and graduation requirements?

Al-Khafaji: Staying in touch with my advisor helped me put together the best schedule to stay on track each semester so far. Each advising session was extremely useful and informative. My advisor helped me visualize what my future schedules could look like and how I can check off graduation requirements without wasting time. After each advising session, I had a form sent to me which contains a checklist of the requirements I’ve completed, what I still must complete and all the class choices available for me to complete each of the requirements.

Habeeb: I meet with my advisor and have a notebook with graduation requirements and goals that I check often to make sure I’m on the right track.

UofL News: Where is the best on-campus meal?

Habeeb: The best on-campus meal is boba and sushi from Zen Sushi at the Swain Student Activities Center (SAC). The staff that work there are so incredibly kind and their sushi is the best meal for a long study session!

UofL News: What role has the greater Louisville community played in your experience at UofL?

Habeeb: The Louisville community played a significant role in my experience at UofL helping me feel welcomed and always included. The community here has something for everyone whether it’s fun cultural events, endless internship opportunities for pre-health students, recreational activities near campus and more!

UofL News: What do you wish you knew when you came to UofL’s campus as a freshman?

Masden: Time management is everything for school and personal life.

Al-Khafaji: You are not missing out just because you’re not doing what everyone else is doing. There isn’t a standard college experience, it looks very different from one person to another. Do what works for you and what makes your experience what you want it to be, not what you think it should be.

UofL News: Final advice for students starting at UofL for Fall 2023?

Habeeb: For students starting at UofL for Fall 2023, my advice is to get involved and be ready to step out of your comfort zone! You will come out much more confident and with amazing friendships that you have made along the way. Academic-wise, I recommend developing strong time management skills early on to make your college life a little easier. Try out apps, planners and physical or digital calendars until you find the perfect method to keep track of your classes and commitments. And finally, know that it is OK to take a step back from everything to catch your breath and enjoy yourself. Having a nice school-life balance is very important for your overall well-being and success.