Letters to the EditorOpinion

Freshman learning curve steep



Two months ago, I sat on a cold linoleum floor, eating my turkey sandwich and licking my orange-juice-covered fingers. I saw every student in my graduating class during lunch.

They skipped down the hallway, laughed in the courtyard, and played card games in the music portable. To say the least, I grew accustomed to my sixth through twelfth grade school of no more than 600 students.

Until August 1, I had forgotten what it felt like to be vulnerable.

Thanks to the August 1-2 IntroDUCKtion session, Mr. Vulnerability and I are on the brink of a blossoming friendship.

Navigating my way around the brick buildings and trees sprawled out on the University campus, I thought of three things:

  1. I haven’t been up this early all summer.
  2. Where the heck is the Student Rec Center?
  3. What if I don’t make any friends during orientation?

I was one of the last students to arrive to the first presentation, Duck Thoughts. What better way to start the day? Luckily, I found the last vacant and body numbing—seat. Karen Sprague, vice provost for undergraduate studies and professor of biology, spoke behind a podium.

“Why are you here?” she immediately asked me and 449 other blank-faced freshmen. Responding to her own question, Sprague said that we are here to “find out what is important.”

The rest of the day became a blur of skits performed by the Sexual Wellness Advocacy Team (S.W.A.T.). The skits dealt with a variety of topics, ranging from how to get along with your roommate to what you should do when your friend is drunk. It seemed to be the University’s way of saying, “Hey, guys … we are all on the same page now, right?” The majority of the performances were well-written, and the racier ones kept the audience laughing. After four straight hours, though, I had my share of sketch comedy for the year.

Seriously, I think my head spun a little in the EMU’s dark and sweaty ballroom. Most of the information the skits shared are what I consider to be common sense.

Sure, everyone makes their own decisions in life, but not taking advantage of the drunken girl you just met seems like a golden rule to me.

Junior Chris Bocchicchio, a member of S.W.A.T, said students are pulled to the University from diverse backgrounds, so it is important to educate them about sexual assault and relationship violence. I couldn’t agree more with Bocchicchio; however, most of the freshmen I spoke to said they felt like they were in the sixth grade all over again.

Despite the childhood throwback, some students felt like they were entering adulthood with newfound independence.

“I thought there would be a lot of hand-holding,” said freshmen Peyton Eaves, surprised at the amount of freedom she had on campus.

After the skits followed dinner. I had never eaten food at the University, but I figured anything would be better than the slop my high school served. Unsure of where the Carson Dining Hall was, I decided to follow a confident looking crowd of people. Two minutes later, the group split into three smaller groups walking in different directions.

Great.

I caught the eyes of a girl who looked just as bewildered as I was and decided to introduce myself. We instantly clicked. The dining hall was only half a block away. I ended up eating some decent fried chicken, and in the process, I made a friend.

Situations like this make me realize that my fellow freshmen and I are all in the same boat. Going off to college is kind of like moving away to a foreign land. You have to learn your way around the place, how the culture functions, and how to establish yourself in the community. As a freshman, I am starting out from square one, but I am just as vulnerable as the kid next to me.

I stood outside of Carson Hall the following afternoon, waiting for my mom to pick me up. I remembered the statement Sprague made the first day of orientation:

“You are here to find out what is important.”

In that moment, I watched a baby two rows in front of me, gurgling on his mother’s lap, unaware of the monumental transition his older sister was about to undergo. Where will he be 18 years from now? In a strange way, looking at him seems to signify how far I have come.

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