Thursday, May 16, 2013

Freshman Reflection: A Guest Lecture

Don’t listen to any of the above advice; it’s not bad, but it’s not necessarily you. Don’t let anyone tell you what your college experience should be. Be yourself and make your own way. This one doesn’t need any explaining. 

It’s a quote from a friend, solicited in the final days of the semester. I figured in the spirit of full-disclosure, it would be good to present a bit of an alternate view. As this wise friend so succinctly states, this advice isn’t necessarily you. It might very well be the exact opposite of your experience at college or even in an entirely different dimension. But regardless, even this advising against advice contains some (yep, you guessed it) pretty standard advice. You hear it a lot from people as you’re are packing up in August and you hear it endlessly once you step onto campus. Be yourself. It seems like pretty standard, even trite at this point. But things become trite because they are true. Or at least, because they sound like truth.

My dorm floor became very close, very fast at the beginning of this year. The afternoons were spent milling about in the common room. We pretended to be working, but I for one could never accomplish anything in that room. I had never been able to work around others, but I told myself that I should be social. Get to know people. Make an effort. So I went. I talked. I got to know people. I went to parties with them. I’m not sure what it is like at other colleges, but for freshmen here the first few weeks go something like this: Get together in the evening. Try to find people who know about parties. Try to find said parties (usually in groups of ten or more). Be unable to get into said parties. Repeat until despair sets in. I’m not a party person, so this particular exercise held very little appeal for me. It was not until I realized that, yes, there are in fact other ways to have fun in college, that I understood how I could have fun while still being me.

See, a nice cliché story about being yourself. By the end of first semester, most people have one of these at least. And if they don’t, by second semester the usually do. It’s always reassuring to hear stories from people you respect that align with your own experience. That why things become cliché.

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