Welcome back, everyone! We hope you’ve enjoyed your summers and, to all of BU’s newcomers, we hope you enjoyed your last taste of high school. To ease the transition for the freshmen and help provide some nostalgic inspiration for everyone else, The Quad has asked four of its writers to share some stories from freshman year. On a campus as large as BU’s, it’s important to remember how much we have in common and how much we can learn from one another. We hope you enjoy our memories, and we hope you’ll share your own in the comments below.
Class of 2016
I’m a homebody introvert: my idea of a good night consists of curling up on the couch with The Newsroom or a mystery novel and a cup of Earl Grey. But at the start of college, I found myself resisting the type of person I was in favor of the college student I (thought) I was supposed to be. And in return for my resistance, it was as if somebody had dropped me in the middle of a raucous celebration where I was the guest of honor—my absolute worst nightmare.
My most miserable night fell on a Saturday at the end of September. As was the weekend routine since I’d arrived, I joined a group of friends in the hallowed freshmen tradition of “Where’s the party in Allston?” My biggest mistake was going out in the first place through the pressure put on by myself and by my peers (“Um, well, what else are you going to do tonight?”). Our first plans fell through, and we trekked back toward West Campus. We thought that it was another dead-end evening—a situation I was pleased with—until someone had the bright idea of following another group heading into Allston. The beacon of light that I assumed was signaling some salvation in my hopeless evening was instead a LED-lit iPhone screen reflecting against its owner’s face as she fumbled to navigate our next adventure.
By then, I’d had it. A part of me snapped thinking about how ridiculous I was for choosing to do something I had no desire to partake in on multiple occasions.
“I’m going back,” I informed my friend next to me, who pulled a pout.
“Come on, stay,” she urged.
I shook my head. “This was never my thing in high school, so why now?”
“Me neither,” she agreed—although she completely misunderstood me. I couldn’t begin to explain how I felt without offering myself up as a wet blanket or some self-righteous do-gooder who scorned college party life. I just didn’t want…this.
I most certainly got what I’d asked for.
But I just couldn’t leave her. She tried to guilt me, turning a blind eye to the three other girls in the group. She was the one I knew best out of the group, making me feel even further displaced. I weighed my options as we neared my dorm. If I left she would harp on me about it the day after (because that’s what good friends do), and who knew how long she would hold it against me? Yet, the thought of taking a stand, even just personally, and correcting my course was far too enticing. She was the friend I had but not the one I truly needed.
I returned to an empty room and immediately called my dad. Fighting back tears, I recounted “the stupidest, most pointless night ever” (word choice fails me during emotional highs), pouring out all my anxiety that had my built up over the semester. He responded with his fatherly understanding, which I know and love. It just felt good to rant to someone who had me figured out.
I look back on the first weeks of freshman year like a frantic feeding frenzy, with incoming students seeking the foundations of a social life. It’s so textbook, you might as well be looking at Maslow’s third tier. We long for acceptance, like the unconditional type we know from home. For me, I wanted someone to realize my need for personal space and alone time, or the desire to pass time in the comfort among familiar faces rather than in a black-lit basement crowded with strangers. At the same time, I resisted that notion because I feared that it would be a hindrance to my social life.
As I enter my sophomore year at BU, I realize how far I’ve come since that most miserable night. I corrected my initial approach to college life—sublimating my true disposition with the hope of melting into “the scene”—and instead moved to focus on my own interests and passions. Off of them, I started and built strong relationships with others. And by doing so, I actually grew and became more open and easy-going than ever before.
It’s vital to strike the balance between resisting change and pursuing it at the cost of comfort in college. There’s no harm in wanting to be a different person than you were in high school. There is harm, however, in thinking that you are supposed to “be” a certain way. You aren’t “supposed to be” anyone besides the person you innately are.
After all, belonging means so little when you do not belong on your own terms.
Class of 2015
Freshman year, I moved into a double-occupancy dorm in Warren Towers. When I arrived, I found both of the room’s plastic mattresses to be empty. Score. I claimed the left side of the room with a toss of my duffle. I unpacked, hanging Christmas lights and posters, before leaving to explore campus. When I returned, the other bed was still vacant. Maybe she’s not coming. The thought wasn’t without a little pleasure. The thought of living with a stranger still scared me.
But, of course, Alicia arrived the next day. I learned that she was from Florida, that she listened to P!nk, and that she was pre-med. She seemed nice enough. We laid down ground rules immediately, sharing our sleep patterns, shower preferences, and drinking experiences. She was easygoing when I had guests, and I was amenable to her night-owl tendencies. We exchanged small gifts at Christmas. Beyond that, though, we lived mostly out of each other’s way.
She had one habit, though, that nearly ripped my mind to shreds. Alicia, a Floridian, had little tolerance for New England’s deep freeze. Our room was leaky and cold. I swaddled in sweaters, but Alicia had another solution. She would take her blow dryer, turn it onto its lowest setting, and leave it in her lap. Sometimes only for a moment, sometimes for hours, and sometimes she would fall asleep with it on. It was like living in an airplane, the sound a low and persistent drone.
She said she loved the warmth, and seemed proud of her quirk. It was her thing. I became so finely tuned to the sound of the switch clicking, the slick twist of plastic cord along metal bed frame, it made my spine coil like a spring. I downloaded a white noise app for my phone, hoping to drown it out. I even thought about stealthily breaking the device. But I didn’t. She’ll just get another one, I thought. Maybe it’ll warm up and she won’t need it anymore. Knowing it was a fire hazard to leave a blow dryer running for so long, I thought maybe, just maybe, if she caught on fire for even a moment, just a second, just enough to scare her, maybe she’d stop doing it.
