KATHLEEN BERRY | OPINION COLUMNIST | firstname.lastname@example.org
For everything liberating about arriving on a college campus to the average first-year student, especially those living out of earshot of the infamous “my house, my rules,” there are just as many instances in which fun can turn into frustration.
The following is a compilation of those latter moments, when the first week of nonstop adult life is put on pause for brief panic sessions. From one first-year to another, I have your back.
- Block Party
Trailing behind newfound friends through winding rows of sparkling new opportunities is exciting, do not get me wrong. For the first few minutes of collecting free pens and a nice T-shirt or two, the controlled chaos is fun.
But after giving an email address to the first five tables they visited, many first-year students look up with a faint sense of alarm to see that they have a good 40 more to go—and just in that row.
Even more to the point, when they get back to their room that night they might find they have already forgotten half of the organizations in which they showed interest. Thoughts like, “What if I end up in class tomorrow with one of those Greek students I talked to? What if I don’t remember their name?” begin to cross their minds. Talk about awkward.
When arriving on campus, many first-year students are still wired to think like high schoolers. It is not our fault; it is all we know, and we know that in high school eating lunch alone is not cool.
Ninth and 12th graders alike will squeeze 10 chairs around a table meant for eight, wait down the hall for a friend to walk them to the cafeteria and even sneak into a different lunch period just to sit with a familiar face. For students accustomed to such a strict buddy system, it is easy to imagine the concern associated with strolling into a packed Atherton Union and realizing you are on your own.
It takes until the end of the first week to understand that swiping your student ID with intentions for a table for one is not a bad thing. No one will look at you strangely, and most of the time someone will even join you.
- Idle Hours
First-year students are far from accustomed to having very much free time. We are used to going to school for a good eight hours, racing to assorted extracurricular activities afterward, topping it off with homework and finally curling up in bed.
What we are not used to is going to a class in the morning, followed by a three-hour lunch, and another couple of classes in the afternoon or any combination. All of this new time in which nobody expects us to be anywhere is crazy. The possibilities suddenly become endless: Netflix, nap, Netflix…
OK, so maybe it is going to take some practice to really put productivity into all of this extra time.
- Red Cup Culture
Even though it is not necessarily meant to be, all of the training first-year students go through before and after arriving on campus can be downright scary. From the online course that we take over the summer, to Sex Signals and the Red Cup Culture discussion, part of me never wants to stray too far from my dorm.
Being a first-year and spending the majority of your first week on campus hearing about harassment, assault and death is more than a little unnerving. They do not talk about these things on the campus tour. Maybe I should be thanking my dad for that pepper spray he insisted on adding to my packing list.
- Grasping Reality
By far, the most overwhelming moment in a first-year’s transition to college life is one that takes place at a different time for each student. For me, this realization landed in my thoughts Friday morning as I watched the sudden thunderstorm gust past my window: my parents are not coming back to get me.
That being said, they will be here to visit sometime and I will brave the trek home for my birthday in a few months, but the fact remains that until the end of spring, campus life is my life.
Even though it may take a while to feel like it, Butler is our new home, our home away from home. Embrace it. Once we get past that, I have a good feeling that everything else will fall into place