August in a college town like Pittsburgh can only mean one thing: its population is in the process of quadrupling. Oh yeah, and the median age is falling about 10 years.
We’ve all been through it: arriving at a big, giant campus (the fact that it’s college makes it big, even if we’re talking a tiny D-III school), having your parents help you move in, awkward introductions with people you never see after orientation, sizing up your roommate to determine if they’ll be That Roommate (even while your roommate is doing the same to you), all the while thinking: “Unlike everyone else I’m seeing, I have a pretty good grasp on these circumstances.”
Each year it’s interesting to look at this process through the eyes of someone who did it not too long ago (and, to a certain extent, did it again with graduate school), but long enough ago to have some tiny sliver of perspective.
DISCLAIMER: These are fairly generic sentiments, so implicitly there are freshman who fall outside these platitudes. So without further adieu: the list of things I find refreshing and annoying every fall.
1: Crowds. Maybe we get used to it by the time the spring rolls around, but after a summer of students who are in town truly, purely, and incorruptibly to learn and gain experience, the sudden influx of confused and listless balls of incoherent energy acts like sand in the proverbial clockwork of routine. Streets are clogged, lines triple in length at the local frozen yogurt shops, and even the sidewalks are dangerous.
2: Every sentence through September begins with “When I was in high school…”. Yeah, you’re pretty much going to spend the rest of your life from college onward talking about what you’ve done (“When I was in college…”, “When I had this internship…”, “When I visited Europe…”, etc), but high school is one of those things that no one realizes everybody went through until they graduate college. I know this is a perspective thing which only comes with age, but it’s annoying nonetheless.
3: Clothes. Why are there so many shirts and hoodies being worn with the logos for colleges other than the one whose campus you are inhabiting? Yes, we know you played varsity football for podunk high school, got any other garb? Are heels really necessary with short-short jean shorts for a jaunt to class? I think the only freshman to whom I can give serious cred was one I saw yesterday who was wearing a shirt that read: “Not you, fat Jesus.” The fact that he was on his phone was all that prevented me from shaking his hand.
1: None of the freshman actually think any of the above items are annoying; in fact, the truth is quite the opposite. They’re all blown away by the campus, the intelligence of their classmates and professors, the friendliness of other freshman and “the fact that everyone wants to be here”. It’s a universal experience, but to each individual freshman, it feels exclusive. That’s a pretty neat phenomenon.
2: They’ll learn quickly. The mind is blown in #1 but very quickly adapts and expands its horizons. By the time they’re sophomores, they’ll already be bitter and disenchanted shells of human beings who think freshman are annoying 😛
3: Without question the single most important and positive aspect: the annual influx of new and enthusiastic youthful minds keeps everyone else in the city young. The energy is electric in its feel and viral in its spread: even the 5th year Ph.D. student who just wants to get on with his or her life can’t help but feel refreshed and revitalized when all the new students show up. It’s an intoxicating feeling, one which keeps the city thrumming with life year after year. This trumps everything else and is the reason why, irrespective of the annoyances involved, I look forward to every fall semester.
To all the new freshman out there: you’re not unique–not even in the slightest (as if “uniqueness” was a spectrum)–but that doesn’t mean what you’re experiencing isn’t real, or isn’t affecting everyone from your fellow classmate to the university registrar. Enjoy it, revel in it, savor it: it’s even more fun than you think it is. I wish you all the very best of luck!
And to anyone who is taking Chemistry: