Nading: Destination Iowa State gives incoming students what they need to succeed


Freshmen get their first Iowa State shirt when walk into Hilton Coliseum to attend Destination Iowa State Kick-off on Thursday, Aug 16. Nearly 5,000 freshmen attended the destination kick-off to celebrate their new start at Iowa State. Photo: Huiling Wu/Iowa State Daily

Mackenzie Nading

Starting your adventure as a freshman in college is one of the scariest, nerve-racking, most intimidating yet immensely exciting milestones you may ever reach.

It’s time to grow up, move out, set goals and prepare yourself for an education that is supposed to reflect what you want to do with the rest of your life. Did I mention this milestone was intimidating? Most incoming freshmen are 18, or fast approaching, and that number means big things. They are legally adults now, meaning the pressure to be mature, make responsible decisions, take care of themselves and keep their grades in tact is in full force. This pressure is enough to turn any incoming freshmen running straight back home to the comfort of their parents and much less responsibility.

At Iowa State, we take the first few days of freshman life on campus very seriously. The Department of Residence understands the stress and pressure bestowed upon young teenagers who have just left home for the first time. And from that understanding comes a program that has been put in place to calm the nerves and ease the stress of first year students. That program is Destination Iowa State, and it is much more than some coddling fest for freshmen.

If traveling to a foreign country where everyone speaks a different language and has different customs seems scary to you, coming to Iowa State is that same experience for a freshman.

Sound frightening? Welcome to a freshman’s reality, where Iowa State is the foreign country and the locals are the upperclassmen. I’m sure most can remember your freshmen year without too much difficulty. If yours was anything like mine, it was an awesome year full of new friends, a brand new social life, some classes thrown in here and there, and a lot of fun always present wherever you went.

However, my experience wasn’t always a walk in the park. The day I had to leave my parents was one of the scariest things I had ever done. All of a sudden I was stuck on a campus in which I had no idea where anything was located. I knew there was some kind of a bus called a CyRide, but I couldn’t read one of the maps to save my life. And coming from a graduating class of 43, it was safe to say I didn’t have hardly any allies on my side when I moved in. If it wasn’t for the comfort of Destination Iowa State, I would have been running for the hills.

Partaking in Destination Iowa State gave me confidence to conquer my first day of classes without stress and confusion. Sure, they gave us matching backpacks and made us stick together in groups, but to be perfectly honest, after being thrown into a new world of stress and confusion, I was grateful for that elementary school like structure.

When that fateful Monday rolled around and classes finally began I was able to find all of mine without having my nose stuck in a map. I knew how to board, pull the cord and successfully exit the CyRide, which is more than I can say for many people who ride the bus today. I knew to walk on the right side of the sidewalk because you will get shoved off if you try to take up the left side. When football games came I could partake in the cheers and sing the fight song, which may seem like a childish thing to teach a large group of students packed into Hilton Coliseum, but it means the world to a new student feel like you actually belong in the student section at Jack Trice on game day.

These were all helpful to my first few weeks as an ISU student, but the thing Destination Iowa State taught me the most, was that Iowa State cared I was a new student and they wanted me to succeed. With a record enrollment this year of over 31,000 students, it’s all too easy for freshmen to feel like just another number and that their experience here doesn’t matter.

I want every incoming student to love this university as much as I do, and if it wasn’t for a successful freshman year, I wouldn’t have as much pride in Iowa State as I do now. First impressions are truly everything, and if Iowa State gave a first impression to freshmen that said it could care less about their first day, week or year, how successful do you think Iowa State would be? I bet we wouldn’t be the biggest university in the state of Iowa, that’s for sure.

So just because Destination Iowa State gives out matching shirts, bags, and lanyards, doesn’t mean it can be written it off as a glorified daycare for freshmen. It’s a place students come to feel welcome, to feel like they belong, and to instill the confidence in them that they can be stripped of when they leave home for the first time.

The definition of a nation is a large body of people, associated with a particular territory, which is sufficiently conscious of its unity. If we want to keep this cyclone nation alive, we have to keep unity a part of the combination, and that unity starts with Destionation Iowa State.