On Freshman Orientation

“I’ve always heard every ending is also a beginning…we just don’t know it at the time. I’d like to believe that’s true.”

–  Emily Prentiss’s final words

 

For anyone who enjoys my “life is complicated, here are my thoughts” articles, this should be a good one. I hope so, seeing as it’s my 100th post.

About three weeks ago, I had my college freshman orientation day. I promise to write about that in a second, but first I’d like to talk about my high school orientation day. For anyone in or about to enter high school, I think you’ll find the comparison to be a nice level of extreme.

 

On High School Freshman Orientation:

What a day this was! As soon as I walked into the auditorium, I saw hundreds of bright faces. A crowd of people I knew immediately motioned for me to join them, and I nervously sat with them as we took a tour of our future educational institution. I made at least ten new friends and couldn’t have been more excited for Freshman year.

Oh, wouldn’t that have been nice.

Okay, here’s how it really went: I walked into the auditorium and didn’t know a single person. I’m socially awkward as is. Throw in the decision of making me sit next to a stranger, and you might as well shoot my social life in the chest. But, I had to do it, so I found an empty seat and sat there, scrolling through my phone in an attempt to look busy.

And I know what you’re thinking: why didn’t you just start talking to people?

At that point, shyness wasn’t the barrier. I was willing to put myself out there to make friends. Problem is, the people around me were already talking, and they didn’t sound like the kind I wanted to make friends with. A few of them were planning to get drunk afterwards (these were fourteen year olds, mind you) and a few others were yelling things so pointless that I could actually feel my brain cells dropping dead one at a time. One of such kids is someone who I recognized because he used to pick on me in third grade. He posted something on Twitter a week before graduation that I think is worth sharing:

The irony of this is stunning.

The irony of this is stunning.

Anyway. Orientation. I got herded into my group, and a few current sophomores at the school gave us a tour of the building. I’m not joking when I say that people needed maps to find their way around to all the classrooms.

Then we were ushered into the cafeteria, where we had pizza before being released. This was two days before the first day of high school, and it was turning out exactly like I’d expected.

A few comments on that. First of all, keep in mind I was coming from a small private school to a huge public school where I didn’t know a single person. And second of all, I’d like to highlight something for anyone about to start high school: don’t judge the entire student population by the first people you meet. If you do that, you aren’t going to be a happy camper. It took up until I walked into my Honors English class to start making friends. And those friends are the ones I still hang out with today. They’re the 9’s and 10’s on the morality spectrum of high schoolers, the ones who help make fun of the kinds of kids who were sitting next to me in that auditorium.

So I guess my point, however backwards, is this: don’t expect high school orientation to be fun. It’s not representative of what kinds of kids you’ll meet, and certainly not a good way to judge high school overall.

Someone should really fix that.

 

On College Freshman Orientation:

Ah, the real part of the post. This is a bit of a different picture to paint.

There are some things that are the same for all orientations. The feeling of not knowing anyone, the social awkwardness, the focus on making a good first impression…all of those were there for my college orientation. But that’s where the comparison stops.

They grouped us alphabetically to certain tables, just in case you thought you were safe by showing up with someone you knew. I was at a table with around ten other people. At first, we all kept to ourselves, scrolling through our phones. Then one girl looked up and said, “So…anyone have anything interesting to say?”

The words came shooting out of my mouth:

“Lobsters pee out of their eyes!”

Oh yes I did. OH YES I DID.

The entire group burst out laughing. Some more than others, but it was enough to put me in a permanently good mood. I asked everyone if I should wear my name tag, and two other kids agreed to do it if I would too. By almost-lunchtime, I was already friends with a handful of people, especially the girl who’d first talked at the table.

She and I sat together for lunch, then we made friends with another girl and another guy. The four of us went to the bookstore together, bought school t-shirts, and of course friended each other on Facebook.

Yes, there is a point to this story.

When it came time to schedule classes at the end of the day, the four of us arranged to have classes together as much as possible. Our days were going to be busy, but fun too. We listened to a lady tell us how you should study two hours outside of class for every hour in class. We heard schpeels about all the concerts on campus, and the comedians that visited, and the different activities.

On the drive home, I realized two things:

  1. I’d completely forgotten to get my student ID, which was pretty much the only job I’d had.
  2. More importantly: I realized that throughout the entire day, I’d hung out with people I’d known for four hours, the same way I’d hang out with my friends I’ve known for four years.

THAT’S my point of this article. Orientation did its job, for once, because it made me realize how different of a world college is. And, on a sadder note, it made me realize how quickly I’m going to move on from all the friends who pretty much make up my life right now. A month ago, I thought I’d be the one college kid who kept super close ties to all of his high school friends. But now, I don’t want to be that kid. Because while I don’t yet love my new college friends as much as I love my high school ones, I think I can get there pretty easily.

How does that make me feel about college? Well, excited, obviously. And sad, too.

I used to think I’d be sad because I missed my friends. But now I’m realizing that I’m going to be sad about not missing them. It’s weird to think that I’m ready to replace my current ones with people I haven’t even met yet.

And yes, I used the word ‘replace’ intentionally. Don’t get me wrong, I’m never going to stop caring about the friends I have now. For the rest of my life, I’m going to love them as much as I love them now. But there are so many memories I have left to make in so many new places. And yeah, it’s weird to think about making those memories with new people. Am I ready for that? No, not yet. I haven’t said goodbye to everyone. But will I be ready when the time comes?

I think so.

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4 thoughts on “On Freshman Orientation

  1. That Twitter post makes me cry a little inside. Yikes. You are going to LOVE college, though. I can tell. Enjoy the journey!

  2. L. Marie says:

    The friends I made on my first day of college were the ones I hung out with for four years (and beyond). Enjoy college!

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