Hey Smith College First Years, are you miffed no one told you to ditch the study app and go to Seelye basement because no one’s ever there? Did you feel surprised when your friend handed you their business card, custom-made by the Laz, while you walked around with ones from high school? First year orientation lasts five days, and no amount of info sessions could tell you everything you need to know about Smith College. Lucky for you, College Magazine’s got you covered with some helpful details from real Smithies, upperclassmen who have done it all before.
With this list in your back pocket, you’ll feel like a real Smithie in no time.
1. Dining Hall Food May Steal Your Heart
Depending on your palette, Smith food can take your breath away. “I was surprised to find how much I like the food here (especially at Lamont),” said Smith College sophomore Emily Uss. You can even drink organic tea in cloth-wrapped tea bags. Who needs Starbucks? “There are some days where I audibly go ‘MMMMMM’ because the food is so good,” said Uss. “Sometimes I’ll hit up multiple houses to get that purple cow and pumpkin pie!” Not only can you enjoy Purple Cow, a delectable frozen blackberry and chocolate treat, but some dining halls offer peach, coconut and green tea ice cream as well. One thing they won’t tell you at orientation: Arrive early for any meal to make sure you get the best spread. If you walk into Chuckett on buffalo wings and crudité night, hordes of students will tear through the buffet line. It’s that good.
2. Remember, You Don’t Have to Save the World
It can feel intimidating to attend a school that expects you to become a famous, globe-trotting, change-making leader for the world. “The worst thing is the Smith mentality that you are never doing enough,” said Smith College junior Dana Rangoonan. “That thought becomes engrained in our minds,” she said. You’re not here to become the next Gloria Steinem or Sylvia Plath: You’re here to become the best version of yourself. So what if your roommate owns a start-up, hosts a podcast, speaks five different languages and has a special someone from Amherst and Yale? It’s not a competition to see who can fill up their plate the fastest. Don’t get caught up in the competitive atmosphere, even if it feels like it’s the only way to get into the grad school of your dreams.
3. Finding Friends Can Be a Rollercoaster Ride
You see a Snapchat story of all your orientation friends laughing and getting ice cream at Herrells with the caption “Squad Goals.” Do you unfriend them, throw your phone out the window or just ignore them when they wave to you? None of the above. Move on to the next thing. After orientation ends, FOMO gets real as everyone tries to appear like they’ve adjusted well. “Don’t be surprised if your friends disappear after a week,” said junior Annalise Harding. Not every single connection you make at Orientation will last a lifetime. Take advice from Jordan Sparks and go “one step at a time.” Don’t waste your time with people who judge you for spending Friday nights in bed with chocolate chip cookies and some re-runs of Gilmore Girls. You do you.
4. Homesickness can’t always be remedied with a check-in with your HONS
Hon, trust your HONS—with a grain of salt. Of course, HONS can help you adjust to the newness of college life but they can also only help you so much. Overcoming homesickness takes time, which sounds like a copout, but sometimes you have to do things the hard way. Yes, you can spend all your free time ranting to your HONS about how your high school besties send you annoying DMs about how their thriving at college. But you could also go out and make friends or get involved in campus culture. Getting out and about might make the feeling go away and get you comfortable with the campus. “[First] [year] was a hard year for me personally as I struggled with feeling lonely and homesickness,” sophomore Sevval Ercin said.” Still feeling down? Smith offers great resources to help first-years adjust. Make DIY room décor at “Smith-to-Do,” watch a Friday night SEC movie, write in your journal. You may meet some people who are feeling the same way.
5. Duo Authentication Will Ruin Your Life
Real talk. Duo Authentication will bring you insane amounts of stress. In theory, it’s a great tool—thank you ITS for protecting me from potential hackers. But… what if your phone breaks because you have butterfingers and can’t keep things from falling? What’s the solution ITS? March to your nearest Verizon on a day you have so many assignments due and purchase a new phone? Long story short, if you have any issue with your phone or whatever device you signed up for Duo with, you won’t have access to the Smith Portal. You can’t check e-mails or do certain assignments, which in the ultra-competitive Smith culture, means serious stress. Regardless of how enticing ITS’s Duo marketing scheme appears, don’t fall for it. There are other ways to get a printing stipend.
6. S—t Happens.
It really does. Despite what the glossy first-year orientation packet might want you to believe, Smith has its problems. If your head’s still whirling from the protest at Convocation last Wednesday, drink a glass of water and talk to someone. Student protests, sit-ins and demonstrations are all a part of Smith life. Activism and advocacy play big roles on campus and Smith students enjoy standing up for justice.
7. It’s Too Good to Be True
The $3,000 internship stipend, $25 campus café gift card, redeemable textbook fund and supportive community makes stepping onto Smith campus feel like a dream. Of course, this bubble effect is one of the reasons why so many students flock to Smith in the first place. But hey, news flash: Orientation leaders won’t tell you that college doesn’t equal real life. “It feels like I’m living in a bubble and then when I actually get to the real world it takes me a while to adjust, both to the good and the bad things,” said sophomore Sofia Nikolaidou. But don’t fret. “[The] best part of being a Smithy is being part of a community with a great reputation for being supportive of one another’s goals and dreams,” said sophomore Kira Leinwand. Enjoy it while you can, deal with the real world later.
8. Seize Opportunities to Get Off Campus
You do not want to become a jaded junior who meanders around the Upper Elm Street cross walk just to make the five minute stroll to Seelye interesting. Don’t get me wrong, Smith’s campus boasts many “insta-worthy” spots: the Paradise Pond Waterfall, vintage alcove entrance of Pierce Hall and the Botanical Gardens. Yet, after a while, it gets boring. Solution? Study at Umass’s 26 floor Du Bois library, party it up in the woods at Hampshire, see a play at Amherst’s Theatre, pretend to be a Moho student. Explore the Five Colleges. As first years, you can’t take five college classes until your second semester. Perhaps someone, with good intentions, during orientation tried to steer you away from a Five College class? Ignore their comments. Yes you will need to factor the PVTA schedule, but it’s totally worth it. Getting away from Smith’s campus will help your brain breathe.
9. You Will Make Mistakes and it Will Be Okay
Would you berate a friend who forgot to swipe their OneCard during lunch? Mistakes happen. No one’s expecting you to be perfect. You will meet other first years who never seem to hiccup, always arrive to class on time, know their major, career and retirement plan. If that’s not you, that’s okay. “As an incoming first year, I felt a looming pressure (from my own judge) to know what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” said sophomore Veronica Pickard. Dealing with uncertainty can be unnerving, but your life isn’t a television drama. A Google search won’t give you a spoiler alert on the way your first-year goes and that’s okay.
10. Take Some Time to Chill
Sit at your desk and stare at the wall, lie on your bed for two hours, take a walk without a destination in mind. Do nothing—even if Orientation had you feeling like you should be searching for your next internship or studying for your next exam. “[Orientation] [was] a great way to get hyped up for the school year, [but] I wasn’t prepared for the sheer volume of work Smith turned out to be, so I kind of crashed and burned in the middle of the first semester,” said junior Danielle Colburn. Life at Smith moves at 100 miles per hour and professors expect a lot from you. It’s great to cross off the tenth item on your Monday to-do list, but taking time to chill will help you out in the long run. Remember: you will spend four years at Smith—don’t rush. You have plenty of time to join that club or take that extra class.