Beep, beep, beep! My hand sacrifices itself from the warmth of my blanket to alleviate the deafening threat to my sleep. As I hit “snooze,” I giggle at the person I am now versus the person I was last night. Did I really think I was going to spend an hour getting ready in the morning? Nice try self, but that’s so freshman year. Leaving enough time to take a shower, eat breakfast and do my assigned readings for the day? Hilarious. Ten minutes later, snooze. Then another snooze. I really can’t afford to snooze again. Snooze. Shoot, class is in 15 minutes. I actually do need to get up this time.
I awkwardly sprint to class (if you’ve figured out a way to run with a backpack on and not look awkward, please let me know) with a breakfast bar in hand, somehow arriving with five minutes to spare. In my five minutes of free time, I put in my headphones and silently rock out to Adele’s recent masterpiece, “Hello.” I glance around in my upper level 200-person lecture and notice that only eight seats are taken as the powerful line, “Hello from the other side,” sends chills down my spine.
Adele’s lyrics make me reflect on what it’s like to be on the other side of freshman year after realizing that my fellow classmates and I are getting way too comfortable in our junior and senior years. Had it been freshmen year, all of those 200 seats would be full of showered, eager and chatty students ready for class 15 minutes ahead of time.
What happened to my naïve 18-year-old self who was so on top of things–both academically and socially–during freshman year? He was the type of student that woke up to be prepared for all of his classes, went to the dining hall for an early breakfast with friends and joined eight million clubs. As a freshman, he was among the friendliest students at the university. Freshmen are forced to let their guards down when they enter college, and in doing so, put themselves in environments that are conducive for making friends and growing as a young adult.
College is a terrifying leap of faith. Many students enter college not knowing a single person, and must put themselves out there, pushing through repetitive and awkward introductions in order to turn strangers into friends, exploring their new environments and figuring out how to live independent lifestyles. My first class at UVA was an introductory class with almost all freshmen. Everyone showed up early and introduced themselves to the person next to them, exchanged numbers and found study buddies before the class had even started.
However, during the first five minutes before my first class junior year, everyone was silent. Dead silent. Why was this? We were in a higher-level course with no first years, no one had any interest in getting to know each other and I suppose everyone felt too old for “study buddies.” It seems that as students get older, their comfort walls begin to build back up again as they get too comfortable with their schedules and the friendships that they’ve already developed.
Why can’t we all be like the freshmen? Sure, it can be awkward to turn to the person next to you in class and create conversation, but I was excited about going to class as a freshman because of the friends that sat next to me, struggling through assignments together. The bottom line is that no one is too old to make new friends and no one can have too many friends. The freshmen may be the ones asking for help as they navigate the beginning of their college experience, but maybe they have something to teach the rest of us, too.
Ultimately, we’re all freshmen at times. After college, I’ll be forced to find a new environment as I navigate the work force, and all the walls that I’ve built up during my college career will come crashing down as I seek solace in a new community. As daunting as it seems, I know that I’ll have to reconnect with my inner freshman that thrives in new environments. Although I’m nervous about reclaiming my novice status, I’m ready to grasp ahold of the strongest version of myself: the newcomer, the outsider—the freshman.