Bonus advice: Skip Chicken Finger Friday’s long lines and hit up the Ratty’s sporadic chicken finger days instead
This post is anonymous to make everything a little more comfortable.
Often, around this time of year, you’ll see a whole batch of articles and listicles and other such forms of printed-word media that provide advice on how to start college (or how to start sophomore year, senior year, etc.) from people who have already been through it. I never got that much out of those articles, because it was hard for me to trust that the experience was universal enough to apply to a general audience of readers. I wanted to make my own contribution to the genre, but I knew I would bore myself to death if I didn’t put at least a little twist on it. So I decided to do what I was really doing in my head anyway, which is write advice specifically to my past self. Because, man, my first semester was not as good as it could have been. It was still fun, and I have plenty of fond memories looking back. But there’s no doubt in my mind that it was easily the worst of the four I’ve had at Brown so far and, barring my contraction of a serious mono-like illness this year, likely should be the worst of my first six semesters as well. There are a number of things I wish I’d heard from future me before I got started. Here they are, in no particular order. I doubt all, or even most, will apply to you, but I suspect that there are some people out there who will be able to relate to each one. Which would be cool. Here we go:
1. Don’t be a douche to your roommate. I’ve never been very good at first impressions, but I suspect that the one I made on my roommate was one of the worst. Even the messages I sent him in the Facebook exchange before school started were douchey, and then things got even worse when we met in person. I had an incredibly immature argument with my mom within a minute of entering our room, where he was waiting to meet me. Once we were alone, I bombarded him with inane, incredibly un-self-aware comments about my background and my views on college social life. I don’t know whether he remembers these interactions quite as vividly as I do–I hope not–but I would bet pretty confidently that they contributed a great deal to our near total lack of communication first semester.
2. But also don’t stress about whether you’ll be best friends. Even if I had been some sort of angelic incarnation of myself for the first month of my relationship with my roommate, I’m nearly 100% sure we wouldn’t have been more than friendly acquaintances anyway. He’s an incredibly nice and talented guy, but we just didn’t have that much in common. No matter what transpired between us, we would have found our ways to very different social groups pretty quickly. Contrary to what I thought when I showed up at college, however, becoming BFFs with your roommate just isn’t that important. Nearly guaranteed, everyone makes a few friends in their unit within the first week or two, and if they don’t, it’s usually because they’ve already formed a group around some other interest outside of the unit. A few people I know took a little longer to find their crew, but they found it eventually. There are so many cool people at Brown that it’s more or less irrelevant whether you hit it off with your roommate or your neighbors or even your hallmates. There are plenty of people to meet and opportunities to befriend them.
3. And remember, the friends you do make don’t have to be your friends for the rest of college. I recall that I put a lot of pressure on myself to essentially identify my senior year housing group by the end of orientation, i.e. I really wanted to solidify my close friend circle as quickly as possible. But that’s not how it works at all. Friendships in college are way more fluid (at least they have been for me) than friendships in high school, and you’ll make more friends as you try different things or take different classes. Some of them will stick around longer than others, and that’s not a good or bad thing–just a sign of with whom you really have a connection and with whom you don’t. I met my sophomore-year roommate (who was my next-door neighbor) and a handful of other friends who I see fairly often during first semester shopping period, but I didn’t even know a majority of the people with whom I’m in close contact until second semester or even sophomore year.