When Justin Pirnie a 1991 high school graduate from a school with less than 1,000 students walked into a new student orientation session at Kansas University last August, he wondered how he would ever be able to find his classes.
Now, he knows how exactly how many minutes it takes to walk between buildings on campus.
"Don't worry," he said during an interview this week in the Kansas Union, "It only takes me seven minutes to get to my class from here, so I can stay for a while."
Pirnie, 18, Kansas City, Mo., figures he has his bearings after finishing his first semester at KU.
He and two other freshmen, Kristin Rieger, 19, Fairway, and Jenny Adams, 18, Lawrence, said their first semester on the Hill was tough academically, but opened up new doors socially.
"I guess I experienced what you'd call the turmoils of life," Pirnie said. "There's always the threat of money, or the constant absence from it. I've been going back (home) to Kansas City all the time, which really helps."
Pirnie and Rieger do not work, but Adams has a full-time job as a cashier at a local pizza and video rental delivery business.
All three students said their first semester at KU taught them how to manage their time and not to fall behind.
"You have so much more free time (than in high school)," Adams said. "Part of the trick is learning how to budget it."
Pirnie, Rieger and Adams have not declared their majors. All three said they were trying to get their basic requirements out of the way until they can decide on one.
Here's a glimpse of what the three students thought of their first semester and what they're looking forward to this semester.
Adams, who started and finished with 14 class credit hours in her first semester said she had a difficult time adjusting to the necessary college study habits.
"They give you so much more there's basically a lot more reading and they give it to you in bigger chunks over less periods of time," she said. "I had to really change my study habits."
In addition to classes, Adams took on a full-time job as a cashier in October and pledged Alpha Gamma Delta sorority.
She also got involved with the KU marching band.
"You get to meet a lot of people in band and in the sorority," she said. "A lot more than if you are just going to classes or something."
Summing up her first semester, Adams, who lives with her parents in Lawrence, said: "I guess it's what you'd typically hear the classes were hard and you had to use your time wisely. I think most people went through about the same thing."
Adams, who took a class in summer school before embarking on her first full semester this fall, said she took the basics.
"This semester I get to take more of the things I like, so it should be better," she said.
Adams said her only goal this semester was to do better academically.
That means budgeting her time, ``. . .and not waiting 'til the last minute to finish a book or a paper," she said.
When Rieger started out at KU, she was looking forward to meeting people from different parts of the country with various backgrounds.
"You meet a lot of different people from different places and that's kind of interesting," said Rieger, who attended a small, private high school with fewer than 1,000 students in the Kansas City area.
Staying in Corbin Hall helped her meet new people, but residence hall life wasn't always perfect.
"There was a lot of noise," she said. "You can't study in your room, you have to go somewhere else."
Rieger said she solved the problem by changing her sleeping and studying hours.
"I started to wake up early and study because it was quiet," she said.
Rieger also said she spent a number of hours in Strong Hall, where she took advantage of math tutoring classes.
For recreation she went shopping downtown or went over to friends' apartments.
She also occasionally went home for the weekend at her parent's house in Fairway, where she also has a steady boyfriend.
Academically, Rieger said she liked the format of college courses.
"I wouldn't say the teachers were tougher (at KU), they just expected a lot more from you," she said.
Rieger said many of her instructors were graduate teaching assistants, which she said she enjoyed.
"They were all younger than most high school teachers," she said. "I kind of liked it because they can relate to you better. They kind of know when they are giving you too much to handle."
Rieger also said she enjoyed working with a syllabus that outlined the work for the semester, rather than having assignments every day or every other day as in high school.
"I like following a syllabus a lot more, you could follow at your own pace," she said.
Rieger said she maintained "mostly a `B' average" her first semester, but vowed to try harder this semester.
"It's a lot easier not to skip (classes) if you don't get into the habit at the beginning of the semester," she said.
Overall, she said, there have been no good or bad moments that stand out in her first semester.
"It's pretty much what I expected, I guess," she said.
Pirnie said the best part of his first semester in college was the ability just to "take a day off" when he wanted.
"I took the day off one time, you know, just to take it easy," he said. The 18-year-old from Kansas City, Mo., began his first semester with a course load of 19 hours. He pared that down, finishing with a 2.5 grade-point average and 13 hours.
"I need to do better this semester," he said. "But considering all my classes are pretty easy, I'm shooting for a 3.0 or a 3.5 (GPA)."
Academically, KU was about what he expected, he said.
"What we learned in a semester here, we learned in a whole year in high school," he said of his first-semester Spainish class.
"You really get an earful."
Pirnie said he enjoys the family-like atmosphere of the residence hall.
"Everybody does things together and goes to dinner every night together it's just like a family, he said.
Nonetheless, he said, the residence hall life has its drawbacks.
"It's pretty noisy," he said. "I know that if I get my own place I will be able to study more."
Pirnie said in August that he would like to move into a house with some other guys during his second year in college.
That's still the plan.
"I already have my roommates, all we have to do is find a place," he said.
Pirnie, who has not joined any political or social organizations, said KU basically has lived up to his expectations.
"I'm doing great."