“Many students, nervous about a new environment, follow friends from high school or people whose demographic backgrounds match their own into homogeneous cocoons.“
— Frank Bruni, ‘How to Get the Most Out of College,” The New York Times
A guy I graduated high school with also went to Utica College — for one year, anyway, before he transferred — and before I could even bring up the topic, he made one thing very clear.
We were not going to be roommates, and he didn’t even want to hang out all that much.
To this day, I have no idea why he did that, and of course I was a bit irked when he said it.
But whatever the reason, he was absolutely right. It would have been easy to cling to him, but instead, I had to learn to make my own way. By the time the second semester rolled around, we felt more comfortable hanging out some, and I gave him rides because I had my car and he lost his.
It was a good lesson. Here are a few others I learned about life in college.
Homesickness happens — I was going to try out for the baseball team, and their practices started right after students arrived on campus.
Practice got done at around 6, and after the second one, my roommate and the few friends I had made so far were off to dinner or whatever they were doing.
I was alone in my dorm room, and it started to feel a little overwhelming.
But then I said to myself, “This is normal. It happens to everyone. You’ll be fine.”
And then I got up and went to dinner. Never had another problem again.
I also stopped trying out for the baseball team, not for that reason, but because it would have taken a lot of time and I wasn’t good enough, anyway.
You don’t have to be who you were — This does not mean “Change your whole personality and everything you believe in and become a different person.”
It is, however, a chance to start fresh. Aside from the (hopefully normal) growing and maturing process, I was the same person as I was in high school, but everything else that went along with going to high school went away. I even dropped the “y” from the end of my first name.
Nobody had any preconceived notions — except for the guy I went to high school with, and we didn’t see each other — and it left me free to find my own space, find my own tribe.
Obviously, like they do in high school, people in college tend to sort themselves out. However …
College can be where you are, not just where you go — There’s nothing in freshman orientation — at least there wasn’t in mine — saying, “Remember, as you’re going from one place to another, make sure to hold the door open if someone is approaching.”
But everyone knew to do it, and not just out of politeness. It seems like the smallest thing, but I don’t think a campus could function if people didn’t hold doors for each other. Imagine how much time would be lost, a second or two at a time, if everyone had to stop, open the door, stop, open the door … over and over again.
While people in college do sort themselves out, a campus is a community, and everyone in the community is responsible for making it work.
It’s one of the reasons why I hate dorms by class or interest. My dorm in college — where I lived on the same floor for all four years, by the way — had men, women, freshmen through seniors. My friend Eric in the picture above is four years older than me, and was an Army MP in college under the ROTC program; we were roommates.
One year, one of the girls down the hall from me decided she didn’t want to go around to the other side of the floor to use the women’s room. So she declared the men’s room on our side of the floor to be co-ed. We made it work.
And that’s so much of what college is all about — not the “changing bathrooms” part, but people of all different races and hometowns and interests coming together in a community … and having to make it work.