Strictly for the freshmen
A couple weeks ago I helped my little sister move into college. Needless to say, I got all weepy and introspective during and after the move.
Memories of my early college experience saturated my mind, and I realized that I had so much to tell her that I would never be able to articulate.
So I just mumbled something big-brotherly, hugged her and drove off in the car with my parents.
I am a senior. Just writing it sends flutters to my stomach and contorts my face into a twisted anxious grimace. I am older than I was when a freshman. One would think that I had learned something through my experiences in college; that I could look back from the mountaintop across a valley of conquered obstacles and beam with satisfaction.
The one thing I have certainly learned as I've grown older is that there is no mountaintop and that obstacles just keep springing up, but you have to smile regardless.
I couldn't force myself to tell my sister about this little known (yeah,right) secret. Better she finds out on her own. Nonetheless, I wanted to do something for her, to throw out a tiny acorn from the store of knowledge I have hoarded like a blind squirrel the past few years. So I wrote a tiny advisory pamphlet for her and thus proved myself a total dork.
But then I realized that I could help first year students everywhere with timely advice. Alright, instead of timely advice I can only offer meaningless and rambling advice, not unlike the advice your parents have offered up all summer.
Don't take this advice too seriously right now. Rather, return to it several times over the next few years, mull over it and gradually come to realize that I am indeed the smartest man alive.
I have divided your college experience into headings for easy reference.
Food: Someone said you are what you eat. This statement is complete gibberish, and to make matters worse it spawned millions of bad elementary school jokes like "Susie eats elephants." But food is generally needed at least once every seven days.
The dining halls aren't home cooking, unless home is a ramshackle logging outfit in the Pacific Northwest. Sure, it seems OK at first. However, after a few weeks the shine rubs off. What to do? Find a few items that absolutely cannot be tainted by the dining hall's overarching pestilent reach, such as cold cereal, salad bar items (not always) or french fries.
Never eat the things that look or sounds good. That seared Cajun pollacki is only going to taste like your shoe. Don't eat alone too often, as good table conversation lightens the Dickensian orphanage mood brought about by the poison gruel you will be eating.
Love: I don't know anything about love. All I know is I, like many of you, came to school with a significant other from back home. We decided to try to stay together, vowing to end it as soon as our hearts were no longer completely dedicated to each other.
Two-and-a-half years later, we somewhat unceremoniously broke it off after lots of fighting and the gross national product of Qatar spent in phone bills. Even though I don't regret a minute of it, I don't know if I would recommend the same path.
If you have a relationship with a high school sweetie, just keep an open mind and don't be afraid to make mistakes. If you're single, commence having fun, because (I'm told) that's what single people do their first couple years of college.
Roommate: The hardest task performed in life is to live with someone. That said, having a roommate is kind of fun. But like the ying and yang, there is light and dark commingled in the roommate relationship. The benefits include having a comrade, someone to hike with to the bookstore, a dining companion and an open ear.
There are drawbacks: lack of personal privacy and/or space, sharing (which is an important skill that's hard to remember) or the whipped roommate always talking to his hometown girlfriend on the phone (wait, that was me).
You'll have different sleeping habits, personal hygiene traits, tastes in music (the list could go on), but you might end up best friends.
Class: Oh yeah, I forgot about academics. As I learned from that cool commercial with the rapping penguins, if you want to be cool you gotta stay in school. The surest path to higher grades is regular class attendance. You'll find that getting out of bed is difficult, but try to miss class only when you're sure that it won't come back to bite you. Also, don't dedicate too much time to your studies.
Well, I'm pretty tapped out now. Deal with college day by day, remember to live — which means accepting the good and the bad. Sometimes you will feel more alive than ever, sometimes you will be crushed and depressed. It's all in life, and it's much better than the alternative.
Eric is a senior majoring in the Program of Liberal Studies. His column runs every other Wednesday. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Viewpoint Stories for Wednesday, August 29, 2001