COLUMN: What Are You Leaving Behind?
Published: Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 23:02
Nothing major happened in my life in 2013. There was no huge milestone or huge tragedy—it was just a good year with its normal ups and downs. Yet, moving into the second month of 2014, I still can’t help but feeling like I left something behind. As I’m nearing the halfway mark of my college career and already feeling nostalgic, I think what I’m missing is my last tangible connection to freshman year. My first year at Boston College spanned from August 2012 to May 2013, and it was quite the unforgettable year. Although I’m very happy that I have moved on from the Newton bus and have started to experience the perks of being an upperclassman, there are aspects of being a freshman that I’m sad to leave behind.
The most obvious and, perhaps, most superficial of these to me is how the “I’m just a freshman” excuse no longer works. If you haven’t quite mastered navigating O’Neill, Fulton, or the Plex, yet and you’re a freshman, it’s not a problem because you’re still learning the ins and outs of buildings. But getting lost around campus as an upperclassman? It’s pitiful, but it’s something that happens to me quite often—possibly due to the fact that I avoid the library, CSOM-mecca, and gym as much as possible—but the issue remains. This lack of first-year excuse affects other areas of our BC livelihoods, as well, like the pressure to find internships or start solidifying your career path. If you push off the internship or career center as a freshman, you don’t need to sweat it because you have that first year padding, and only the ridiculously ambitious start thinking about the real world that early (or so you tell yourself). Yet once you hit sophomore year, it seems everyone has the career bug, and if you don’t dress up in that suit and meet with potentially-maybe-probably-not future employers, you’re doing something wrong. “I’m just a sophomore” doesn’t have quite the same implications as “I’m just a freshman” does. I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing—we do need to start thinking about our career path at some point, and we should take advantage of the opportunities BC affords us—but I miss the ease of freshman year, when your main expectation was simply to make it through the year in one piece.
The ease and acceptability of meeting new people is another advantage of freshman year. Sure, as you get more involved in organizations and upper-level classes sophomore year, it gets easier to meet people—I’ve expanded my network of friends so much this year—but it is much more difficult to break into friend groups. When you get to college freshman year, you experience something you haven’t since probably elementary school—you have to make all new friends. It’s terrifying, but everyone is in the same position, meaning everyone is open to making friends and meeting new people to find out with whom they connect. But once those groups are solidified by the end of freshman year, the norms of meeting and making friends change. It’s as if it is no longer acceptable to hang out with a different crowd, let alone switch groups. Why branch out when you have “your group”? I’ve found this time and time again this year—there are so many more opportunities to make good individual friends, with whom you can enjoy lunch or dinner dates or the occasional one-on-one hangout, but they have their set friend groups and you have yours, and that’s accepted as an established norm. But I think this line of thinking leads to a whole lot of missed opportunities. I’m a firm believer in avoiding lifestyle ruts, and when you only hang out with the same people, you’re perpetuating that rut. There is no single group of people with which we fit, and I miss the open friendship atmosphere of freshman year.
A final thing that I think gets left behind freshman year is the idealism and energy that comes with being a first year college student. We all have hopes and expectations about our school and experience when we first come to campus, whether they are social, personal, or otherwise. During the course of freshman year, some of these are met, and some are not, and that changes what we expect our experience to be. Maybe you thought you would love every class, or you would enjoy the nightlife more, or you would have time to do all the clubs you wanted to, and those things didn’t happen. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t particular to BC—it’s the same with any college experience —and I’m not saying it sucks that everything isn’t ideal and perfect. But very soon into freshman year our expectations conform to the reality of our experiences, and that initial idealism of college life is gone. By sophomore year, we know what to expect and we run the risk of simply going through the motions of college, finding our standard work-play-work routine and failing to appreciate it for the novel experience it is.
This is one of the reasons I’m so involved in the Student Admission Program (SAP) here at BC—whenever I talk to prospective students and families about BC and my experience here so far, I’m reminded not only of the excitement I felt when thinking about where and how to spend my four years of college, but also why I chose BC and why it was the right decision for me. I love feeling that energy and excitement about college, the same that I had coming to BC a year and a half ago. And it’s not that I’m indifferent or lacking vitality here, but there’s nothing like the enthusiasm and eagerness of a first-semester college freshman—except, perhaps, a first-semester college senior.
The good news after such a “Wow, it sucks getting older” column is that it’s never too late to return to these aspects of freshman year (well actually, you’re on your own with the lack of the first year excuse). Join a new club. Make more of an effort to branch out in friendships. And remember why you’re at BC in the first place.
Editor’s Note: The views presented in this column are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of The Heights.