It’s hard to believe that just four months ago, we were nervously waiting in line to pick up our name cards in the Law Library. In a way, that first day of school in August was a lot like the first day of kindergarten, in that we were completely alone in a room full of strangers with nothing but a homemade sandwich in our lunchboxes and a nametag on our chests.
I was told by many upperclassmen that the first semester of 1L year would probably be the most difficult in terms of the steep learning curve–and they were right. I’ve mentioned this in a previous post; what makes 1L such a difficult time for many students is not only the new way of learning material, but also the uncertainty of a new city, new environment, with new people you have never met before. September was the worst period of adjustment for many people, including me. I had nights where I doubted whether or not law school was truly for me. Could I really see myself reading convoluted legal jargon for the rest of my life? Was this really what I wanted to do?
Thankfully, because it was such a prevalent sentiment, I was able to bond with like-minded people who ended up becoming some of my closest friends, and we constantly pushed and supported each other whenever things became difficult.
The semester felt simultaneously long and short at the same time. In October, I remember thinking class couldn’t end fast enough. I wanted to rush to eat lunch with the new friends I made, to hustle to the next networking event, to try to figure out the Bluebook because I hadn’t realized how important citations were. And yet it seemed like no matter how much I tried, there would never be enough time to finish anything. Between reading, writing, studying, and socializing, my days rushed by. Ironically, it gave me purpose–but also cemented my belief in carving out time to retain my sense of self and to not lose myself to the rat race of law school.
In contrast, in November, I dreaded the last few minutes of class because it meant I only had a few more weeks until I had to really lock the material in my brain. All of a sudden, reality was barreling towards us: we were almost done with classes and we’d have to take those dreaded finals. I remember thinking about how I had never studied so hard in my life, a tune all too familiar to all law students who had to adjust from rote memorization to concept connection. At the same time, the last time I had this much fun and ample opportunity to socialize was when I graduated college in 2019. After experiencing the difficulties of isolation working remotely during the pandemic, I came to appreciate the comforting presence of the friends, classmates, and mentors I saw almost every day. Sure, the work can be rough, but there was a certain comfort in knowing other people were going through the exact same situation and surviving. A huge takeaway from 1L is that no one’s experience is wholly unique, and that everyone feels uncertain to some degree–and that’s okay! Everyone is in the same boat. Making peace with the uncertainty early on will pay dividends in tempering imposter syndrome and keeping doubts at bay.
December was a whole different beast. It was disheartening when I felt like there was no time to do anything other than study for finals, yet I had no idea how well I was grasping the material. I remember walking out of my last final relieved that I wouldn’t have anything else to study for, only to realize that next semester I’d have to do it all over again. I folded that thought in my head just as quickly as it came in order to enjoy winter break. After all, the day of the last final was abnormally warm and sunny, almost as if the world was rewarding us for making it through.
And that was it: the first semester of 1L passed in the blink of an eye.
We really should give ourselves more credit for what we accomplished. There is a reason law school is an endeavor not many people undertake. This semester was one of the most difficult academic experiences I’ve ever had, yet I’m not upset about it at all. It’s empowering to think about how well all of us adjusted to this new environment, and even more empowering to know that we will be able to pull through the rest of our time here. We made it through once, we can probably get through the other five semesters.
And sure, winter break may add the added stress of scouring for a summer job, but take a break–you deserve it! You’ll be back in the law library soon enough, so enjoy this time as much as you can.
Seung Hye Yang is a first-year student at BC Law. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.