But I never spoke up.
Why didn’t I say anything? Looking back, I had little to lose. She was a reasonable and respectful roommate. I’m not a shy person and she probably would have turned it off, had I asked. There are roommate stories far more dramatic than mine: stories of stolen property, emotional abuse, and necessary move-outs. I didn’t say anything because it was worth the headache to test my limits, and learn how to set them in the future. In an environment of forced proximity, I had to choose between tolerance and confrontation. Had I spoken up about my roommate’s annoying habit, maybe my experience would have been different. But now I know what I can deal with, and I don’t regret it. Living with Alicia’s blow dryer was a year-long test of my capabilities, and helped me understand what kind of person I am. Having a random roommate is the opposite of a breakup—not “this isn’t working,” but “this has to work.” Sometimes it doesn’t, but most of the time, it can with a little effort.
Class of 2014
In March of my freshman year, I had a friend from high-school come visit me in Boston. When he arrived, I met him outside of Warren Towers and took him up to show the place off. We took the elevator up to my floor and I introduced him to floormates we ran into along the way. We walked to the end of the hall and I threw my door open, triumphantly displaying the magnificent mess the place had become.
My roommates and I had rearranged our four-person dorm into what I like to describe as a miniature village. We had a campfire space, centered on the TV and N64 (of course!). We had a wall of trophies, which were just empty bottles of 40s (but an impressive collection, nonetheless). One of my roommates and I had aligned our beds in parallel with about ten feet of separation; we hung blankets between the bunks and built tents for ourselves. We even tacked glow-in-the-dark stars to our ceiling.
Later that evening, my friend followed me, my roommates, and my floormates down to “the Beach,” a section of the Esplanade where we went to loosen up. We were approached by strangers who, although they seemed hostile at first, became jovial when they discovered we lived in the room they knew, “smelled like weed and Febreze.” We had become minor celebrities within Warren Towers (not an easy feat!) and famous for the way we prioritized video games and insobriety over everything else.
With all my time devoted to building our village and taking trips to the Beach, I never made a real effort during freshman year. There was never a point where I dedicated myself to my studies or activities. I lived hedonistically, doing whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. Worse, it was easy to justify my aimlessness. I was 19 and still a teenager. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, so I had no idea what to do with college. Most significantly, I had four years in college, so I didn’t feel the slightest urgency to get my act together.
After freshman year, school ramped up considerably. I fell into two degree programs, one of which was computer science and has a ridiculous amount of required courses. I found my free time evaporating away and had to give up most of my television and gaming habits. The most unfortunate consequence of this was that I ran out of time to study abroad and BU’s study abroad program was the whole reason I came to this school in the first place! I blew my chance to spend a summer in Auckland—had I known this could happen, I trust that I would have shaped myself up freshman year. Now in my senior year, I’m stuck taking intense end-of-degree courses while most of my friends are putting their feet up and coasting down the home stretch.
In effect, I threw away my freshman year by goofing off. I wish I had known that my slacking was bound to come back and bite me. While four years seemed like forever from freshman year’s starting line, the time passed quicker than I could have ever imagined.
Class of 2013
Over the summer, I made many trips from my home in Boston’s Hyde Park neighborhood to visit friends living at or near BU. Every time, I have been stopped by lost families of new or prospective students. Whatever they ask me, they always follow-up by spitting out one question—am I a BU student? I’m old and newly graduated, so I answer, “I’m old and newly graduated.” Usually this is met with congratulations, questions about my major, and—from some moms—flirtatious looks and inquiries as to my age. Finally, the kid—an incoming freshman or rising high school senior—always asks, “what was freshman year like? Was it scary?” I laugh, then look them in the eye and say, “It is both amazing and terrifying and you’ll never forget it.” I pat the kid on the head and then walk away, usually on my way to go grab a beer with a bud. Nonetheless, that isn’t really the truth. Really, freshman year is even simpler than that—it’s awkward.
In all honesty, I have a super awkward life. Even though I grew up in Boston, transitioning to a new environment, with new people in a different part of the city, was hard. It’s different, so it’s awkward. When I started at BU, I took my time. I kind of trapped myself in my room at times, which led to strange situations with my Eastern European roommate. He had the language barrier to blame for his awkwardness, but that isn’t really an excuse (when you walk in on your roomie on Chatroulette, it is something completely separate). Over time, I found my role and my place, leaving some of the awkwardness behind. I met people and found friends, enemies, side-chicks, and others to be awkward with. Here’s the thing—finding people to be awkward with makes you look less awkward because you’re in a group. Doing anything in a group makes you look less questionable (unless the activity is weird or questionable to begin with). It takes time and just getting yourself out there, but it is worth it.
The one way to avoid being awkward and alone is to simply do things with people (especially other freshmen). I didn’t do this to the extent I should have. This is maybe my one regret in college that I didn’t find more activities. I found things over time, like The Quad, but that was over time. If you start something from freshmen year, you’re more likely to stick to it. You’re more likely to come out of whatever shell you have faster, because you are doing something you like around like-minded people.
I wish I could tell little freshmen in the streets this when they walk up to me and ask me what it was like. Then again, that would just be awkward and make me look like a homeless man spouting wisdom from my pedestal. That is something I would like to avoid. Maybe I’ll tell them it’s awkward, so find people to be awkward with. That should go over well. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll tell them to just throw a party in their room one day and become that kid who threw the party in their room (that always works).