Adjusting to college seems, to me, like becoming an adult.
Now, this over-simplified view of college might also have to do with the fact that I’m not an adult yet — not legally anyway — and I never really had to live independently up until now. But perhaps because of this, these first few weeks on campus seem like an entirely different lifetime.
Or, in less dramatic terms, a new era of my life.
I could start from the beginning and describe pulling into the Wyman Park Building parking lot, saying goodbye to my family right outside AMR II and blinking just a little too quickly as I made my way back to my dorm to unpack. But adjusting isn’t just saying goodbye. It’s learning how to do laundry and figuring out which clothes to throw in which pile. It’s running back to your dorm twice or three times because you’ve forgotten something important and there’s no parent or sibling around to remind you to take it. It’s leaving your dorm early so you’re on time for classes and meetings and interviews (not to mention getting used to the sound of your iPhone alarm).
It’s going to Hopkins Cafe and Nolan’s on 33rd. It’s checking which hours Levering takes meal swipes. It’s learning to migrate to Brody Learning Commons or Milton S. Eisenhower Library after class so you might get ahead (or catch up) on work for just a few hours before your next class starts, budgeting time for lunch and dinner accordingly. It’s walking around campus without Google Maps, finding the Beach, Freshman Quad, Gilman Hall and even, finally, Hodson Hall, on your own. And it’s calling your parents, checking in on them just as they check in on you.
But as much as I’ll remember all of these things when looking back on my freshman year experience, what will stick with me most is the people.
I’ll preface this by revealing that I’m not a very outgoing person. I don’t come from a small high school, but I don’t come from a large one either — by my sophomore year, I could look through crowds and recognize most (if not all) of the people in each group. I made friendships in middle school which lasted into high school, relationships that stuck for years. But I always struggled to be the one to ask friends if they’d like to hang out or go to Starbucks. Even in my junior and senior years, I waited for others to ask me instead. It wasn’t like me to ask and I wasn’t sure I could do it.
So when I arrived at Hopkins, the crowds of people were intimidating, to say the least. It was a little jarring to look out on campus or even just Freshman Quad and see no familiar faces; walking into the dining halls alone was even worse.
I’ve only been at Hopkins for a little over two weeks, but I’ve learned how rewarding it is to sit down next to someone entirely new and start a conversation. What’s your name? Your major? Hometown? What classes are you taking? How are you liking Hopkins so far?
These conversations can be awkward, to be sure; in fact, they almost always are. But once you break past those initial barriers, go through the motions of name, major and hometown, and start talking about things you enjoy, it becomes easier, and after it becomes easier, it becomes fun.
Now I won’t pretend that I’m used to these conversations yet — they’re still a little exhausting. Adjusting was never supposed to be easy, and a lot of the time, it isn’t. I still see people in the dining halls who resemble my high school friends and briefly see them for a moment, or wish I was going home instead of back to my dorm after classes end for the day.
But there’s always some new class to get excited about, something else to learn and, perhaps most importantly, a new friend to meet at Hopkins Cafe.
And that’s certainly something.
Lana Swindle is a freshman from Princeton, N.J. majoring in Writing Seminars. She is a Copy Editor for The News-Letter.