Being a first-year is like getting your first kiss. It’s really awkward and sloppy in the beginning, but eventually it gets really great. Unless you’re a bad kisser. So why can’t we embrace our sloppy, terrible kissing and be open about our insecurities?
Coming to Bates College, I wasn’t expecting to be hit so strongly by what I like to call “College Shock.” I had no idea that I would be feeling this lonely, sad, or angry. And I most definitely was not expecting to feel like I was the only one in this situation. A sentiment common among some first-years is the uneasiness of pretending everything is okay. Right now, many people in the freshman class exist in a world where concealing your fears feels easier than acknowledging reality. We have more nerves, burdens, and doubts than ever before, and many of us are unsure as to how to handle them. The concept of college is dense with expectations, privileges, and rites of passage. Half of us have never read this much in our lives, and I’d say a good majority are positively confused by the anomaly that is public showering. So what now? That’s the question we all ask ourselves as we sit in the library pounding out paper after paper of work we’re not even sure is good enough. We’ve worked so hard to get to this point, and there are still so many worries.
The one apprehension I find to be common within myself and the others I’ve engaged with is the curiosity of assimilating into campus culture: how will we find friends and create a satisfying social life? Making meaningful connections and forming lasting friendships is hard when people are desperate for companions for the sake of not being alone.
Will this person ever talk to me again? Do they find me interesting? Was I too weird in this situation? Did I say the wrong thing? Mental exhaustion at its finest; not only are we assessing others and whether we might enjoy their friendship in the future, but we are also reprimanding ourselves for every stupid joke, irrelevant comment, or weird phrase. Has anyone else been too afraid to tell their group of friends that they don’t drink or smoke? Or that they prefer to sit alone and read rather than be with a big group of friends? There is a widespread fear of vulnerability amongst the class of 2019. People are afraid of being themselves for fear of not being accepted. They put up this front of stability and “normalness” to help foster this comfort bubble that they’ve found themselves living in for most of high school. It’s possible that people are too afraid to put themselves out there, to display their intelligence, or to say something controversial. They don’t want to stir the waters too much.
When applying to a college, the administration and students in charge of admissions have a specific job: to sell you their college. They commercialize it, idealize it, make it seem like the best investment out there. There is no one available to tell you about the flaws of each school, and if these flaws do come up, someone will be there to remind you that they’re “minimal” or “being worked on.” I love Bates, and the large majority of the first-years love it as well, but because we were expecting perfection, the flaws that we find in the school, at least socially, hit us hard.
I’d say that I saw a lot of the first-year class wandering around the streets aimlessly last Friday night discussing the next party that they would attempt to push their way into. The entire experience was embarrassing and angering, and while none of us were expecting to get into already packed parties or houses filled with upperclassmen, a lot of people were discouraged enough to question how the Bates tradition of inclusivity of all ages and genders factors into the weekend social culture. It was a reminder that discrimination exists here; the weekend social culture simply has to work on these problems, like every other school in the country.
The consensus I have found with first-years is that they wish people were more honest. Our anxieties and worries can easily go unnoticed. It is better to bring these fears forth, to nurture and to fix them rather than to push them down. So here’s some brutal honesty: As first-years, we’re all attempting to figure out how to handle the social culture on weekends, while still looking cool, calm, and collected. As first-years, we’re all afraid of Commons. Like, really, really, really afraid. As first-years, our biggest fear is the Freshman 15. The phrase looms over our heads constantly and even though we are joking about it as we get up for that second scoop of ice cream, everyone knows that internally we’re yelling at ourselves for perpetuating such a frightening concept.
So for those of you who are feeling completely lost, don’t forget that you are not alone. All of us are in the same boat, one way or another; some of us are just a bit more afraid of being open. By talking about how we are really feeling, fully embracing our craziness and letting go of the previous personas we made for ourselves in high school, we will overcome this certain inevitable loneliness. And to the upperclassmen—we may seem annoying, and we probably are, but a lot of us are pretty amazing human beings. So please, if you ever see a first-year, ever, understand that we’re still learning how the ropes—and we may need a little guidance and acceptance.